Sleep Retailer eNews | February 22, 2018

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Sleep Retailer's 2018 Companies To Watch

SR CompaniesToWatch 2018

Every year, the editors of Sleep Retailer compile a list of innovative bedding manufacturers that are poised for retail success in the coming year. This year, we have spotlighted a group of industry veterans and emerging disrupters that not only have their fingers on the pulse of the latest trends – but are actively moving the needle. From new advanced technologies to smart business strategies and creative marketing campaigns, these companies are helping retailers reach new customers in more meaningful ways.

Click here to read the full list.

The Evolution of Retail: Sales Predictions & The Role of Technology

Financial accounting stock market graphs analysis

After an unpredictable and tumultuous 2017, it’s hard to say for sure how 2018 will unfold for the retail market - but there’s optimism in the air within the bedding and mattress industry. In fact, the sales predictions for the year ahead are positive across the board. Furniture Today is enthusiastic, but modestly so - anticipating a 2.1%-unit growth and a 2.8%-dollar growth. The International Sleep Product Association’s predictions are even more positive, forecasting a 3%-unit growth and a 4.5%-dollar growth. But it’s not just bedding and mattress spectators that are feeling confident. Despite seeing approximately 7,000 retail store closures in 2017, the overall sales numbers were stronger in 2017 than in 2016 and the National Retail Federation expects another year of growth, predicting between a 3.8% and 4% increase in retail sales. While the numbers are encouraging, they can’t quantify how retail will evolve in the year ahead. Over the last 12 months, the bedding sector experienced a variety of challenges: from disrupters in ecommerce, retail consolidation, increases in component costs and diminishing price points. Amidst these ongoing changes, the National Retail Federation’s annual Big Show exposition highlighted a number of cutting edge retail trends that may be the key to making these positive sales predictions a reality.

At both Big Show as well as the Las Vegas Furniture Market, the in-store experience was a well-worn topic of conversation. Since so many busy consumers tend to get their basic errands done online, stores have to function as more than mere shopping destinations. Across the industry, there’s a growing emphasis on retail stores as spaces in which consumers gain an education and have an experience. Since the online experience is personalized, consumers expect the same in-store – customization plays a huge role in facilitating a strong shopping experience.

While customizing the online experience has become a streamlined process via click tracking and virtual shopping carts, it’s not quite so easy to track data in person, but apparently, this is in the works. According to Forbes, a company called NCR and other companies like them are developing technology that can use images and video to glean crucial data on what consumers want on an individual basis. Though it feels like we are headed for “big brother” territory, this type of data collection could vastly improve a store’s ability to appropriately buy for their patrons, develop more meaningful and welcoming store displays and enhance that customer experience based not on what store-owners and RSA’s think the consumer wants, but what they know the consumer wants.

Ultimately, technological solutions are useful to enhance the store experience, but it’s still the people who make it. As the emphasis of retail veers toward creating a unique and memorable in-store experience, customer service contributes significantly to accomplishing that goal. Using technology based products like Kingsdown’s bedMATCH and Protect-a-Bed’s Sleep Tailor or stocking visually pleasing products like BluSleep’s Nature Collection are all great starting points. However, the effectiveness of these offerings comes down to their presentation. As an RSA, it’s important believe in and deeply understand the story you tell the consumer, engage them and also intuit if they aren’t feeling it and are looking for a different experience. As a store-owner, a merchandiser or manager, it’s important to use the data you’re able to collect AND apply it – utilize technological tools to streamline fulfillment processes, improve and enliven your space, curate a more consistent aesthetic and show your consumers that you understand what they are looking for. New technological developments happen every day and will continue to play a role in how the retail world functions, grows and develops; successful retailers will choose which tools they employ and how they integrate them into the in-store experience wisely.

While 2018 looks promising so far, it’s clear that the future of retail and its rapid evolution will endlessly challenge retailers and manufacturers alike to put their best feet forward and get creative in how they attract, convert and retain customers.

Read more here, here and here.

