Retailer Furnitureland South focuses on bedding in a dramatic new department that aims to excite a spirit of discovery in shoppers
“The World’s Largest Furniture Store,” as Furnitureland South proclaims itself, provides a gateway to “The Furniture Capital of the World,” as the city of High Point, North Carolina, proclaims itself.
The store — actually a series of stores — spreads across an expansive campus off well-traveled Business 85, offering 1.3 million square feet of showroom space for furniture and bedding shoppers to explore. Although the complex is located in the High Point suburb of Jamestown, it tells travelers they have arrived at the front door to High Point, and it makes an impressive statement about the rise of the city as a furniture retail destination — a rise that Furnitureland South helped to drive.
With its reimagined Sleepland gallery, an 11,000-square-foot wide-awake wonderland of mattresses and sleep accessories, Furnitureland South also makes a statement about its commitment to the bedding category, an engine of profitability for many furniture retailers, including Furnitureland South.
And with more than 100 beds on the sales floor, Sleepland has one of the largest bedding displays in the United States. Thanks to its recent renovation, it is also one of the newest.
Despite its impressive size, Sleepland is designed to be easily accessible to shoppers, who are welcomed inside at two entrances and guided through the department with visual cues that invite exploration.
Here, the grandeur of night skies meets the Yellow Brick Road in a mattress shopping paradise designed to evoke the wonder of Disney World.
Jeff Harris, president and chief executive officer of Furnitureland South, touts some Tar Heel bedding roots that he says bear fruitful bedding sales for his store.
“Did you know that many of the best and most trusted mattress manufacturers are located in North Carolina?” Harris says in a video on the retailer’s website. “Yes, mattresses from brands such as Kingsdown, MattressGrove and Sealy are crafted by North Carolinians just like us. To further support our neighbors and create a world-class shopping experience, we’ve completely remodeled our Sleepland mattress gallery to create a fresh new display.”
“In this new gallery, you will have access to the lowest prices on your favorite brands because of our proximity to local manufacturers,” Harris continues. “You will also be able to speak with a sleep specialist who can help you find your ideal mattress and the perfect comfort level for you with the latest BedMatch technology.”
BedMatch is a diagnostic system by Kingsdown, founded more than a century ago in Mebane, North Carolina, less than an hour’s drive from Furnitureland South. MattressGrove, owned and operated by the Grove family for three generations in nearby Greensboro, North Carolina, produces beds under the MattressGrove, Spring Air and Chattam & Wells brands, while the Sealy beds are produced for Furnitureland South at a factory in Archdale, North Carolina , just outside High Point. The retailer is ringed with mattress makers.
The BedMatch system recommends various mattresses for consumers from a variety of the company’s bedding lines based on its readings of consumers’ comfort profiles. In that way, the retailer’s sleep specialists begin engaging shoppers with a customer-focused lead: This is all about helping you find your best mattress.
The BedMatch sessions are conducted in a room just off the sales floor that gives shoppers a sense of privacy, an important consideration in considering them at ease as the shopping process begins.
Engaging — and entertaining — shoppers
The store encourages engagement in several other ways. The floor design, featuring a number of different flooring treatments, from carpet to premium vinyl tiles, helps pull shoppers through the department. Like the Yellow Brick Road, it calls shoppers to take their own journey of exploration through Sleepland’s extensive assortment of mattresses and sleep accessories.
A centrally located pillow bar puts Malouf pillows in the spotlight and encourages consumers to find the pillow that best fits their needs. A nearby wall of pillows provides additional options.
Open sight lines give shoppers a look at more mattresses ahead, just waiting to be discovered. Kiosks let shoppers experience key brands. And dramatic accessories, including large geodes at the entrances to the gallery, catch the eye.
All of these enticements to shop and striking displays unfold in a department designed to offer the excitement of an Apple store, packed with new bedding technologies, says Becky Greene, executive director of merchandising.
“Shopping for a mattress historically is not sexy or fun,” she says. “We want our customers to experience something fun. They are not just being sold a price point. I want shopping to feel like going to Disney World.”
After months of analyzing its mattress department and offerings, including detailed conversations with vendors and the retailer’s bedding specialists, Furnitureland South completely revamped the bedding department. (Gone is a centerpiece 600-gallon aquarium, which was donated to the Nido & Mariana Qubein Children’s Museum in High Point). The all-new Sleepland, which takes a very different approach to the shopping process than many mattress retailers, debuted in fall 2020.
Bold colors and a better night’s sleep
Forget about the sleep spas that many retailers aim to provide with soothing color palettes. Sleepland summons the energy of the night sky, bursting with strong colors: purples, oranges and charcoals.
