vic smith enfield shop front

Why Vic Smith Beds invested in a printing machine and gin

Vic Smith, owner of independent beds and mattresses retailer Vic Smith Beds, shares an insight into their working model and why a bottle of gin is hoped to go a long way with customers.

It goes without saying that 2022 was a tough year for all in the furnishing trade, and it doesn’t look to be easing off just yet. For many businesses striving for success, challenging times are viewed as potential opportunities, adapting to the present and evolving as time allows. Thinking on your feet and navigating in a proactive manner are key to turbulent times, and sometimes, it’s the little tweaks that reward big wins.

At Vic Smith Beds, it was interesting to learn about their strategy and model, as Vic Smith, director and owner, explained: “Last year I think most people would agree that trade has been difficult to put it mildly. As our market, and in fact the whole of the UK, finds its feet after the pandemic and the effects of Brexit come into play, we now start to descend into the bottom less media pit of customers unsure to buy or spend less.

“Like others though, we have been around a long time, and this is not our first rodeo. I think we all have to take stock and realise that a £500 bed is now costing £650 in real terms with manufacturers inevitable price increases, as well as adding in our retailers, staff pay rises, heating, lighting and fuel increases to name but a few. These costs aren’t going away but your man in the street still only wants to spend £500, or indeed £450. We’ve had to pick the model below the £500 mark, buy bulk to get it cheaper and then put our profit on top, sell the model below and sell it for £450, giving us a bigger fighting margin.”

To support this model, the retailer has invested in a number of key areas, staff training, creative marketing and a printer. Starting with the latter, Vic said: “We invested in a banner printing machine that also does large shop posters. This means we can react at a moment’s notice and put on an offer for a weekend at very little cost and effort now we have the machinery in place.

“We have also made huge investments, which, whilst timely and can be seen as a nuisance, has already started to pay dividends – this is an invisible investment of man hours from management into staff training. Not just sales staff but also tapping into a pocket of gold – delivery staff. By training our delivery staff to sell add-on’s whilst in the customer’s house. Having just set up a bed where the customer may not have bought a headboard in store, then they voice their opinion in the customer’s house – you need to treat yourself to a lovely headboard. The delivery staff are not seen as sales staff by the customers and are viewing the delivery guys as your tradesperson, not a salesperson. It’s a hidden sales technique and if your delivery staff are put on a chart for their achievements, they are happy to push.”

From creativity in sales techniques to creating an intoxicating marketing campaign, Vic has brought back previous successes in a refreshed way that have, once again, delivered sales. Remember, it’s not their first rodeo. “We looked back at what we used to do and 10 years ago we got together with a British vineyard, and we gave away a British bottle of summer fruity wine with our own label saying you bought a British bed, now here’s a British bottle of wine. 

“Now this worked well but only for the summer. So, reflecting on that, and moving forward, we have got together with a British ginnery and are giving away (over a certain value and not to under 18’s) a bottle of gin. It’s British and made locally, and with our jokey ad on it, the hope is that the gin would be shared with a few friends and has a longer shelf life getting our ad back into the buyers’ mind for their next bed.”

Vic added that he is seeing the everyday use bed with a price point starting at £450 still high in demand, alongside the other end of the spectrum with luxury mattresses also trending. As for what’s not, he said: “I can easily tell you what is not trending and that is your crushed velvet fabrics and your bling, bling beds – thankfully!”

Another trend though that Vic is keen to highlight is the ever-eco-conscious-consumer. “Sustainability is on people’s minds now more so than 20 years ago along with eco footprint. All the timber used in our manufacturer’s bases are from sustainable run forests. We encourage buying British in order to reduce the eco footprint than shipping rolled mattresses from China and having large warehouses that hold volumes mean manufacturers deliver to us in bigger amounts but less frequently, therefore reducing the individual beds carbon footprint on delivery,” Vic concluded.

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