Reconsidering The Mattress Topper

Hand on mattress

As the online bed-in-a-box market has grown increasingly crowded in recent years, it was only a matter of time before a backlash emerged. Positioning itself as a “disruptor of the disruptors,” Kloudes is a new type of bedding start-up that specializes exclusively in mattress toppers. Selling direct-to-consumer online for $149, the Kloudes Topper promises not only to “enhance or restore the comfort level of new and old mattresses alike” but also extend the life cycle of a mattress beyond the recommended five to seven years. With the price point that’s listed as “1/5th of the cost of a mattress of comparable quality,” the company is looking to shake up the industry by offering consumers a cost-saving alternative to replacing their mattress. While its claims may be less than revolutionary, the popularity of the bed-in-a-box market has proven that new brands touting convenience and cost-savings shouldn’t be ignored—and with more than $18,000 already raised through pre-orders on Kickstarter, Kloudes may be on to something. Rather than fighting the premise, maybe it’s time for mattress retailers to reexamine the value of the mattress topper?

Traditionally, mattress retailers have been hesitant to stock toppers in their stores for fear of potentially dissuading consumers from purchasing a full sleep system. In addition to carrying lower price points, toppers rarely offer the comprehensive benefits consumers need to truly upgrade their sleep. While they could potentially serve as an add-on opportunity for entry-level mattress models, doing so may imply that your offerings are lower quality.

But if Kloudes is an indication of what’s to come, the market for mattress toppers may be growing—and retailers should be prepared. Instead of an “alternative” to a new mattress, toppers could potentially open up new opportunities for retailers.

First, toppers provide retailers with an opportunity to create relationships with new customers. While ideally, every person who walks into a retail store will buy a new bed - that is not always the case. If a customer has already decided to purchase a mattress topper, retailers are missing out on those sales by not stocking them. By offering a carefully curated selection of toppers, retailers have a chance to recapture that revenue.

Toppers also provide retailers with a new way to bring customers in on a more regular basis. Instead of trying to extend the life of their mattress, a consumer may just want to refresh their sleep system with new comfort features. It’s also a chance to connect with new customers who might be unsatisfied with a recent mattress purchase they made elsewhere. While the allure of one-size-fits-all options at low price points can be powerful, these options do not necessarily deliver on their promises. And while many online brands offer extended trial periods, not all customers want to go through the hassle of returning their mattress and starting the search for a new one again right away. A luxurious topper may be a quick fix to tide them over until they are ready to make a full upgrade to a higher-quality mattress. And if that consumer has a positive shopping experience in your store, that increases the chances that they will come back to buy a new bed when they’re ready.

Ultimately, mattress toppers can be a valuable customer service for retailers. More than just a necessary evil, they offer a way to build a positive relationship with consumers regardless of their budget. Rather than thinking of it as down-selling a customer, mattress topper sales may be the key to nurturing more business for years to come.

Read more here.

For A Good Night’s Sleep, Live A Meaningful Life

Woman sleeping on pillow

The Roman philosopher Seneca once wrote: “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.” Apart from the many societal benefits from living a good life, scientists have learned that there is a direct correlation between living purposefully and the quality of sleep a person gets each night. By establishing a clear connection between sleep and wellness, researchers have a chance to further explore how improving one can benefit the other.

In a recently published study out of Northwestern University in Chicago, researchers asked 825 people – aged 60 to 100 – to complete two separate questionnaires. One screened for sleep disturbances such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, while the other assessed each volunteer’s perception of their life as meaningful. Researchers found that those who started out with a perceived purposeful life were 63 percent less likely to have sleep apnea and 52 percent less likely to have restless leg syndrome. These same subjects started out with moderately better sleep quality that actually showed improvement over the course of the study.

While it might seem unsurprising that someone who has attained a level of contentment with his or her life might sleep better, it is powerful to have actual numbers to verify such a relationship. Scientists contend that these results lay a foundation for further research on the link between positive psychology and sleep health, research that can take a deeper look at the efficacy of mindfulness-based therapies as a way target purpose of life, especially in older adults. In essence, these results show that living a good life allows for good sleep. Another of Seneca’s quotes come to mind: “Not how long, but how well you have lived, is the main thing.”

Read more here, here and here.

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