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Multiple Choice Dairy Queen Dilemma

Furniture World Magazine

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Interview with Laura Khoury

Reducing product selection to chocolate, vanilla and a two-flavor twist will combat customer indecision when choosing furniture and mattresses.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I may have grown up in a rough neighborhood. When we heard the ice cream truck ringing its bells in the summertime, we would stand on the corner and sing:

  • I scream, you scream
  • We all scream The cops show up, and we get arrested!

Deciding which flavors to choose was easy back then. There were a half-dozen options priced from a dime to a quarter. Most ice cream decisions were financially based depending on how many coins we had in our pockets.

I’m still an ice cream fan. Our town has three national chains offering that frozen treat: Baskin-Robbins, Hershey’s, and Dairy Queen. Because I feel it’s my responsibility to do onsite “market research” for this column, I visit fast food and ice cream retailers several times each month.

It seems that the line at DQ moves about three times as quickly as Baskin-Robbins or Hershey’s. That means three times more customers being served and triple the cash register rings. The people at DQ have made flavor selection easier! While all three shops have multiple dessert options, DQ limits their ice cream flavors to just three choices: chocolate, vanilla, and a twist of chocolate and vanilla (for indecisive patrons).

Our Baskin-Robbins—just like yours—features 31 flavor choices. Hershey’s Ice Cream one-ups them with a whopping 40 flavors listed on their wall-mounted menu. On my last trip there, a soccer team (who hip-checked their way past me to the front of the queue) read all the flavor names and tasted three or four samples before making their decisions.

There’s no BEST choice. When it comes to ice cream, the worst I’ve ever had was pretty good!

Making Choice Manageable

It’s probably not a lot different in your furniture or bedding store. When it comes to merchandising, you can’t just offer chocolate and vanilla products. People expect to see a wide selection. Unlike your local scoop shop, however, you can create a selling process to slim down the choices to a manageable level. That alone will ease the stress of decision-making for shoppers. Part of that process means reducing your customer’s choice to a manageable level—just like Dairy Queen does—to create an easier pathway from the showroom to the cash register.

It’s fairly easy in the mattress world and a bit harder, but possible, with other home furnishings items. A typical 30-bed selection provides a myriad of triple choice options:

  • Technology: Memory Foam, Innerspring, Hybrid.
  • Comfort: Soft, Hard, Medium.
  • Base: Foundation, Adjustable or Platform (no base).
  • Size: Adult-King or Queen, Youth-Full or Twin.
  • Budget: Premium, Mid-price, Budget.
  • Payment: Bank Card, Finance, or Cash.

The choices become a selling process when you develop discovery questions to help shoppers understand their needs. Explaining that memory foam provides a passive (sink-in) support feel, innerspring an active (push-up) support, and hybrid, the best of both, makes for an easier choice. Asking shoppers about their sleeping and waking positions, as well as their pain points, enables sales associates to recommend comfort levels that suit your shoppers.

Finding out if there’s a television or laptop in the bedroom or if reading helps your shopper wind down can lead to easier triple-base decision-making. Mattress size is a given because most shoppers will purchase based on their headboard and room size.

Most likely your shop displays comfort and support feels in multiple price ranges. Once you determine your shoppers’ comfort level, have them test-rest three price point levels starting with the premium (it’s like a super banana split and far fewer calories).

Don’t forget the extras. Just like a sundae, they offer more satisfaction for your shoppers. Protectors, pillows, and sheets are the sprinkles, hot fudge, and whipped cream toppings of our industry Payment terms are the cherry on top that closes the sale.

Bonus Information: Here’s the scoop on 31 flavors. Forty-eight percent of Baskin-Robbins’ sales come from four flavors. A report from last year showed that chocolate, vanilla, chocolate chip cookie dough, and Cookies n’ Cream comprised almost half of all purchases. The remaining 52% of sales were split among the other 27 flavors. I’ll bet you a triple decker cone that the sales in your shop aren’t far off that ratio!


About Gordon Hecht: Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at Gordon.hecht@aol.com