By David Gill
A visit to the International Hotel/Motel & Hospitality Show here in New York in November brought one of my favorite subjects--quality of sleep--back to mind. Let's begin with a key observation: Bob Altbaier, owner of Downlite, an exhibitor at the show, put this into perspective when he talked about Downlite's hotel business in upscale pillows and down comforters. "The hotels want better beds because the quality of sleep is so important to their customers' satisfaction," Altbaier said. Quality of sleep has been a core component of guests' satisfaction with their hotel stays for at least the last decade. Your hotel room could be a haven of luxury: Jacuzzi, 42-inch plasma TV, 80-year-old champagne in the minibar. But if you spent the night tossing and turning, and had to show up at the following day's meeting with just a few minutes' sleep, you aren't likely to stay in that hotel again. Retailers of bedding products can learn a lesson from this. If quality of sleep is important to customer satisfaction with hotels, it is even more crucial to their satisfaction with their daily lives. And if a particular mattress, pillow or top-of-the-bed product moves a consumer deeper into dreamland, that consumer will remember fondly the store where he/she bought that product--and give that store even more business down the road. Just like they'll keep staying at the hotel where they sleep soundly through the night. We have begun a new year--indeed, a whole new decade--with some signs that business could finally be emerging from the mess of the past two years. But retailers remain in the doldrums, and many of them--especially those that sell sleep products--cling to the notion that sales and promotions are the only way to generate store traffic. But instead of going with the tried and true, the retail world has an opportunity to look for new ideas to get business back on the up curve. So consider taking a leaf from the hotels. Start incorporating quality of sleep into your advertising and promotions. Show customers that you care not only about their business, but about their well being, too. Speaking of the new decade, the seers have come out of the woodwork with their predictions about the shape of the world over the next 10 years. Let me go out on a limb to predict the following: During the next 10 years, something will happen. You can bet the house on that.