|Futon Covers - Hot Topic
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Keeping the Customer Satisfied
By and large, when asked about customer service issues we could practically hear the retailer smile. “It’s amazing,” summed up Laura Anno at The Futon Store in Memphis, TN. “There are customer service problems with just about everything else. Futon covers are great. I wish every product we offered were this easy.”
Although very rare, a few retailers mentioned a few problems and offered some simple solutions. “When someone comes in with a popped corner because they pulled too hard, we just ask the seamstress we contract with to take care of it,” explains Rachel Dortch, owner of Beyond Futons in Charlotte, NC.
According to Sharon Graves at Arcata Exchange in Arcata, CA, “Sometimes there’s a problem with fit because of the growing number of futon mattress choices nowadays. Staff need to be trained so they can help the customer order the futon cover which has corners deep enough to accommodate their futon mattress thickness.”
When availability becomes an issue for impatient customers, Chet Stoler at the Futon Gallery in Roseville MN, has an easy answer. “We lend the customer a futon cover to carry them over. But that’s really an uncommon problem since we only work with futon cover manufacturers who ship within two to three weeks.”
For most retailers, returns and exchanges are no problem. Bernie Berch from Arise Futons, however, has a more proactive approach. “I found that the most common problem is that customers order the wrong size futon cover. They think they have a queen when they have a full - or vice versa. Since I don’t allow returns or exchanges, I strongly suggest that they go home and measure the dimensions of their futon before ordering a futon cover.”
Building a Better Mousetrap
Our research has led us to be optimistic about the futon cover business and the opportunities that have developed as a result of higher quality fabrics and the widening selection of sophisticated designs. Retailers are benefiting from this part of the business, which delivers a solid profit to hassle ratio. Customers are benefiting from high quality materials and a selection that allows them to create their own unique style.
Are there ways to improve on this good thing? What does the growth of this segment tell us about potential new ways to market futons?
One patent opportunity emerges when the right questions are asked. The retailers we surveyed reported that only about 10 percent of futon cover customers are buying replacements or seconds.
Why is this the case when the ease and economy of changing futon covers is clearly one of the most valuable benefits of owning a futon, and is one of the most important advantages futons offer over upholstered furniture? For the price of a new sweater or blazer, a customer can update the look of their room the way they would their wardrobe. Think of how much it costs to reupholster a couch! Collectively and assertively promoting this benefit would obviously increase futon cover sales. But more importantly, it would also enhance the value of the futon over conventional sofas and bedding.
Anne Mali of Itsa Futon offered part of the solution. “We need to promote the ease and economy of changing the futon covers. I think people need to be educated. We remind all of our customers that you can easily change the futon cover and by doing so change your whole decorating scheme.”
One of the first steps in promoting replacement futon covers is to collect the names and addresses of your cover customers. And then why not hold a futon cover sale once or twice a year - prompting a return visit by sending a postcard or mailer to these folks? It reminds them that their futon cover can be updated as easily as a comforter and gives them a time limited incentive to do so.
Let us know how our suggestions work. And if you’ve got others, give us a call or e-mail us. Let’s keep a good thing growing strong!
Andrea Mainardi is a freelance writer who works out of her new home in Providence, RI. As a new home owner she boasts some serious, first hand experience regarding decorating a new place-on a budget. This is her first article for Futon Life, and I know she would love to here from you.-Editor