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David Perry

Gardner-White shines spotlight on bedding

Serta’s iComfort lineSerta’s iComfort line is a strong seller at Gardner-White.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - An expansive, thoughtfully merchandised bedding department greets customers entering the new Gardner-White store here.
     As customers gaze out at the open displays that unfold before them, their eyes might come to rest on a place of rest: The dozens of mattresses arrayed in a presentation that extends almost to the front of the store.
     "It's not an accident that our bedding department is close to the front of the store," said Steve Tronstein, president of this bedding-happy furniture retailer. "Bedding is a big piece of our business. We want our customers to see our mattresses. We want this to be a destination for them."
     There are about 55 mattresses in a sprawling 10,000-square-foot bedding presentation that exceeds many bedding specialty stores in sheer size. But the presentation is unlike the rows of mattresses many sleep shops offer.
     The mattresses are arranged in pods, with low walls helping to set them apart. The settings provide some privacy, and the mattresses are displayed at angles to one another, another step that provides separation between customers.
     "Usually the bedding presentation is crowded," said Aime Fitzhugh, vice president of merchandising. "It's not a pleasant shopping experience. Here, our customers can spread out and try the beds."
     The size of the bedding presentation is a luxury afforded by Gardner-White's massive new headquarters and warehouse in this Detroit suburb, a 455,000-square-foot monster that puts the retailer in the heart of a prime shopping corridor.
A decorative ceilingA decorative ceiling treatment helps set off the mattress department at Gardner-White.

     With plenty of space to devote to the critical mattress category, Gardner-White sets up its mattresses in displays that curve across the floor to a back wall. A customer trying a Restonic TempaGel mattress at the back of the department is half a store away from a customer trying a Simmons Beautyrest bed near the front.
     Fitzhugh says bedding customers want some privacy when they lie on the beds, and they also want to see a wide mattress selection. Gardner- White delivers on both counts.
     "We offer a lot of choices," he said. "We have a lot of beds for our customers to lie down on and try. And the beds are angled, so we don't infringe on our customers' comfort space."
     Gardner-White credits its focus on mattresses to the entry of a bedding specialty retailer in the market some years ago (which is now gone). Gardner- White officials studied those bedding stores carefully - and thought they were fairly well done.
     "We started treating bedding as a separate business then," Steve Tronstein said. He runs the 10-store Gardner-White operation with his wife, Barb, who oversees advertising and handles other duties; daughter Rachel, who just joined the business, and a strong team of experienced retail hands.
     "Mattresses," Steve Tronstein said, "can help your furniture business. So we take mattresses very seriously."
     Gardner-White advertises bedding every week, running different ads for different vendors.
     How does the retailer compete with Art Van, another furniture store in the area that emphasizes bedding? "There is enough room in any market for two players," Steve Tronstein said. The competition has made Gardner-White better, he added.
     Gardner-White competes by focusing on what it can control: the mattress values it offers, the customer service it provides, the carefully crafted advertising it creates.

Aime Fitzhugh, second from right, of Gardner-White welcomes Restonic executives Doug Krinsky, left, Bob Quinn and Ron Passaglia to a display of Restonic’s gel-cushioned sleep sets.
Aime Fitzhugh,
Checking out the
Checking out the mattress department at Gardner-White’s new flagship store are Aime Fitzhugh, left, Rachel Tronstein and Steve Tronstein, all of Gardner-White.

     Tronstein said each of his bedding vendors brings important strengths to the retailer's bedding program.
     He said Simmons has "creative merchants" who know how to get in touch with their customers. He described the TruEnergy Beautyrest line as a good offering and said Beautyrest Black "is an excellent product."
     Tempur-Pedic's Sleep Experience Center in the middle of the bedding presentation, an interactive retail display module, is effective and gets customers comfortable with Tempur-Pedic's adjustable beds, Tronstein said.
     The Tempur Cloud Supreme, retailing at about $3,000, is the best-seller in the Tempur-Pedic line. It helps Gardner-White elevate its average unit selling prices.
     Serta is a longtime vendor. Serta's iComfort line, on the floor at Gardner-White, represents "one of the biggest successes" in the industry in several years, Tronstein said.
     He cited the "great point-of purchase materials" backing iComfort, which he called "a great product."
     Tronstein said the iComfort line is supported with a great selling story, adding that the beds are comfortable and are more affordable than some other memory foam lines. His best-selling iComfort model is at $1,999.
     He said his Restonic line brings "great value" to the bedding department. Tronstein likes the TempaGel line of gel memory foam. "Restonic understands the gel story and knows what goes into a comfortable mattress," he said.
     He added that his Restonic partners are strong marketers and merchandisers. "Bob Quinn and his team (at Restonic) are creative thinkers," Tronstein said.
     Those strengths all add up to a strong mattress department at Gardner-White.

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