In its 60th year, one mattress franchise is reaping the rewards of people’s new found love of slumber.
Founded in 1958 and franchising since 1991, Verlo Mattress not only sells mattresses, but it also manufacturers them in mini-factories that are attached to some of its stores.
Headquartered in Milwaukee, WI, the franchise offers three different formats for owners, President and Chief Operating Officer Kathy Thornton-Bias outlined during a recent interview.
Franchisees can opt for the largest of the formats, the Factory Showroom, which consists of a retail showroom and a mini-factory where the mattresses are made, or they can choose a Hybrid Showroom, which contains a showroom and a mattress adjusting room. The third format is the Satellite Showroom, which is a smaller retail store.
Thornton-Bias said the majority of Verlo’s franchisees are multi-unit owners who each run a Factory Showroom and one or more Hybrid or Satellite Showrooms.
The fact that the mattresses are built or adjusted right in the store or at a nearby store is a big selling point for Verlo, she noted.
“Customers love seeing how stuff is made,” Thornton-Bias said. “Local owners and local communities build and service and adjust the mattresses that they sell to their customers. We’re the only brand that offers a lifetime comfort guarantee, which means that during any time of the life that you own the mattress that you purchased from us, we can make comfort adjustments to that mattress.”
These comfort adjustments are useful if someone has had an injury and they need to sleep on a firmer mattress, for example, or if a couple has different mattress preferences. One side can be made firmer and the other side softer, if necessary.
For the first year of ownership, adjustments are free and for every other year, Verlo only charges a nominal fee for adjustments.
Despite being all about snoozing, the mattress space is actually full of energy right now, Thornton-Bias said, because people are now starting to take note that sleep is incredibly important. Up to 40 percent of Americans say poor sleep is affecting them negatively, she noted, making it a sleep-starved nation.
But that’s changing.
From athletes like basketball star LeBron James to business tycoons like Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to everyday working people, everyone is taking sleep more seriously and looking to get a better night’s rest, said the Verlo president.
This makes it an exciting time for Verlo franchisees, as the sleep space continues to grow because of people’s newfound love of lazing.
Mattresses are also a needs-based purchase for people, she noted, as the vast majority of them purchase a mattress on average about every eight to 10 years, giving Verlo a huge customer base. Coupled with low inventory and being a high ticket item, Verlo franchises are a solid money maker for their owners.
The company offers franchisees a lot of support. Verlo’s parent company Marcus Investments has poured a lot of resources into support systems like a proprietary traffic counter system and enterprise resource planning system, customer engagement tools to accompany franchisees’ point of sales systems and webinar training for sales staff.
Verlo also has a team of “training ninjas” who perform onsite training and the company also runs a customer service hotline for franchisees.
“We’ve created a whole ecosystem of technology, which I think in franchising is the next big thing,” Thornton-Bias said. “It’s not about what you’re doing and how you’re selling. It’s about how you’re using data and information to be even more efficient, more productive and more profitable in your overall operation.”
The Verlo management team is also hands on with owners. All franchisees have the leadership team’s cell phone numbers.
“It’s not uncommon that we get a call or a text on the weekend,” the president noted. “We make ourselves very available.”
With their three available formats, Verlo is adept at fitting into rural communities, mid-sized cities and larger metropolitan areas.
Currently, the brand runs 37 locations across seven states. Five of those stores are corporate and the rest are franchises, with 19 franchisees owning and running the remaining 32 stores.
Thornton-Bias said Verlo plans to grow outward from its epicenter in Milwaukee. It’s already got a presence as far south as Atlanta, as far west as Colorado and into Missouri. Currently, they have talks ongoing with interested people in places like Florida and Texas.
The president described Verlo’s franchisees as customer focused and passionate about helping people. She noted that Verlo has a number of veterans, immigrants, women and retirees in its franchise ownership group, many of whom became franchise owners because they started as Verlo customers.
To celebrate Verlo’s 60th anniversary, Thornton-Bias took all her franchise owners and the leadership team to Las Vegas. At last year’s convention they drove Formula-1 race cars for a thrill.
With so many people now waking up to the importance of sleep, Verlo may just be hitting its stride after 60 years in business.