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Serta Simmons Bedding & Mattress Firm Expand Partnership
This week, Serta Simmons Bedding (SSB) and Mattress Firm Inc announced that they have entered into a new five-year strategic partnership agreement. Starting this spring, SSB’s product presence will be expanded at Mattress Firm—with exclusive Serta and Beautyrest collections slated to launch in the near future. Additionally, the two industry heavy-weights have also announced an unprecedented joint advertising investment of $100 million, which will roll out over the next 18 months. Coming at the heels of the dissolution of Mattress Firm’s relationship with Tempur Sealy, this marketing initiative will perhaps quell the concerns of many economic analysts who had feared the larger ramifications of the two company’s scaling down their consumer-facing promotional efforts. More than simply strengthening SSB’s leadership in the marketplace, this new partnership could be a major turning point for the industry as a whole.
The news of this new partnership follows the recent announcement that SSB will expand its US manufacturing capacity in the coming years. In addition to its current manufacturing footprint of 30 plants, SSB has plans to open four new facilities in strategic locations throughout the US—signaling that the company is ready to meet Mattress Firm’s broad product requirements. Beyond simply bolstering the two companies’ already successful relationship, this new multi-year partnership will also include the launch of new Serta and Beautyrest collections that will be exclusive to the nationwide retailer.
In addition to the exclusive collections, the two companies will also launch a joint incremental advertising investment of $100 million over the next 18 months. By expanding upon the annual advertising expenditures of two of the top industry players, a marketing initiative of this magnitude will surely serve to drive consumer awareness and interest throughout the sleep industry as a whole.
"We are excited to announce the strategic expansion of our long-standing partnership with Serta Simmons Bedding," said Ken Murphy, president and CEO of Mattress Firm. "With consumers more focused on sleep than ever before, they look to Mattress Firm as the leading specialty mattress retailer to offer innovative products at a compelling value. As a result of our recent partnership changes, we now have more flexibility than ever before to bring exciting and innovative products in all price bands to our customers. With the consolidation of all of our stores under the Mattress Firm banner nationally nearly complete, we can now focus fully on improving value for all consumers, while driving the business forward."
Retail Spending Slows Down In February
Despite strong job gains, record-high stock prices and unseasonably warm weather, consumer spending proved to be sluggish last month. According to the Commerce Department, U.S. retail sales increased by a seasonally adjusted 0.1% in February—with gains hitting 0.2% if you exclude the auto and gas industries. This is the weakest sales report since August of last year, especially following 0.6% sales increases in both December and January. The reason behind the unexpected slow-down? Many economists are pointing to a new tax law that has left millions of US households still waiting for refunds. With payments expected for March, the slow pace of spending may just be a temporary blip for the industry as a whole—but a closer look at the numbers highlights some of the ongoing challenges plaguing many traditional retail chains.
Even with the lackluster February sales report, the retail marketplace is not necessarily in crisis. Over the last 12 months, sales have risen 5.7%, which suggests a larger upward sales trend and a stronger domestic demand overall. According to economists, the disappointing numbers may be the result of a new law that requires more scrutiny of tax credits claimed by lower-income taxpayers. This means that millions of households have yet to receive their refunds this year—which can have a direct effect on retail spending. With many of these refunds expected to hit consumers' wallets in March, economists are predicting that sales numbers will show a much more significant improvement this month.
But the hopeful projections are complicated by ongoing difficulties that are plaguing more traditional retail operations. Much of the positive growth last month was thanks to strong numbers from home-and-garden centers, health-and-beauty stores and internet retailers. Meanwhile, sales from department and outlet stores actually declined last month.
With continued reports of store closures, bankruptcies and liquidations, many of the major chain retailers are facing an uphill battle in the fight against their e-commerce counterparts. In order to compete with the cost-saving and convenience of e-retailers like Amazon, many chain stores are turning to slashing prices as they figure out how to adopt more omnichannel selling strategies. While many retailers kicked off last year’s holiday season early with deep price cuts and promotions, the strategy wasn’t enough to outpace online sellers—with some nationwide chains still struggling to recover from disappointing end-of-year sales. For traditional retailers looking to compete in today’s marketplace, it may be time to abandon the “race to the bottom” price game for good—and take a hard look at the value they’re offering consumers.
