Busy evening of highlights at our Bedding Conference
The evening began with cocktails and mattress-fueled conversations at dusk in the desert. Old friendships were renewed and new friendships were initiated as the men and women of the bedding industry mixed and mingled on the well-manicured terrace of the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort in Chandler, Ariz. (See video coverage.)
That was the scene at our latest Bedding Conference, which drew a record crowd of about 360 retailers, producers and suppliers. Our day had begun early that morning when the educational sessions kicked off with former Starbucks executive Scott Bedbury's keynote address. Now, with the panels and presentations all wrapped up for the day, we engaged in a much-beloved activity: networking.
As I took in the scene that night, I appreciated the energy and enthusiasm that pervaded our desert getaway. It felt good to be among so many longtime friends.
Following that reception, sponsored by Serta, we moved indoors for the awards gala that is one of the highlights of the conference each year. Dinner host Dave Roberts of Comfort Solutions entertained us with a video in which he played several roles, including two women, a tough biker dude and a rapper.
Then we honored excellence in mattress retailing with the presentation of our 2013 Retail Giants of Bedding Awards. Our honorees were HOM Furniture of Coon Rapids, Minn., which successfully made the switch from a waterbed retailer to a full-line furniture retailer; BedMart of Wilsonville, Ore., a bedding specialist thriving in the Northwest; and Gallery Furniture, the Houston furniture and mattress powerhouse.
Kyle and Wayne Johansen of HOM accepted the award for that retailer, while founder Steven Stone did the honors for BedMart. Gallery's dynamic CEO, Jim McIngvale, wrapped up the awards dinner with a reflection on retailing - and on life - that was moving and inspirational.
Then, in a new feature, Cellupedic hosted an after-party that featured celebrities John Salley and Tia Carrere, both of whom talked about how much they like their Cellupedic airbed mattresses. The partying went on for hours.
That's how I spent Thursday evening at the Bedding Conference. It was a busy, fun and productive night.
There were too many highlights of the conference for me to sum them all up here. But the sheer range of activities Thursday night made that a special part of the conference.
In stories and columns to come I'll offer more thoughts on the Bedding Conference, one that was full of business-building ideas. Thanks to headline sponsor HSM (formerly Hickory Springs Mfg.) and our dozens of other sponsors for making the conference such a big success.