Larry Miller, CEO of retail superstore Sit’N Sleep in Southern California, carries a wide range of brands—everything from traditional models to the biggest online brands.
And if you think carrying D2C products will hurt your store, Miller has some advice.
“If consumers want it or are interested in it, we need to carry it,” he said in a podcast interview with Mike It Up. “If we have people come in and say ‘do you have Casper?’ and we say no, they could just walk. But now we say yes, and they’ll look at it and compare it with other beds. It’s a strength to have it on the floor, there are well advertised, known brands, as all of them are. And it adds credibility to us as a retailer to carry these products. I think it’s certainly a good thing to do.”
To add these online brands, he said the process was slow. Hybrid Infinity came first, followed by Nectar, Leesa and Casper. “We’ll continue to expand or contract the lines, depending upon productivity and consumer’s wishes,” he explains. “Basically they are there because consumers want to see them and if you don’t have it, you’re not in the game, in my opinion.”
Sit’N Sleep has been carrying these brands for a few years, and Miller said he’s learned a lot along the way.
“Retailers don’t need to be frightened of them,” he said. “They don’t need to be scared, they just need to do what’s right for the consumer, and they’ll be rewarded if they do the right thing and have the product array consumers want to see.”
Having had the experience of carrying those online brands, he said it’s changed what he looks for in a brand.
“We have long-term relationships with most of our big brands, our traditional brands, and they’ve helped us grow along the way as we’ve expanded our business,” he said. “The online brands are new to the party, but still appreciated. There’s a difference in long-term relationships, and we’ll see what happens. I think it’s the right move, I think my business partner Nelson is probably one of the best merchandisers in the business, if not the best. And I’m proud of the assortment he’s attracted, and kept, and grown in our business.”
Based on his experience with these online brands, he said he feels traditional brands have already stepped up their game to meet the competition.
“They’ve shifted some of their products to the packing that we used for the online product, which is easier,” he said. “It’s also easier to ship obviously if you want to ship UPS or FedEx, so we’ve learned a lot from that. I think the traditional brands have learned a lot from online brands. Pretty much all the major traditional brands are responding.”
Miller said that if the brands create the traffic, he of course will show it to them and try to sell that product. And he said the worst thing one can do is discourage somebody from buying what they first want to see.
“It’s just not the way to do it,” he said. “We don’t bait and switch, and as a matter of fact, in our Memorial Day ads, we emphasized Casper for the first time. We want all of our vendors to be successful. And time will tell what happens with them.”
Overall, he said he thinks online brands present an unusually positive opportunity for our industry, and he thinks stores need to manage their inventory as aggressively as possible.
“It’s important to have a substantial inventory to take care of consumer demand,” he said. “Nobody wants to come in here and not be able to get a mattress for five or six weeks—that’s a non-starter. So I highly recommend that retailers invest as much as they can—I know there are some limitations—and work on their digital campaigns.
“If they don’t have a digital campaign, get one going as soon as possible. It’s not a cure-all and it’s not instant, it’s a matter of trial and error. We’ve spent millions and millions of dollars to improve our digital look and feel campaign. And we’re probably going to go through another renovation even though ours is pretty much as good as most, we want to be better than anybody.”
It’s important to continue to invest in your business, as Miller said, as well as your people. “This is a time right now where a lot of people can do well. It’s probably better conditions for our industry than I’ve seen in many years.”