I imagine a couple of you RSA’s have muttered this phrase before. It probably slips out of your mouth as you watch your customer leave your store – two pillows and a mattress protector in hand, beautiful new mattress on its way – but something is missing. You realize it, and mutter those dreadful words…
Whether you forget to bring up sheets or didn’t build enough value into your sheet line to stop your customer from heading to the nearest big box store or Starbucks for an ecommerce extravaganza - you know you missed an opportunity - it kills you.
And it should.
The reality is while specialty mattress and furniture retailers have a large share of the mattress, mattress protector and pillow business, sheets have been a missed opportunity for our industry as a whole compared to big box and ecommerce retailers. Don’t get me wrong, some of you are capitalizing on this product category, and your retailer has made a major commitment to capture this business. I applaud both of your efforts, and I guarantee the juice will be worth the squeeze when you look at the top line revenue and increased profits that your efforts are generating. Congratulations if you exist in this minority.
The majority of retailers in the specialty mattress and furniture industry are not capturing enough of the robust sheet market, whether it be a lack of commitment (inventory, advertising, selling something else…), or a lack of understanding as to how to compete with the lower prices, larger inventory and huge selection of the big box and mass merchant stores. Their weaknesses lie in their strengths, and hopefully the tips that follow can give you a bit of an edge on your competition when it comes to presenting your sheet program in the retail store.
The Big Picture
As a specialty RSA - trained to interact with the customer, solve problems, make informed and expert suggestions - you have the upper hand. At your big box competitors, no one is working with the customer and informing them of specific benefits that will improve their rest, and provide them a truly customized sleep environment. There is a bigger issue at play here though. When the customer is coached to understand that all of their sleep essentials (or mattress accessories) can be chosen to enhance the total sleep system, the customer will be more likely to purchase these items in your store.
“Customer, the mattress and pillow you have chosen has been expertly fit for you, and your mattress protector will keep your mattress clean and healthy for years to come. Your sheets will play a large part in the comfort of your mattress based on a proper fit, and can also enhance your sleep system by making it cooler, cleaner, or performance focused. We can also ensure that your mattress looks great with crisp fitting linens. I’d like to recommend some sheets that I think would be perfect for you and your new mattress. Each of these sleep essentials further customize your mattress purchase to create your total sleep environment, designed just for you.”
If you can successfully link overall satisfaction of the customer’s larger mattress purchase to sleep essentials, while providing a forum for questions and deep customization, you are afforded an exciting edge over your big box competitors. If the customer realizes that every product she brings into her sleep environment affects her overall wellness and comfort, she will want better quality, more features and will pay more.
Play Your Own Game
Your friends in the big box stores want you to get wrapped up in the numbers. They want you to chase them on cost and thread count. Unless you are one of the 800-pound gorillas, it is going to be a tough ride. If you are providing expert assistance and selling a customized sleep environment that enhances the sleeper’s wellness, you don’t need to beat their price. You will have far more success focusing on specialty products with a higher price and better features than trying to meet their aggressive Opening Price Point. Are you down with OPP? Not me.
There is some very exciting scientific development that is pushing the limits of textiles, and I think many of you would be surprised to see some of the linen collections that exist today. If your lower end sheet programs are making it hard to compete, you might want to consider a different direction.
Stay away from the thread count game. It is one number in a much larger equation of specifications when explaining the true quality of a sheet set, and is totally meaningless when used alone to describe the quality of linens. What’s worse, thread counts can be easily manipulated by packing low quality fibers into the horizontal threads of the weave. I can purchase a set of 1000 thread count queen sheets online for $75.47 including delivery. I guarantee you that the quality would not meet the expectations of the description. The general population as a whole doesn’t know this yet, although they are becoming more and more aware.
Here’s the catch – you can help change the conversation. You can interact with and educate the customer as to what is really important when purchasing a quality set of linens. You can connect the conversation of sheets to the total sleep environment you are creating. You have all the power! Just stay away from the numbers and play your own game.
Low Hanging Fruit.
As a final tip that will pay off in dividends (I guarantee it - you just need to ask enough – it’s the gift that never stops giving), ask these two questions while checking your customer out at the counter after they have committed to their first set of sheets:
Customer, how many sets of sheets would you like? Lots of my customers purchase at least two, so one set is always fresh when changing the linens.
Customer, do you have any other mattresses in your home that could be enhanced or refreshed by a set of these specialty sheets?
You’ll be amazed how many of your customers will respond to these questions once you place the need in their head. They just aren’t thinking about it.
But I hope you are now.
Think big picture, stay away from the numbers, and grab the low hanging fruit every time. You won’t believe the commissions and revenue you generate when you stop saying “Oh… Sheet.”