Fresh Ways To Build Customer Loyalty
Stuck in the same service patterns? Seeing your customer base slowly slip away? It’s time to step outside your comfort zone and get creative with new tactics to reclaim their loyalty. Paul Dobbins, National Director of Sales & Account Management for Fortegra, offers four new customer service strategies you can try out in your own store. Whether rethinking the value-proposition of your promotions, adopting a consultative approach to selling or committing to delivering more creative acts of gratitude, Dobbins can help you foster life-long customers.
No matter the product or service offered, nor the size of the company or its particular industry, exceptional customer service experiences will build brand loyalty, every time. Here are four tips Dobbins suggests for retailers looking to build better customer loyalty for their stores.
1. The New-New Special Offer
Special offers aren’t a new concept, but what you’re offering can be. Try recommending something unique that other retailers aren’t, like an exclusive deal on a product warranty for their new purchase. Highlight the benefits and uniqueness of the offer—and the fact that your competitors can’t provide it. By offering additional, useful commodities to your customers, they’ll feel like more than just another sale and want to bring you repeat business just to see how you’ll take care of them next time.
2. Educate To Relate
Similarly, don’t make every customer interaction a sales opportunity. Rather, take it a step further and show them how a potential purchase could benefit their everyday life. Offer personal stories or anecdotes that demonstrate the benefits of the product or service in action. The idea here is to relate to customers, and act as a resource outside the context of the standard sales process. If your business approach is viewed as consultative rather than just commercial, it can prove a key factor in building brand loyalty. If it’s difficult to find or create this kind of content, bring on a third party to develop or source it.
3. Keep It Casual
As an extension of customer education, open and relaxed communication is also critical. One option? A simple check-in on a customer’s experience one month post-purchase. Have employees approach the conversation as if it were two friends talking. While these interactions still need to remain professional, they shouldn’t be stiff or scripted. And this can be applied to in-store interactions as well. The more a customer feels like they’re in a positive relationship and less like they’re just part of a transaction, the more their loyalty will be sustained.
4. Say Thanks
Most brands send customers birthday wishes, or follow-up surveys after a product purchase. But instead of being like the guy that only buys flowers on Valentine’s Day, show patrons your appreciation at unexpected times. It’s the little acts of gratitude that can go a long way to attract additional customer loyalty. These thank you notes should go beyond emails, which can be quickly disregarded. Try phone calls, texts, video messages, small branded or personalized gifts, and yes, even handwritten (or at least signed) cards.
Want to build customer loyalty? It’s time to try something new.
Why Do I Suddenly Feel Wide Awake When I Get In My Bed?
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? It’s getting late and you’re starting to doze off while sitting on your couch watching TV – but the second you get up and get in bed, all of a sudden you’re wide awake! This frustrating phenomenon actually has a name. Conditioned or learned arousal, sometimes also called psychophysiological insomnia, is the process by which an individual’s behavior, thought processes and habits influence the body’s sleep patterns. Or, more simply put, those who have a difficult time getting to sleep are receiving a message from their sleeping environment that tells their brains that it’s actually time to be awake. While we all might have the occasional hard time falling asleep, for some people a night or two can easily turn into a chronic insomnia problem. Getting stuck in this pattern of “learned arousal” insomnia can feel hopeless, but there are actually very tangible strategies that can help break the habit. As retailers, it’s important to understand the problems your customers are facing so that you are not just selling them a white rectangle they will lay on wide awake, night after night. By helping them find the right products for their specific needs, you are helping them create a more restful and relaxing sleep environment—and ultimately improving their satisfaction with their purchase.
This type of a sleeplessness cycle tends to perpetuate itself, making it a difficult problem to solve. According to sleep experts the most effective treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I for short. The premise of this type of therapy is to change the environmental messages your brain receives at bedtime. One of the most important aspects of CBT-I is to maintain the bed for sleeping only. Going hand in hand with the bed being only for sleep is being sure to sleep only in bed. Napping on the couch, for instance, could confuse the sleep messages the brain receives. Equally important is to minimize the amount of time spent tossing and turning in bed, as this reinforces a message of wakefulness. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, it’s best to get up and do something else that you tend to find relaxing, such as reading. One thing you don’t want to do is plug in to an electronic device. The blue light computers, tablets and phones emit suppresses the production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing chemical produced by the body.
Experts also recommend practicing good “sleep hygiene” like getting routine daily exercise, limiting caffeine and alcohol several hours before bed, keeping the bedroom temperature between 60 – 67 degrees Fahrenheit and dimming the lights prior to bedtime. Also important is maintaining a consistent waking time, even on weekends. By adhering to a regular sleep schedule and developing healthy sleep habits, you are more likely to condition your mind and body to get better, more restful sleep.
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