Factory-directs try to alter image working to dispell the public perception

TORONTO--Factory-directs are working to dispel the public perception of them as fast-talking, discount futon mattress salesmen, and are cultivating an image of bedding consultants who can help to solve sleep and comfort problems.

Factory-direct operators meeting in Toronto last month said their biggest challenge is to improve their image. The industry is focusing on quality, durability, comfort and value, as well as the advantages it has over large department and furniture stores. The two-day factory-direct conference, sponsored by the International Sleep Products Association (ISPA), drew 70 American and 17 Canadian factory-direct operators. For more business problems in mattress industry, click here False comparative pricing futon: issue won't die

"Factory-directs have to clean up their image," said Wayne Simmons, co-founder of W. Simmons Mattress, Cerritos, Cal., which has 25 outlets in Southern California. "We want retailers to talk about sleep problems, like insomnia, and how to solve them. We want to perform a service and help people choose futon mattresses that are right for them."

Simmons noted that the VCR and microwave industries have convinced consumers that they need to spend hundreds of dollars to buy quality products, and the bedding industry should be no different, considering that a bed is one of the most important "appliances" in the home.

The challenge of getting all members of the bedding industry, from vendors to salespeople, to participate in an informational campaign, has been taken up by ISPA.

For the first time, ISPA's Better Sleep Council Committee is encouraging retailer participating in its two major consumer campaigns; Better Sleep Month in May and Annual Bed Check Week in September, said Russell Abolt, executive vice president of ISPA. The association wants retail executives and their salespeople to receive the campaigns' informational literature, so that they are ready to answer consumers’ questions during the campaigns.

"The retail community has to be in sympathy with what we're trying to get the consumer to think about," Abolt said.

Factory-directs try to alter image

Factory-direct operators attending the June conference said they know they have to do a better job of explaining to consumers why they should buy their products. They also know that consumers consider buying a bed to be a major purchase, but it is often unpleasant because of high-pressure sales tactics, or because they're confused about what to buy.

"Consumers are tight in what they are available to spend, but those factory-directs that have continued to be aggressive are getting the message across. And they are not selling only on price, they are emphasizing value and quality," said Harry Falk of Troy Mattress Co., which has four stores in the Albany, N.Y., area.

"The recession has affected traffic and what the customer is willing to spend, but I stopped promoting on price. I stopped all sales and am a one-price store now. I'm promoting value," said Ron Zagel of Jonathan Stevens Mattress Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.

Zagel said he realized it was pointless trying to "shout down" larger competitors who had bigger advertising budgets. He hired consultants to help identify his company's strengths and make the shortcomings of his competitors his niche markets. The results were to change the company's name to Jonathan Stevens from Acme Bedding, and to downsize retail space.

Despite their concerns, factory-directs have not lost sight of the advantages they have over large futon mattress manufacturers and department and furniture stores. Factory-directs said they are more knowledgeable about the products because they make them, and they can handle problems or special orders more easily and quickly.

"We won't displace the department or furniture stores, but there are niches that we can serve. We can offer a large selection, and odd sizes to fit boats, antique beds or recreational vehicles. We also do a lot of work with interior decorators," noted Curtis Cantwell, chairman of ISPA's Factory-Direct committee and owner of Cantwell Mattress Co. Inc., Corpus Christi, Texas, which operates four retail stores, related page: https://futonszone.com/let-fingers-find-mattress-via-telephone/

"We sometimes think the consumer is price driven, but I disagree. I think they will buy a quality product. If we inform the consumer, he will quit buying the junk," Cantwell said.

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