Don’t turn your store into a supermarket

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

Your shoppers expect to see choices in your mattress department.

Many are getting wise to the fact that mattresses are not a one-size-fits-all. They want to be able to choose from their ideal “feel” in a couple of different price points. Also, your shoppers often cannot visualize the difference in size between a king and queen, or queen and full, so they want to get a feel for the dimensions.

Every store and demographic area can be different. It would be a fool’s errand for me to dictate the right number of floor samples for your store. But I can give some advice on where to start on determining that number.

Using supermarkets as an example, you’ll find one extreme on a typical shopping trip. I was recently in Florida’s favorite market to get some Dr Pepper. (I will conceal the store’s name, but it is open to any members of the publics.) Mr. Pibb was on sale, but I prefer the drink with the advanced graduate degree.

Dr Pepper came in 2-liter bottles, a six pack of 7.5-ounce cans, a six pack of 12-ounce cans, a six pack of 20-ounce bottles, an eight pack of 12-ounce bottles, a 10 pack of 7.5-ounce cans and a 12 pack of 12-ounce cans. Each configuration was also available in Diet Dr Pepper, Cherry Dr Pepper and Vanilla Dr Pepper. Twenty-eight choices for brown bubbly sugar water.

You’d need a combination of a mathematician, Vegas odds maker and an above-average fifth grader to be able to dope out which was the best value.

Then there’s ALDI. ALDI stores operate in a 15,000- to 20,000-square-foot selling space, compared to most supermarkets’ average of 120,000 square feet. They don’t bag your purchase (meaning the checkout line moves at warp speed) or even give you a bag (bring your own or buy one for a dime). It costs a quarter to rent a cart, but like the Minnesota Vikings defense, you’ll get a quarter back (when you return the cart). And everyone returns the cart, even the Lexus and Infiniti crowd.

There are only a few name brands in the store. But their private label has amazing quality and costs about 1/3 less. Shopping Aldi’s means saving money, but it also means saving time.

Primarily, it takes less time to schlep a grocery buggy around 15,000 square feet than 120,000. But what makes shopping easier is … fewer choices.

ALDI will have about any item you want. And they will have one choice for that item. Strawberry preserves? One brand, one size jar. Quick oats? Store brand, in a 42-ounce container, take it or leave it. Dinner napkins, paper plates, red party cups? One brand, one size package.

Take a shopping trip yourself. Start with the major supermarket chain in your area (Safeway, Albertsons, Kroger or Hy-Vee). Check out the selection of these items: Mustard, milk, frozen pizza, raisin bran and bread. Count ’em up. How many of those rarely or never sell? Does the selection make it easier or harder for a shopper to choose? Then check out ALDI (If they’re not in your area, try Lidl or Trader Joe’s.) Which retailer simplifies the decision-making process?

Likewise, plan your mattress selection to remove the duplication, confusion and waste. 

Start by slimming down on lower price points, especially under $1,000. Most stores can satisfy their shoppers with one $399/$499 model. I would recommend a firm feel. Then two at $599 and $799 (firm and plush). The first triple choice comes in at $999. That totals eight beds. If you have more than eight, you may be wasting your valuable and finite floor space.

The mid-priced category needs to represent your optimum average sale goal*. That means, if your average sale goal in 2024 is $1,499, then your wider selection should center around that price point. Focus on the construction technology and comfort level that sold best in 2023.

Here’s an example: Assume that in this past year more of your shoppers bought plush smooth hybrid beds. Next best was firm innerspring, and finally medium foam beds.

You could then group your price-point choices with a double choice of plush smooth hybrids and a single choice of firm innerspring and medium foam. Think of three price bands, $1,199, $1,599 and $1,999. That’s 12 more beds. If you have space, you could add in a $1,799 price point band or one more comfort option at the $1,599 and $1,999 price points.

Next are your luxury beds. You may want to add more variety at these higher prices, but my prescription is to avoid the Dr Pepper syndrome of 28 choices. Start with the highest price point mattress available. That’s the flagship model. It serves several purposes. The high price lets shoppers know that mattress prices have gone up and people are buying more expensive beds. Next, it helps sell other beds on your floor; many of the same features of the flagship model will be available on other beds. And best of all, you have shoppers who just want “the best,” and you’ll both be smiling every time they buy one.

You’ll want no less than two price points in the $2,000 range and two more in the $3,000 range — four models in both price points representing construction and comfort. That’s nine models at the luxury price point.

Now add that all together. It comes to 29 models (or 31 depending on what you add in the middle price point). Every major price point is covered, with a reasonable choice on comfort level. All designed to fit in a 2,500- to 3,000-square-foot space.

Of course your market and store size may be different. Your sales team and your local territory manager can help you plan an effective floor plan that provides Goldilocks choices (not too many, not too few).

*Optimum Average Sale: This is the average dollar amount per sales order that you need to reach your annual sales goal. Here’s some quick math for a mattress store:

2024 Mattress Sales Goal: $800,000

2023 Average Daily Traffic Count: Three shoppers

2023 Average Close Rate: 50%

2023 Average Number of Sales Orders: 1.5

2024 Selling Days: 362 (open on Sundays)

2024 Projected Sales Orders: 362 days x 1.5 orders per day = 543 orders

2024 Optimum Average Sale = $1,473 (sales goal divided by total orders)

This is the number you should focus on for merchandising, advertising, display, pricing, inventory and training.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at Gordon.Hecht@aol.com.

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