Sleep on a mattress for a night before buying it

LONDON • What is the best way to try out a mattress? Sleep on it, of course.

Far more preferable is to sleep on it for an entire night - and in an apartment.

A big British retailer is offering that dream proposition.

John Lewis, a well-known and beloved department store in Britain, sells lots of home furnishings, including mattresses.

But like many retailers big and small worldwide, the company is battling against tough competitors, including budget types, and online merchants for business.

It is a brutal wake-up call and John Lewis' management do not want to be caught napping.

Instead, they have come up with an idea: Why not let customers test out a mattress overnight?

And why not in a fully furnished apartment too?

Soon, the department store chain will launch these "residences" at branches in London, Liverpool and Cambridge.

"We are not just selling you a mattress. We are selling you a perfect night's sleep," Ms Paula Nickolds, the company's managing director, told The Sun.

She has been tasked with improving morale, boosting sales and making better use of the branches' under-utilised space.

Hence, letting its customers sleep in an "apartment" to test out a new mattress is a step in the right direction.

The sleepover idea is not the only thing up Ms Nickolds' sleeve.

The first woman to lead the 132-year-old company, she describes herself as "unashamedly a shopping and design junkie".

She has also told others that she wants to provide more shopping "experiences".

Besides the apartment, the company also recently launched a pop- up restaurant on the roof of its London store.

It has been sending staff to drama school to boost their confidence and learn better vocal techniques, stage presence and confidence.

So, will the company charge prospective mattress customers for the overnight apartment stay?

The answer to that remains unclear.

But one thing is for sure, smart retailers - even the 132-year-old ones - understand the need to innovate. They cannot day-dream if they want to stay in business.

But another move has drawn mixed reactions after John Lewis became the first major British retailer to go gender neutral with its children's clothing.

It had scrapped "girls" and "boys" signs at its department stores across the country last year and introduced unisex babywear earlier this year.

While the new policy has been praised by many parents and rights advocates for promoting inclusiveness and breaking outmoded norms, it has also provoked a spirited debate on social media and elsewhere.

Opponents of the change, including TV host Piers Morgan, have expressed outrage and confusion, with some accusing the company of succumbing to political correctness and threatening to boycott its stores.

GUARDIAN, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2017, with the headline 'Sleep on a mattress for a night before buying it'. Print Edition | Subscribe