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In-Stock Product, Employee Retention, and Customer Journey Were Hot Topics During Nationwide’s Retailer Panel 

Mattress University, an educational presentation at Nationwide Marketing Group’s Primetime event in Nashville this week, dove into the current retail landscape with a panel that included Tim Deets of TC Home Furnishings, Chris Schunk of Lake Effect Furniture & Mattress, Karl Tobler of Mattress Warehouse, Salt Lake City, and Lee Burns of Mattress Direct, Baton Rouge, La.

Led by Jesse Kostuhoski, VP of sales at Furniture and Appliance Mart, panel members started by talking about the state of the market and what positive they see since 2020. They agreed that sales going up and making more money was one of the most beneficial things—despite price increases—and they also mentioned the fact that consumers aren’t steered away from those increases.

However, if the prices rise too much, things will slow down and “slippage”—when slow sales lead salespeople to take a path of least resistance when it comes to customers who do come into the store—may occur.

While there’s a certain fear around price increases, the panel agreed that people think more about availability than price these days, which is why having stock is so important now.

And that’s not the only thing that’s changed about customers.

“Customers today are much more knowledgeable, and close rates should be higher today,” Deets said. 

Burns added that consumers still start their journey online—which is why websites are critical to any retailer’s business strategy. But he also said people want to come back to brick-and-mortar stores, with one catch: It must be an experience.

Part of doing that is asking questions of customers instead of directing them to something immediately. Go on the journey with them.

Also, the panel added that better customers want to know they’re getting a good deal, and they’re comfortable paying a higher price. So if you offer the experience, build trust with the consumer and be an advocate for them, they won’t have a problem spending more.

Changing subjects to employees and retention, many on the panel said they’ve raised wages for their employees—whether it’s the delivery crew or the warehouse workers. They also touched on the importance of offering benefits beyond money, like healthcare, 401K’s and more.  

The key, as Tobler said, is to foster a family atmosphere. “Make your employees feel like part of your family and that they matter, and give them the tools to feel great about where they are.” 

Deets added that you need to find out what’s important to them, because money isn’t always the answer. “Get to know them so you can have that conversation,” he said

Education, training, and celebrating wins will also help employees feel valued, according to Burns. 

The seminar ended with a discussion about omnichannel and how to create marketing that meets the consumers where they are.

“We’ve been doing TV commercials, Facebook ads and Google Adwords, and budget is important,” Schunk said. “You need to understand how big your market is and see how much you should be bringing in and then plan accordingly.”

Then bring them into the stores so you can sell them everything they need, Deets said. 

As the panel ended, everyone involved said they were looking forward to a great year ahead, despite challenges that may be in store.

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