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					                     RETAIL ROAD TRIP
                                                    the selling scene




                                    C
  Family-owned Oregon                       redit the launch of Beds 4 Less   when they weren’t satisfied with
                                            to Steve Costello running into    their purchases. He was unable to
  independent shines at                     an unhappy former customer        intervene and felt embarrassed. These
   customer satisfaction,           in the grocery line.                      were people who had trusted in him.
                                      That uncomfortable scenario is a          Today, because Steve sets the stan-
     selling ‘green’ beds           key reason Steve left his job with a      dards, he doesn’t hesitate to head for
                                    retail mattress chain almost five years   the supermarket or anywhere else in
                  By Karl Kunkel    ago and embarked on his own retail        town. Once, while dining in a restau-
        Photography by Ken Taylor   adventure in Bend, OR.                    rant, Steve and his wife were treated
                                      In his previous job, Steve felt that    to a bottle of wine delivered to their
                                    too often customers got the run-          table, courtesy of a satisfied customer
                                    around from the store’s management        a few tables away.

www.sleepsavvymagazine.com                                                       SleepSavvy • November/December 2008   23
                                           RETAIL ROAD TRIP
                                               the selling scene

                                                                                   mattress to Tennessee, 2,000 miles
                                                                                   away, after a Bend resident told her
                                                                                   mother how pleased she had been
                                                                                   with Beds 4 Less customer service,
                                                                                   product quality and positive attitude.
                                                                                      The retailer’s one-year, in-house
                                                                                   comfort guarantee is a major draw.
                                                                                   The rules are simple: The customer
                                                                                   has up to a year to decide whether
                                                                                   she likes the mattress. If not, she can
                                                                                   exchange it for one of equal or lesser
                                                                                   value. The only stipulation is that
                                                                                   the mattress be returned in excellent
                                                                                   condition – one of the reasons Beds 4
                                                                                   Less recommends that the customer
                                                                                   invest in a good mattress pad. In some
                                                                                   cases, Steve has honored the guarantee
                                                                                   well beyond the one-year mark.
                                                                                      The store’s exchange program also
                                                                                   addresses the troublesome issue of
Here’s the Beds 4 Less family (left to right): Caitlyn Costello, Sanda             body impressions by making gen-
Costello, Owen Costello, Ryan Costello, Keller Costello, Dan Costello,             erous allowances. For beds in the
Ralph Hopkins, Gwen Costello, Steve Costello and Lisa Costello.                    $1,500-plus range that don’t perform
                                                                                   as promised, Beds 4 Less will replace
                                         student, all participating in a number    them for the duration of the manufac-
                                         of ways.                                  turer’s warranty.
                                            The second store is in Prineville         “I just found that if I make the
                                         (pop. 11,000), a small logging and        person happy, they tell their friends
                                         mill town 27 miles away. Paul             and family,” Steve says. “The look
                                         Perlman, Steve’s brother-in-law,          on their face is golden. The repeat
                                         has operated the 3,200-square-foot        business has really worked out well
                                         branch for the past year.                 for me.”
                                            Additional stores are in the plan-        A year ago, the family made some
                                         ning stages. As stores are added, Steve   changes to keep that repeat and refer-
                                         will move the family members where        ral business strong and growing. The
                                         needed. “The only thing that limits       store name was changed to Beds 4
                                         us from starting more stores is the       Less from Sleep Center after being
                                         number of family members we have,”        routinely mistaken for a sleep disorder
                                         he says.                                  clinic in Bend. “We were getting five
                                            As the relatively new kid on the       calls a days from people wanting to
                                         block, Beds 4 Less is a David sur-        make doctor appointments for their
                                         rounded by Goliaths – other, more         sleep problems,” Steve says.
Lisa Costello, Steve’s wife, works
                                         formidable bedding retailers serving         The previous name was also being
with a Bend store customer.
                                         that region of Oregon. Steve and Paul     confused with a competitor with a
   Steve’s company, Beds 4 Less, is      know they won’t win on price alone,       similar store name. Potential custom-
a family-owned, two-store opera-         so they have made customer satisfac-      ers were going to the other store.
tion based in Bend (pop. 77,000),        tion a priority.                             Steve and Paul have also re-evaluat-
site of the 4,400-square-foot parent        “Customer service is everything,”      ed their bedding lines and determined
store. The Costello family is actively   Steve says. “I bend over backwards to     that offering two brands – Englander
involved in the Bend store, with         keep a customer happy.”                   and Comfort Solutions by King Koil
Steve’s wife Lisa, two sons Ryan and        Happy customers like to share their    – gave them a unique presence in
Neil and daughter Caitlyn, a college     good fortune. Beds 4 Less shipped a       the region with a mix and selection

24 SleepSavvy • November/December 2008                                                          www.sleepsavvymagazine.com
                                            RETAIL ROAD TRIP
                                                the selling scene

that didn’t overwhelm the customers.       At the Prineville store, managed
Prices range from $499 to $2,100           by Paul Perlman (below), display
for a queen, with an average ticket of     includes locally crafted wood beds.
$1,299.
   At the Prineville store, Paul is so
confident in his products and service
that he offers customers free gasoline
to check out the competition – not a
trivial offering in today’s economy.
He encourages them to drive up to
25 miles away to see if the grass is
greener. If they buy from Beds 4 Less,
he deducts the gas money from the
purchase.

