By Mario Toneguzzi
Sleep Country recently celebrated a milestone with the grand opening of the company’s 250th location in Canada with more expansion to come, particularly in shopping centres across the country.
“The reality in this day and age when people say brick and mortar it always hasn’t been a happy story but in our case it continues to be a happy story,” said Stewart Schaefer, Chief Business Development Officer at Sleep Country. “We’ve been opening on average about 10 stores every year for the last 10 years. That hasn’t slowed down. Last year, we opened up 12 stores. This year we’ll probably end up opening closer to 12 to 15 stores because the opportunities have presented themselves.
“As we continue to expand and find opportunity within the Canadian landscape and as we continue to grow our business we have not yet seen any signs of a slowing down on the brick and mortar. In fact, we just celebrated our 18th consecutive quarter of same store sales growth. And in the retail world, nobody’s saying that anymore or very far and few between obviously.”
The company began operations in 1994 in Vancouver with its first four stores followed by expansion to the Toronto market and then the Calgary market.
Sleep Country is Canada's leading mattress retailer and the only specialty mattress retailer with a national footprint in Canada. Sleep Country operates under two mattress retail banners: Dormez-vous, the largest retailer of mattresses in Quebec and Sleep Country Canada, the largest mattress retailer in the rest of Canada. As of April 2, Sleep Country had 250 stores and 16 distribution centres across Canada. All of the company's stores are corporate-owned.
The 250th store is in North York.
Of the 250 stores, said Schaefer, 247 of them are stores in main strip malls and power centres.
“We always choose high, visible locations. Easy and convenient for our customers. They could be core of the downtown or they could be on your corner next to your Starbucks, your neighbourhood,” he said.
But in recent years the brand has expanded into main shopping centres with the first in Calgary’s CF Chinook Centre in 2015.
“This was around the time when there was talk about Sears having trouble. I did an experiment because mall stores first of all were never part of our bailiwick for two reasons. One, our focus was to be in everyone’s neighbourhood and make it just convenient for you. And two it was cost prohibitive,” said Schaefer.
“Over the last few years, the landscape of retail is changing. Ecommerce definitely has an impact and the mix of tenants has dramatically changed over the years especially with the malls. In the past we weren’t cool enough to be in a mall to be honest. A lot of the mall operators would turn their nose to us because it wasn’t such a cool thing. But lo and behold over the last few years health and wellness has become a much greater focus. And we also revamped the look and feel of our stores as the consumers’ tastes have changed. We expanded our business in accessories which is a big part of our business now . . . We did an experiment in the Chinook mall. Not only was it the first mall store that we opened in Canada but it was the first store that we tested our new concept which was the same thing that everyone knows us for - Sleep Country and mattresses. But we expanded on a Pottery Barn kind of look in the front of the store.”
When Sears closed recently, Schaefer said many people didn’t realize that it was Sleep Country’s top competitor.
“With them exiting the market, it then said to me maybe there was more of an opportunity for this captive audience that were going to all these malls. We should be there and we should be there at a more aggressive level,” he said.
Three new stores in shopping centres will open this year and potentially eight, including one in the West Edmonton Mall.
“You’re witnessing early days for us in what we believe potentially could be an interesting expansion in the mall stores,” added Schaefer.
He said Sleep Country is contemplating launching a very high end luxury mattress product in its stores which is now in the testing phase.
“In our 250 store base, we are testing higher end as well as lower end. Right now the breadth of our mattresses in our stores go from approximately $150 starting for a good quality mattress all going up to $5,000,” said Schaefer. “We are now testing a couple above the $5,000 to see how the consumer feels about it and that could potentially lead to some higher end merchandising.”
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.