Home Furnishings Business — March 2011
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On Bedding
Howard Whitman

Improving Lives Through Sleep

Former Leggett SaLeS guru FindS SucceSS With JopLImo mattreSS

It may have seemed like a big gamble when Brian Croft left behind his successful tenure as director of U.S. retail sales for major bedding manufacturer Leggett & Platt to start his own business in a down economy.

But guess what? The gamble paid off—in spades. Just a year after opening his first Joplimo Mattress store in Joplin, Mo., in March 2010, Croft is planning to open his second Joplimo store within the next two months. His average sale ticket comes in around $1,200, and he believes store traffic has grown 20 percent since the store opening.

How did Croft do it? Through A combination of the right products, the right location, the right service, and the selling savvy he developed during his years with Leggett.

In 2010, having settled in the Joplin area with his wife, Croft set out to open his own business. Choosing a name wasn’t hard—he named his store after an abbreviated form of the city and state in which it was located. It wasn’t until later that he learned of past usage of the term; he recently saw, in a local tavern, an old photograph entitled “Joplimo Queen.” “Apparently in the ‘30s and ‘40s, they referred to the area as Joplimo instead of Joplin, Missouri,” Croft recalled.

“They called the prom kings and queens the Joplimo kings and queens.”

The dragonfly in the store’s stylish logo has personal resonance for Croft, who said “The whole message of the dragonfly is, a dragonfly’s life is short and it’s a reminder to live your life to the fullest. I think a good night’s sleep can get you that.”

The Joplimo Label Croft fulfills his mission of providing a good night’s sleep to his area with a strategy that many sleep stores are adopting lately: becoming his own brand.

“We have Sleep to Live, which is our high-end, and everything else in our store is our own Joplimo brand,” he said. “It’s made by a private manufacturer, but it’s all private-labeled.Usually with private labels, a lot of (stores) are catering to the lower-end traffic. That’s definitely not the case here.”

But are shoppers receptive to an unfamiliar brand name? Croft says yes: “Unbelievably, brand does not matter. The only time that brand matters—and it happens to us about twice a month—is when we get a customer coming in asking for Tempur-Pedic.”

Croft sees the private label as a sales advantage. “Being private- labeled, we position ourselves that we custom-make our mattresses ... since we have so much control over them, and we don’t have a middle man, our prices are 20 to 30 percent less than anybody else’s for the same quality, and we can custommake anything the customer wants.”

This ability to customize products has also helped Joplimo develop a unique niche: “We do a ton of custom RV mattresses,” Croft said. “That’s a big part of our business, actually.”

Another key element of Joplimo Mattress is Sleep to Live’s diagnostic system. “That’s a thing, I think, that sets us apart in our marketplace,” Croft said. “We have a customer come in, they get measured, their own characteristics are measured by the machine, and it tells them the support levels that work. ... We make it all about their support and comfort, and the science and accuracy behind it. Brand becomes totally irrelevant at that time.

It turns into something like a doctor’s visit or trip to the eyeglass place, where you truly have to find out what’s specific to the customer. ... It makes a huge difference with our customers.Our closing ratio is the best I’ve ever seen.”

Attached to Adjustables Joplimo has had noteworthy success in selling adjustable beds, a format that’s gained lots of ground at bedding retail in recent years.

“Because of my experience in that (at Leggett), that’s a huge focus for us,” Croft said. “Anytime somebody’s looking at an adjustable-friendly mattress, we’re showing them an adjustable Bed base, and we’re at about a 20 percent attachment rate.Every time they experience it, they absolutely love it. Then it just becomes a question of affordability, and a big thing is having in-house financing or some kind of consumer lending to bridge that gap.”

Dealing with Price Croft said a number of his local competitors advertise heavily based on price. Joplimo has a successful strategy for dealing with this common concern.

“People will come in all the time looking for our cheapest product,” Croft said. “We’re going to focus instead on what they need instead of what they want. When they see the right kind of support, what they’re measured for, and they start laying on some of the beds that are rated for their support level, even if they came in looking for the cheapest bed, we always start on our Sleep to Live, which is $3,000 or $4,000 in a queen set. We can show them a $4,000 bed and they’ll go ‘that’s awesome, but I can’t afford $4,000‘ and we’re like, ‘that’s great, no problem.’ So that really shifts the conversation to focus on support, comfort and quality, and we’ll find something that fits their budget. Usually it’s not a $399 bed; $800 is about our bottom line that a customer will settle for.”

Procuring Purchases with Pillows Joplimo’s had great success with its referral program.

“We have a customer referral card,” Croft stated.“Anytime that somebody buys from us, we give them this tiny card to give to a friend. We put their name on it, and we date it 30 days from the purchase date and say if you know somebody who needs a mattress, if they come in and spend $599 or more, they’re entitled to two free pillows. We’ll actually mail two free pillows to the customer who passed on the card as well. So it costs us four pillows—maybe $50 to $100—for them to refer somebody to spend.”