Is your bed business ahead of the curve, or has it some catching up to do? For this year’s Bed Buyer supplement, Furniture News asked a selection of our regular contributors to share their thoughts on the market’s directions, and to reveal what's set to be the biggest gamechanger in how they operate …
Adam Ashborn (Reborn Marketing and Design): feelingreborn.com is not bed-manufacturing business, but after working over 10 years at one of the world’s largest producers of innersprings technology, and now supporting furniture brands with their marketing, I have seen more focus on sustainability and recycling than ever before. With the necessity to lower our global climate, finding new, innovative ways to maintain quality and production whilst keeping emissions low is going to be the biggest challenge businesses will face. Do we start to see more lightweight mattresses being produced to reduce transportation emissions? Will mattress producers start to offer a full-lifecycle service (sales, delivery, and then recycle once it’s reached its end of life)?
Andy Stockwell (Gardiner Haskins): We have a huge opportunity with the internet – not even necessarily in terms of online sales, but in terms of what we have, what we do, how we do it, and how we inspire people to shop with us. It’s something we really aren’t making the most of at the moment, but the resources are there if we really want to make a go of it.
Huw Williams (Toons Furnishers): I think it will be the cost-of-living issues which will be the main gamechanger for the near future, with lower-priced products being purchased more. We will probably need to change our ranges to reflect that.
Mike Murray (Land of Beds): Logistics expertise is one area of focus for us – we have quality products, great choice and in-house expertise, we just need to package this up and deliver to consumers across the country, seven days a week, in one piece, at a time that suits, whilst offering add-on services such as installation and recycling of old goods. We must also be able to manage the returns process in an effective and efficient manner – all run by systems and good people.
I often ask myself, are we a bed retail business that uses tech, or are we a tech business that sells beds? The platform we have developed in-house over the last 10 years that manages our multichannel strategy will hopefully give us the flexibility and opportunity to continue to grow at pace.
Rebecca Maloy (AIS): Product is clearly very important here, but whilst offering value at every price point is key, I truly believe it’s all the other factors – including presentation, knowledge and reading your customer – that can really make a difference. My advice to retailers is to make sure your bed department is loved as much as other areas of your store – it can deliver a profitable segment within your product and margin mix. Make sure it’s a nice environment for customers to shop – it can feel uncomfortable trying beds in front of people. It’s about making customers feel at ease as much as possible, and confident to buy.
Take advantage of supplier training, ensure your sales team are knowledgeable not only about product, but also sleep. Some customers will love to know all the spec details, and at the other end of the scale it just comes down to the feel. Sales teams need to read each customer as to how much detail to share – share information, but don’t baffle! Ultimately, we should all centre around selling a good night’s sleep and the right product to each customer. We all need to look at our departments through the eyes of the consumer.
Steve Adams (Mattress Online): A wider national brand presence will enable us to reach more customers and provide improved economies of scale for our back-end operations.
Steve Pickering (Sussex Beds): Data and information will be the biggest gamechanger for our bed business. This means the key data on demand in real time, presented to every department and team member.
Over the next 12 months we are overhauling our entire IT infrastructure, replacing the current multitudes of systems with a singular ERP system. The result will increase efficiency, improve customer service and also provide every team member throughout the business with their personal data dashboards, displaying their own key KPIs and targets in real time.
Steve Reid (Simba Sleep): I have played around with virtual reality (VR), recreationally rather than professionally, and I think, as we can see in fashion and some other sectors, it is a place that brands will need to be. I think it could have profound impacts on real estate values (in the real world), how we work, and how customers engage with brands or retail experiences. Our learnings from social media are that these technologies rarely go away, and I think it could become something we are all participating in, one way or another, a lot sooner than we think – whether we agree with the idea of a virtual world or not!
Discover the contributors' take on trends and the role of the NBF in this year's Bed Buyer.