By Gordon Hecht, Serta Simmons Bedding

As I was doing my Super Bowl KP duty, I thought back to the time when cleaning pots and pans meant scouring them with steel wool pads.

This could be a 30- to 45-minute task requiring rubber gloves and scrubbing until your fingers became cramped. And chances are if you’re age 45 or older, your mom had a box of Brillo or S.O.S pads under the sink.

Luckily, we made the investment in a set of name-brand, non-stick pots so fancy they’re called “cookware.” I blew through the chore in mere minutes; the burnt grime never had a chance against my grease-cutting detergent and brush.

In fact, scouring with steel wool pads became unnecessary in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Teflon and Silverstone became popular. The advent of the technology of non-stick frying pans made Brillo obsolete.

Brillo was introduced in 1913 and S.O.S followed four years later.  Both companies expanded from garage operations to major factories. In 1962 Brillo was acquired, and then acquired again in 1982, and now all that remains of the brand are several non-steel wool products. S.O.S followed a similar path.

Technology and business are changing, and just like cleaning and household chores, we have to change and adapt to the tools and conditions that prevail today. If you invested your money in Brillo in 1913 and sold your stock in 1962, you would have made out very well. But if you invested in 1979 you would have lost a lot of dough!

Here are some other changes that have been building for years; how will you adapt to them?

  • Newspaper advertising has been around since newspapers were printed.  But the simple fact is less people subscribe to printed news, and your target market rarely reads the daily. I believe traditional printed newspapers will still be around for a while, but like Brillo and S.O.S, they will become less relevant or necessary.
  • The willingness of people to work a traditional retail schedule that includes multiple nights and weekends has diminished since the recession.  There are more job choices out there today! In order to keep your sales force strong and fully staffed you may have to get creative in scheduling. If you are offering a flexible schedule that allows for fun and family time, chances are you may be able to attract the best candidates in your area. (Chick-fil-A has mastered this.)
  • Everyone has their own opinion on tattoos and multiple piercings. My opinion is that you want your sales team to look like your customer base and the shoppers you need to attract. When you hire for attitude and train for aptitude you will always win!
  • And speaking of your customer base, we are a nation of many languages. Bilingual salespeople are a plus! If you have folks on your team who can communicate in multiple ways, make the most of it, including notes on your website and in-store signage.
  • It’s hard to believe, but some store leadership is still resisting 21st century retail staples like extended financing, digital advertising, e-mail promotions, social media, interactive store experiences and e-commerce. In many cases their competitors have figured these out and are winning the retail war with those tools every day.

2020 will be a year of critical choices. When you get home tonight, check under the kitchen sink for your box of Brillo. Then tomorrow you can make the choice to move ahead with the times and remain relevant or, like steel wool pads, become a fading memory from a bygone era.

Gordon Hecht is Senior Regional Manager/Strategic Retail Group at Serta Simmons Bedding. You can write him at

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