A few years ago, Charlie Gillman, owner of Gillman Do it Best Home Center, and his wife were shopping for a new mattress. They were having trouble finding exactly what they wanted, so when a Serta representative stopped at the store, Gillman was more than eager to hear what he had to say.
“We met that day, and he explained the mattress business to me,” Gillman says. “We started out by selling them at one of our stores in a college town [in Oxford, Ohio]. We thought that would be a good starting point since the students there would need mattresses.”
At the time, Gillman’s son was the manager of the store. He started out by setting up a tent in a parking lot in the middle of town next to the university.
“I gave him a sales goal to achieve,” Gillman says. “He did three times that amount.”
After that early success, Gillman decided to expand mattress sales to some of his other store locations. He currently sells mattresses in three of his seven locations in Ohio and Indiana.
He also sells at the Indianapolis and Cincinnati home shows each year with great success.
“We look around the towns where our stores are and see if there are other mattress stores,” he says. “If we’re in a town where there’s a need, we’ll add mattress sales to that location.”
Mattress protectors are popular items, too. “If you stain a mattress, the warranty is void, so mattress protectors, which generally run between $40 and $200, are a great add-on sale.”
Because so many mattresses are sold under private labels, it’s tough for customers to price-shop, he says. “It’s easy for us to advertise guaranteed lowest prices and make a good margin on our sales.”
Gillman and his staff also set up showrooms so customers can easily compare and try out the mattresses.
“My son heads up the mattress sales, but each store has a go-to employee who’s the mattress expert,” he says. “We also have three or four employees in each store who may not be experts but are still very knowledgeable.”
To get started in mattress sales doesn’t require too much inventory beyond the floor model mattresses.
“Typically, mattresses are considered special orders that require a two- or three-day wait,” Gillman says. “When a customer selects one, we place that order and can deliver it to him within a few days. Serta has a factory in Cincinnati, so the turnaround time is quick.
“We advertise our low-price guarantee very strongly and offer 0-percent financing and free delivery. Because our stores already have delivery trucks, it’s easy for us to deliver the mattresses to our customers.”
He also offers an aggressive employee discount on the mattresses, allowing employees to purchase mattresses from the store at a good price and therefore become more knowledgeable about the product they’re selling.