Sleep Retailer eNews | July 13, 2017

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Sears Opens New Mattress & Appliance Specialty Store

In Store Mattress Shopping Experience

Amidst another tough year for the retail industry, Sears is trying something a little different. The department store chain recently opened a new stand-alone location that will exclusively sell appliances and mattresses. While financial struggles have prompted Sears to shutter more than 200 full-store locations this year, it says two more of these freestanding mattress-and-appliance-only stores are already in the works. By streamlining its product assortment to just its top-selling categories, this new smaller-format concept is a more affordable way for the retailer to keep its brand in front of consumers. More than just reinforcing Sears' presence on the mattress market, the debut of this new strategy reveals valuable tips for any bedding retailer looking to become more competitive.

Sears first introduced this specialty concept last year with the opening of an appliance-only store—and is now looking to build upon that success with this new location. In addition to Kenmore appliances, the new store will showcase a wide range of bedding brands including Tempur-Pedic and Beautyrest. While appliances have long-been the bread-and-butter of the Sears brand, the decision to include mattresses within this specialty store concept is an intriguing one. So what can sleep retailers learn from it?

Streamline Your Product Offerings

More than just an easy cost-saving measure, paring down your product assortment can offer a myriad of other benefits as well. Rather than stocking every product under the sun, Sears is focusing on what it’s the best at—and reinforcing its position as the go-to store for home essentials. By limiting your store’s offerings to just a select number of categories, you are fostering a more cohesive brand story that can be easily communicated to your customers.

Bridge the Gap Between Online and In-Store

While Sears’ new specialty locations only stock mattresses and appliances in-store, they also provide pick-up services for online shoppers. That means consumers can order any product from and pick it up at the new specialty store without paying any shipping fees. This cross-platform model allows retailers to offer a wider selection of products, without sacrificing valuable showroom floor space.    

Frame The Mattress As A Functional Home “Appliance”

While it has long been commonplace for furniture stores to offer bedding, the idea of selling just mattresses and appliances is somewhat outside-of-the-box. But in fact, aligning the two categories creates an interesting new sales opportunity for retailers. While an appliance may be touted for its style or bells-and-whistles, ultimately it’s bought on the merits of its functionality: does this oven cook properly? A mattress can be framed in a similar way. More than just another piece of furniture, it is a piece of equipment that is designed to perform a specific task: to facilitate better sleep. Few people would put up with an oven that does not actually cook—but many endure a poor-quality mattress that does not help them sleep better simply because it was the cheaper option. By juxtaposing mattresses and appliances in the same space, retailers can help their customers better understand why buying a bed on price alone is insufficient. Just like any other appliance, you have to find a mattress that actually performs its specific function.

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Consumers Are Buying Sheets More Often Than You May Think

Mattress and Sheets

As most sleep retailers know, experts recommend replacing your mattress every eight to ten years or so. While this time-frame is generally agreed upon as a best practice, it can create a tricky sales conundrum for many sleep shops. For retailers looking to bring customers in on a more regular basis, bed linens may be the key, according to a new survey conducted by the organic bedding company Coyuchi. By taking a closer look at how often consumers are buying and cleaning their sheets, this survey provides important insight on how retailers can boost their sales by offering a robust top-of-bed program.

Out of the 1,000 Americans that Coyuchi surveyed last March, 38% of respondents said that they replace their bed sheets at least once a year. This is a valuable—and perhaps untapped—sales opportunity for many retailers. By stocking an appealing selection of top-of-bed-products, bedding shops have the chance to reach a sizable portion of their customers on an annual basis.

In addition to exploring how often consumers update their linens, this survey also took a closer look at their cleaning habits as well. The findings revealed that 41% of women and 33% of men report washing their sheets once a week—while 44% of women and 45% of men opt for once or twice a month instead. Thanks to today’s advanced textile technology, retailers can help their customers create a cleaner sleep environment with sheet sets that tout antibacterial or moisture-wicking properties. This can be an appealing solution for those that already wash their sheets regularly—and those that might not have the time to do so as frequently as they would like.

For Coyuchi, this survey provided the data upon which they developed a unique new sales service. Dubbed the “Netflix of Bedding,” the company’s Coyuchi For Life subscription service delivers new sheets, duvets and towels to their customers’ doorsteps every six to 24 month. In addition to providing subscribers with new bed linens on a regular basis, the company also allows them to ship back their old sheets back once they're done with them. Coyuchi developed this option based on information gleaned from their survey, which found that 20% of consumers just throw their old sheets away when they’re done with them. By recycling or upcycling the returned sheets, the company is helping to eliminate some of the massive amount of textile waste gets dumped into landfills each year. Rather than simply meeting consumers existing habits, Coyuchi has created an inventive new solution for a problem many people might not have even thought of before.

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My First Week In The Sleep Industry

Business Idea

We are excited to welcome Elaina Hundley to the Sleep Retailer team as our new Marketing Manager! As a newcomer to the sleep industry, she brings with her a valuable perspective on the marketplace. Here are her first impressions!

