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The Mattress Rest-Test Gets A Face-Lift
The British department store John Lewis has announced plans to unveil a creative new mattress testing program. The retailer will soon let its customers take a mattress for a more immersive test-drive in a fully-furnished, upscale apartment for a night. In addition to giving shoppers the chance to more thoroughly try out a mattress before they buy, John Lewis developed the so-called “Residence” program as a way to provide customers with an entirely unique shopping experience. Though slated to launch at branches in four UK cities this fall, it is still unclear as of now whether or not this trial opportunity will come with a price tag. This is all part of growing trend in the retail industry, in which traditional retailers are looking to differentiate themselves from their online counterparts by focusing on more experiential marketing programs. While smaller stores may not have the bandwidth to roll out such an extravagant program like John Lewis', there are plenty of other ways for retailers to create sales-boosting shopping experiences that will help them stand out from e-commerce bigwigs.
The Residence program is just one of the ways that John Lewis has been investing in “retail-as-a-service” efforts. The retailer recently opened up a rooftop pop-up restaurant in one of its London locations. Faced with the difficult task of competing with e-commerce retailers on the basis of price or convenience, more and more traditional retailers are enhancing their brick-and-mortar locations with luxurious, fun and/or functional amenities. From Patagonia’s free yoga classes to Nordstrom’s fully stocked bar, this strategy highlights the benefits of in-store shopping that cannot be recreated online. While the interest in experiential retail is certainly on the rise, many of these programs are not designed with the average retailer in mind. Mainly limited to city-based locations, this kind of retail strategy has been designed to engage with a particular kind of shopper: an urban-dweller who has both disposable income and enough free time to leisurely enjoy a retail “experience.”
While you may not be able to buy, renovate and manage a fancy apartment, there are other ways to let your customers try out a mattress in a more relaxed setting. At-home trials are of course one option, but why not do something a little different?
If you offer nationwide shipping:
Why not try outsourcing that “luxury apartment” trial to those that already do it best? The growing popularity of short-term rentals, like AirBnB, opens up new opportunities for retailers to expand and update their marketing efforts. In fact, a number of online-only brands are already doing it. In 2016, Nest Bedding partnered with 50 AirBnB “super hosts” to furnish their rented homes and apartments with Luxury Nest Mattress and pillows. Beyond simply increasing their brand awareness, the company provides each host with a unique referral code. If one of the guests decides to purchase a Nest product of their own, that code provides them with a discount - and the host with a referral fee. Casper has a similar program, which offers rental hosts special pricing on products and a $50 gift card for every sale they refer.
If you're focusing on local sales:
For more local retailers, out-of-towners may not be an ideal target. But there are other ways to recreate this same experience inside your store. At Gardner’s Mattress & More in Lancaster, PA, consumers can try out the mattress in the Dream Room—a private space akin to a luxury hotel room. Once the customer decides which mattress they’d like to try, the retailer installs the floor model in the room, along with a bed base, mattress protector, freshly laundered sheets and pillows. With a deposit that is eventually applied to their purchase, the customer can then test out the sleep system in private for as long as they like. According to co-owner Jeff Giagnocavo, Dream Room tests usually average about 90 minutes in length—and close 100% of its booked appointments.
Ultimately, experiential retail strategies are all grounded in the same idea: making sure your customers understand that your store can deliver a value that cannot be replicated online. For some retailers, that could mean simply having friendly and knowledgeable RSAs on hand—salespeople that can answer questions and provide support without being too pushy. No matter what sort of marketing programs or amenities you can offer, the growth of experiential retail underscores the importance of making the shopping experience is memorable and enjoyable.
New Report Reveals Increase In Retail Store Openings
While brick-and-mortar stores continue to face the pressure of the growing e-commerce market, it turns out that looming threat of a “retail apocalypse” may have been over-exaggerated. IHL Group, a global research and advisory firm for the retail industry, recently published a report that provided a much-needed new perspective on the so-called crisis. Though a wave of major chain store closures has caused plenty of concern in recent months, IHL Group’s research found that they were actually off-set by an increase in store openings. According to the report, there was a net increase of more than 4,000 retail store openings in 2017 - that means that for every one company closing a store, 2.7 companies were opening them. So what does this mean for the future of the retail industry?
The report goes on to explain that this uptick in store openings is true across nearly all categories of retail stores - even those that have seemingly been hardest hit by financial uncertainty. While both Sears and Macy’s made headlines for their plans to shutter more stores in the coming year, the department store category as a whole actually remains relatively stable in terms of closures. In fact, only 15% of department store brands have seen a net decrease in stores this year, while 43% are holding the number of store locations steady and 42% are actually opening new stores. More importantly, the data shows that consumers are not abandoning brick-and-mortar shopping. According to the report, 80% of consumers say they are “visiting stores as frequently or more frequently as they did last year.” And while anecdotal analysis may have chocked those numbers up to older consumers sticking to their habits - the report actually showed a staggering amount of younger shoppers are still shopping in stores. In fact, 85% of Millennial and Gen Zers—the so-called “digital natives”—also reported visiting physical stores as or more frequently than last year.