All in the family
The Beds 4 Less stores are staffed
entirely by family members. Steve
is responsible for sales training, but    a fair share of the beds. Everybody
every family member supports the          wears logoed hats and shirts to pro-
others and offers advice.                 mote the business, and the 12-foot
   “It’s definitely low pressure here,”   delivery truck prominently displays
Steve says. “When I started at (the       the store’s name. The staff pays close
other retailer) they always had ques-     attention to customers’ comments
tions to ask to lead the customers to     about delivery preferences and works
the more expensive beds. We never         hard to make the best impression.
left the customer alone. Even if they       “We sell to women primarily,
said they were just looking, we were      and one complained about another
required to stay on them. I was never     retailer’s delivery person acting
comfortable with that hard sell. Here,    ‘creepy’,” Paul says. “The customer
it’s a hands-off thing.”                  may not always be right, but they
   Beds 4 Less staff members invite a     are always the customer.”
customer in, encourage her to try the

                                           ‘The dog ate my bed!’
beds and answer questions when she
is ready to talk.



                                           T
   The family members are cross-
                                                   his after-hours telephone plea from a frantic customer is just one of
trained in all aspects of the business,
but they are not pushed into selling.              many interesting calls that store manager Paul Perlman has gotten on
They go out on the floor when they                 his cell phone. But it was music to his ears.
are ready, usually after watching Steve      Paul, manager of the Beds 4 Less branch store in Prineville, OR, has
and the others.                            his cell phone number written on the “Closed” sign, with instructions for
   Each customer gets treated individu-    desperate customers in need of an emergency mattress, even at the most
ally by each family member. “I like        unlikely of times. He’ll gladly open the 3,200-square-foot store in the mid-
for them to do it their own way and        dle of the night and flip on the lights.
be themselves,” Steve says.                  On this particular night, he replaced a mattress that had been partially con-
   “And as the owners of the fam-          sumed by a pit bull.
ily business, they have that going for       Paul is serious about making himself available to anyone at any time, and
them, too,” Steve says. “They are not      he publicizes that fact to the police, firefighters, ambulance workers and oth-
just commissioned salespeople. They        ers who provide a civic service to Prineville area residents.
have a vested interest.”                     If those people sleep well, Paul reasons, everyone else in Prineville will
   Deliveries are also handled by fam-     sleep well, too.
ily members – Paul himself delivers

www.sleepsavvymagazine.com                                                             SleepSavvy • November/December 2008   25
                                              RETAIL ROAD TRIP
                                                   the selling scene

  The entrance at the                                                                      The excitement factor is why the
  Prineville store.                                                                      green beds are placed in the front of
                                                                                         the store, impossible for an entering
                                                                                         customer to miss. “It makes a favor-
                                                                                         able first impression,” Steve says.
                                                                                           Beds 4 Less also makes an effort
                                                                                         to be responsible in how it disposes
                                                                                         of old bedding. After customers’
                                                                                         old mattresses are picked up, the
                                                                                         staff scrutinizes each bed. If it is
                                                                                         too soiled, they break it down and
                                                                                         send the pieces to the landfill. The
It’s a green business                       based foams and other natural materi-        usable ones go to the needy. Actively
In January, Beds 4 Less plans to con-       als. The retailer has exclusive rights       involved in their communities, Steve
vert its two delivery trucks to run on      to the Englander products in central         and Paul know where the need is
natural gas. Estimated conversion cost      Oregon.                                      greatest and deliver those beds to
for each vehicle is $1,000.                    “Practically everything we carry over     the families or children themselves.
   Environmental responsibility is very     $699 is green,” Steve says. “For people
big in this part of the country. The hot-   here in central Oregon, this is a big hit.   Making it personal on TV
test sellers at Beds 4 Less for the past    There are a lot of nature lovers. For        Television has become Beds 4 Less’
eight months have been Englander’s          some people, when you mention green,         go-to advertising medium. The
green beds with bamboo ticking, soy-        they get excited about it.”                  retailer has steered away from news-




26 SleepSavvy • November/December 2008                                                               www.sleepsavvymagazine.com
                                            RETAIL ROAD TRIP
                                                the selling scene

paper ads in recent years – mainly        currently airing shows Paul in the      “So, if I’m running a discount, I give
after the publisher increased the         Prineville store emphasizing the        it to everyone.”
rates by 40%, while the circulation       importance of healthy sleep.               The Beds 4 Less website (www.
dropped 20%.                                In September, both stores distrib-    beds4less.com) is still in its infancy,
  “I just didn’t have a lot of luck       uted their first coupons by mail,       but it has already attracted unex-
with it,” Steve says. “We’ve tried        offering a $100 discount. Paul says     pected attention from online shop-
everything over the years.”               that he could have saved money          pers who have placed phone orders.
  “Television works,” he says.            on printing by taking the project       One came from a former Bend
“When the commercials are running,        outside of Prineville and Bend. But     resident living in Las Vegas. She was
people come into the store.”              giving the project to a local printer   mattress shopping online, stumbled
  Steve is more comfortable behind-       keeps the money circulating locally,    across the Beds 4 Less site and
the-scenes, so Paul is the public face    and that ultimately benefits Beds 4     wanted to buy from her hometown.
of Beds 4 Less. With a background         Less.                                      Steve and Paul believe that even
in printing and advertising, he has a       The coupons ended up in the right     as the retail channels of distribu-
command of marketing and public           hands and an ample number were          tion for mattresses proliferate and
relations. Steve, whose forte is bed-     redeemed. But, for goodwill pur-        the big get bigger, a segment of
ding, welcomes those skills.              poses, the stores deducted that same    consumers will always seek out the
  Paul has already starred in four        amount for customers who did not        smaller, family-oriented mattress
25-second TV spots. He doesn’t use        have a coupon.                          retailers offering friendly customer
a script, preferring to wing it to give     “I found out that they buy the        service. And that’s the forte of
the commercials a more human,             bed, go home and see the coupon,        Beds 4 Less. Just ask the mother in
less canned, feel. The commercial         then they call me back,” Steve says.    Tennessee. ●




www.sleepsavvymagazine.com                                                           SleepSavvy • November/December 2008   27

				
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