“Spalike settings can be boring and sleepy,” Greene says. “We wanted our department to be more passionate. We are suggesting exploration and discovery — a brave new world.”
The two Sleepland entrances – one just inside The Mart and the other at the back of the Starbucks that buzzes with excitement — dazzle with bold photos of a night sky. They could be entrances to a planetarium, but the stars in this department are the mattresses and sleep accessories.
“Relax,” the company says on its website. “This is not your typical mattress store. We feature over 100 mattresses from the industry’s best manufacturers. Our sleep specialists narrow down this wide selection of quality mattresses to find the perfect mattress for you and the style of your bed to send you home with a better night’s sleep. Take a breath, we can help.”
With more than 1,000 home furnishings brands in the store, and with leading bedding brands such as Tempur-Pedic, Stearns & Foster, Sealy, Serta, Beautyrest, Kingsdown, Intellibed, MattressGrove, Paramount Sleep, Hypnos and Malouf in Sleepland, Furnitureland South leans into brands, Greene says.
“We are all about the brands,” she says. We don’t private label. We want to talk about brands.” Brands add credibility and help the retailer quickly connect with consumers, the company says.
The start of a storied store
The brand emporium that Furnitureland South is today got off to a modest start.
The retailer was founded in 1969 by Darrell Harris and his wife, Stella, with “a few catalogs, showroom samples, an old truck and a big idea,” according to a company history. The big idea: “Provide customers with personalized service and exceptional value for handcrafted North Carolina furniture.”
In 1973, Furnitureland South opened its first store, on South Main Street in High Point, initially selling market samples. Leveraging growing interest around the country in High Point as a furniture retail destination, Furnitureland South quickly established a reputation as a leading retailer in the area.
Furnitureland South has written a sprawling growth story over the years, one that now encompasses well over 1 million square feet of showroom space. The complex includes furniture showrooms, a design center, a distribution center, an outlet store, company headquarters – and the largest subway restaurant in North America, covering more than 6,000 square feet. When the Starbucks opened there in 2008, it was the first Starbucks in a furniture store in the world, the company says.
And let’s not forget the 85-foot-tall highboy built onto The Mart, one of the showroom buildings, which further cements this outsize growth story.
This is all the stuff of furniture legends, so it was not surprising that the Harrises were inducted into the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame in October 2010.
Following the deaths of Darrell Harris in 2014 and Stella Harris the following year, the leadership mantle passed to sons Jeff Harris and Jason Harris, vice president. Both worked for the store for years before taking the helm of the family business, which now includes members of the third generation of the Harris family.
Strong in-store sales
Given the size and scope of its furniture and mattress displays, Furnitureland South makes a powerful statement about the importance of brick-and-mortar shopping and experiencing the brands in its store.
Greene says there is no substitute in mattress shopping for actually lying down on various mattresses and pillows and finding the sleep products that best meet customers’ needs.
“I would never buy a mattress online,” she says. “We are here for shoppers who don’t feel comfortable doing that.”
But the internet does play an important role in mattress shopping, in her view. “I want people to learn online and to explore the gallery online,” Greene says. “Then I want them to come here and try the beds out.”
Shoppers are giving the new Sleepland strong reviews. “Sales have increased fairly since we opened the new gallery,” Greene says.
The Covid-19 pandemic put a focus on better sleep. “During the pandemic there has been a lot of interest in being healthy and in sleep,” Greene notes. “A lot of people were searching for better sleep solutions.”
Sleepland makes the better sleep/better health connection with a display inside the department that touts the benefits of sound, restorative sleep. Good sleep, the display says, makes people smarter, more productive and happier — and it takes the weight off.
“Did you know that $411 billion is lost in the United States each year due to sleep deprivation?” Greene asks, looking at one of the graphics on the wall. “This is important information, and it’s not something people used to talk about.”
With its strong merchandising, broad selection and emphasis on better sleep, Sleepland generates impressive bedding tickets, probably more than twice the size of the average sales tickets at mattress shops, says Kelsey Brown, Sleepland’s gallery manager.
He calls the BedMatch program, which recommends sleep sets at $1,000 and up, the “nucleus” of the bedding department and says its science-based diagnostic system “gives credibility to our mattress shopping process.”
Most of the mattresses in the department rest on adjustable bed bases, a category in which Sleepland does a strong business, Brown says.
The bedding veteran, who worked at Mattress Firm before joining Furnitureland South almost six years ago, says the new department stands out by revealing so much of itself.
“The overall traffic flow gives our consumers the sight lines to see just about everything we have to offer,” he says. “It is an open and relaxing environment.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRIS ENGLISH/TIGERMOTH CREATIVE