This report does more than just assuage some of the anxiety swirling around the retail industry. It reinforces how important it is to look to the real data when making business strategy decisions. While industry chatter and second-hand buzz can be grounded in some truth, it also has the tendency to zero in on only the worst-case scenarios.
“When you look at individual sectors, businesses or regions, there are clearly areas that are challenged. The fallacy occurs when one looks at those exceptions and extrapolates them to represent the norm,” explained Mark Mathews, VP of Research Development and Industry Analysis for the National Retail Federation, “What remains clear amidst all this noise is that the store is as relevant and important a part of the retail experience as it ever has been.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that retailers should just sit back and rest on their laurels. E-commerce sales are still growing—and it looks like more and more Silicon Valley players are looking for new ways to “disrupt” the retail concept. Even though yesterday’s launch of the (insensitively-named and poorly-conceived) Bodega was met with almost immediate backlash online—its very existence signals that there might be more like it percolating on the horizon.
While the retail industry may not be in crisis mode, it is definitely in a period of transition. Smart retailers will take IHL’s findings as an opportunity to assess their standing in the marketplace: take stock of what’s resonating with consumers—and, more importantly, what’s not. By gaining a more realistic perspective of what’s going on in the industry, retailers of all types can better prepare for that so-called “retail apocalypse” (if and when it ever comes).
Kids And Sleep
As summer starts its quick fade into fall, families around the country reluctantly trade their flip-flop-and-fun-filled easy days for nightly homework and the confines of a stricter daily routine. One of the biggest changes to implement is school-year bedtimes. But despite the moans and groans parents may suffer when it’s time to settle back into an early-to-bed and early-to-rise schedule, there’s a lot to be said for adhering to regular bedtimes when it comes to kids. As with their adult counterparts, children and teens are getting less and less sleep, and just like with grown-ups, insufficient sleep is being linked to a myriad of juvenile health concerns.
In the last decade, researchers have begun to turn their focus to the unique problems overtired children and adolescents face. Studies have shown that sleep deficiency has far-reaching effects including childhood obesity, behavioral problems, and impaired cognitive performance. More recently, scientists have also found a link between decreased sleep duration and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in children; British children who get just one hour less of sleep than recommended were found to have higher risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including higher levels of blood glucose and insulin resistance. Teenagers, too, have their own difficulties balancing early school times with their bodies’ inherent inclination to stay awake longer and sleep in later. Many counties throughout the nation have attempted to address this circumstance by reworking school start times to allow middle and high schoolers to sleep in.
Simply put, inadequate sleep is affecting all members of our families. And while the onslaught of concerning research can feel overwhelming, there is evidence that taking small steps can have a big impact over time. One of the first things that parents can do is get an idea of just how much sleep their children should be getting; the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:
And despite the fact that older children and teens will beg to stay up later and sleep in on the weekends, it’s really best to enforce a regular bedtime. Going to bed and waking within one hour of the normal routine will help keep the body on schedule. Failing to do so will make sleep harder to come by and confuse the body’s clock. This so-called “social jetlag” has also been known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in adults, so it’s best for the whole family to remain on schedule as much as possible, throughout the year.Once you’ve established the right sleep duration, the next step is creating good sleep hygiene. Just like with adults, kids and teens need to have a solid, healthy bedtime routine to set the stage for a good night’s sleep. And some of the rules are the same regardless of age: no screen time an hour prior to sleep (in fact, keep screens out of the bedroom all together), avoid caffeine in the late afternoon/evening, be sure to get daily exercise, spend some time outside (especially in the morning) each day, and keep bedrooms dark and cool. Specific to younger children is encouraging them to sleep in their own room. For those kids who wake in the middle of the night and come into a parent’s room seeking comfort, it’s actually better for the parent to return the child to his or her bed and comfort them there.
It’s also beneficial for both teens and children to create a soothing bedtime routine, like a warm bath or shower and maybe some quiet time reading or looking at books. Habitually doing similar things before bed gives the brain the message that it should start winding down and prepare for sleep.
And if you make the effort to help your kids and young adults create good sleep hygiene, it’ll probably be worth it for you to take the extra step to incorporate a healthy pre-bed routine for yourself. After all, parents are the first role models kids have and by setting a good example you can help give your kids an edge for much needed rest in this crazy, busy world.
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