With limited exposure to the sleep industry prior to starting with Sleep Retailer, I was unaware of the complexity of the market, the diversity of available materials and products, and the intricacy of mattress and sleep product branding. After reading through a proof of our upcoming summer edition, I am blown away by the products, approaches and technologies available. Though I am not surprised by the significant impact that e-commerce has had on the sleep industry, I find it fascinating to learn how several manufacturers have contended with this development. I am also impressed by the sensitivity with which the manufacturers in the industry approach their choice of material, create their designs and develop their sales and marketing strategies.

Having just read a draft of our summer issue, I made three global observations.

It’s All About The Details

Like many consumers, I take my mattress for granted nearly every day. I spend so much time in bed – sleeping, reading, watching television, even checking emails – and I don’t think twice about my mattress. All the while, overall good health and wellness starts with quality sleep. Sleep manufacturers, on the other hand, think about the impact of the mattress on sleep cycles, individual body shape and the other myriad sleep preferences of their consumers to no end. These details, though taken for granted, are what make remarkable products. This depth of understanding and attention to detail is what separates brands from one another and individuates this industry from other industries. Among these products there’s pride in design, a dedication to craftsmanship and an interest in the science behind quality sleep. It’s unlikely that the average consumer is cognizant of the care with which manufacturers develop their products, but as an outsider looking in, this sensitivity makes the industry more dynamic, pleasantly surprising and uniquely vibrant.

The Market Is Shifting

When I think about mattress shopping as a child, I think about how fun it was to lay in bed after bed in a department store or in a large-scale showroom. I remember being scolded for attempting to not merely lay on the mattresses, but really test their strength by jumping on them. In such a tactile industry, it’s hard to imagine brick-and-mortar stores diminishing. For me, these sensory memories of choosing a mattress are still so vivid.

Though brick-and-mortar stores are far from gone, it is clear from the summer issue and much of the digital Sleep Retailer buzz, that a large percentage of sleep industry sales are taking place online. It is clear that in the sleep industry, marketers, retailers and manufacturers alike need to be creative in capturing the essence of their products for the digital realm. In today’s world, online presence is everything.

A Clear Narrative Is Always Essential

Online presence might be everything, but the whole story of a product remains critical. Digital representation is only one part of how that story is communicated. What was fun to understand as someone who is new to the industry, is how the narrative of each brand and product encompasses so much. From the reason a consumer is seeking a new mattress to the way that product is physically received (pulled from a box, wrapped in luxury fabric), each detail feeds into a larger narrative of what each brand means and how it is understood by consumers. With so many options and avenues through which to gain information about new merchandise, buyers want more than just a product. They want to feel something brand new when they purchase an item.

Marketers in the sleep industry are certainly having fun with meeting the demand of discerning shoppers and developing a higher standard for their products. The market indicates that selling sleep should and can be synonymous with selling better health. This narrative is woven through much of the industry coverage in this newest edition of Sleep Retailer Magazine.

I’ve learned so much already, but I have a feeling that I am only just scratching the surface.

Why Your First Night Away Can Be A Tough One For Sleep

Woman suffering from insomnia

With summer in full swing, it’s more than likely that there will be some traveling in your future. And whether you’re traveling for pleasure or business, no matter how cushy the accommodations, your first night in a room not your own could mess with your sleep. This is due to a scientific phenomenon known as the “first-night effect.” It turns out that despite evolution, our human brains are still wired to “keep an eye” on unfamiliar surroundings, with one half of the brain – generally the left side – acting as a night watchman for that first night in a foreign place.

Though detected more than 50 years ago– scientists have found that subjects’ first night in a lab yields notoriously unreliable results, causing researchers to usually discount that first night’s data – first-night effect has received more recent attention, including a 2016 study out of Brown University that sought to better understand what was at play during this anomaly. In this experiment, scientists used several different methods to track slow-wave activity, which occurs during the deep sleep phase, within a small group of volunteers. Researchers stimulated both sides of the brain by playing quiet beeping noises – at both steady and infrequent intervals – into each ear during the slow-wave phase. During the first night of the experiment, participants’ brains consistently showed more alertness in the left hemisphere which was more responsive to the infrequent beeping, with subjects waking quicker and more readily from the beeping processed by the left side of their brains. The second night didn’t yield the same response, with both halves of the brain responding similarly, suggesting that the “left side watchman” is only on high alert for that first night.

These findings also indicate a shared tool of survival with others in the animal kingdom. Birds and many marine animals have been found to be able to only sleep with one half of their brains, while the other remains awake to (in some cases, quite literally) keep an eye open for danger. Our human brains haven’t yet gotten the message that our nights are no longer necessarily a time of a danger, and scientists contend that there may not be a way to retrain the brain to relax the brain that first night in an unfamiliar bed.

But to hedge your bets on having a decent first-night’s sleep, it doesn’t hurt to incorporate good sleep hygiene into your routine when away from home: lay off the heavy foods, alcohol and caffeine several hours before sleeping; keep your sleeping space as cool, dark and quiet as possible; abstain from electronics about 90 minutes before bed; and it doesn’t hurt to bring along a familiar, comfortable pillow – both the scent and feel of your favorite pillow can aid in relaxation, helping to calm your agitated, worried left brain.

And if none of these work, that’s what coffee is for. At least you can take comfort that there’s a fair chance that your next night will be more restful.

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