A sleeper hit

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Verlo Mattress is capitalizing on a new way to sell mattresses: as luxury items displayed in a unique, “high-touch” environment. Free-standing “pod fixtures” with walled-in enclaves hold four beds each, making it possible for guests to shop the mattresses in comfort and privacy.

Sales associates receive six weeks of training and use an iPad app that asks customers questions about their sleep habits to help identify “their ultimate sleep experience.” The company also sells adjustable bed bases, foundations, pillows, linens and other accessories, as well as sleep technology products.

The Milwaukee-based chain, named for the founders’ wives Verna and Lois, is designed to be “more than a mattress store,” says Kathy Thornton-Bias, Verlo’s president and chief operating officer. “Our belief is that a mattress is not a commodity,” she says. “It is closer to a luxury item. It is where customers spend a large part of their day.”

Verlo manufactures its mattresses, which can be made firmer or softer according to customer preferences; a new line of “made-to-go” foam mattresses can be taken home right away.

Thornton-Bias says Verlo uses its six corporate stores as a “laboratory/testing ground/petri dish to try out new concepts and ideas before we roll them out.” The company’s 20 factory/showroom stores average 11,000 square feet; retail stores average 5,000.

Verlo Mattress
Milwaukee, Wisc.
Parent Company: Marcus Investments
Locations: 37

Liz Parks is a Union City, N.J.-based writer with extensive experience reporting on retail, pharmacy and technology issues.

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