Coffee with Anna | Head of Retail
January 17, 2020
Author: Josie Sivigny
Just before the opening of our Glendale, CA store, we sat down for some coffee, lemon bread, and conversation with Anna Johnson, our Head of Retail.
Originally hired for retail-focused Customer Experience in 2015, Anna has covered many roles at T&N. She has worked in hiring and was a leader on our CX team before she was convinced to become the Scottsdale Store Lead by our COO. Within a year, she was asked to fill the role of Head of Retail and has been a critical part of our retail expansion.
We asked her to give us a glimpse into what she thinks the retail landscape looks like, the future of retail at T&N, and a sneak peak into our Glendale store.
In a world seemingly driven solely by ecommerce, why do we keep pursuing retail?
Retail started out as us finding another way to meet our customers where they are. That continues to be a guiding light for us as we strive to provide the customer the great experience they are looking for. They want to try the products so they are more confident in their purchase. We’re also trying to achieve a better mattress shopping experience and promote change in that industry—shopping for a mattress online has gotten a lot better, but there is still room for improvement for shopping in person.
What does 2020 look like for T&N Retail?
In 2020, we’re continuing to expand our retail footprint to provide world-class service to as many T&N customers as we can. You can look forward to us opening several new stores across the country.
What is the process behind picking cities for our new stores?
It goes back to listening to our customers and looking into areas where we’ve had a lot of success with our ecommerce. We look into cities where customers say our brand resonates with them, sales potential, and competitive landscape, etc. Ultimately, we go where customers are telling us we should go.
We’ve realized a lot of our growth came from brand loyal customers who talk about us to others. However, no matter how much people talk about us, there are still others who are uncomfortable buying online. So when we open a store in a successful city, it adds momentum.
Our store locations vary from standalone buildings, to strip malls, to a traditional inside mall. The consensus seems to be that malls are dying—what are your thoughts?
I think that many malls haven’t done well because the stores inside them haven’t adapted to the times. A decade ago, it was 80% value and convenience and 20% experience. But now, value and convenience are easily achieved from someone’s smartphone, while they sit in their living room or office. Now people are going to the malls for the shopping experience. It has shifted to 80% experience and 20% value and convenience.
So the malls that are succeeding are the ones that have brought in these experience-driven stores. We want to be part of that because we are an experience-driven brand.
What do you see as the main benefit for customers to go into one of our stores?
First and foremost, the ability to try and have confidence in the product. We now have three models, so you can lay down and take your time. Second, the people in our stores are incredibly special and aren’t there to sell you on the most expensive thing and push products your way, but to really get to know you, and understand why you aren’t sleeping well. A lot of times, customers will come in and say, “I need a really, really firm mattress. My back hurts all the time and that’s what I need.” But the team is there to get to know and understand YOU, and then provide information that is educational and gives you confidence in the choice you make to get the sleep that you need.
With the team members being such an important part of the experience, how do you approach hiring?
When we approach hiring, the first and foremost role that we fill and spend the most time filling is our store lead role. We know that having the right leader for the team and the business itself is crucial to the success of the store, by way of our brand reputation and how people experience and think about us. The captain of the ship is the one who ensures the experience we provide in each and every one of our stores is the best one. So we spend a lot of time looking for leaders who are experience-obsessed, for both their team and customers. We look for candidates who are hungry and who approach leading a team from a servant leadership perspective, someone who takes extreme ownership in everything they do. Someone who operates from a positive realism standpoint—no job is too big or too small—and has a can-do attitude.
Let’s talk about Glendale: why did we pick Glendale to break into the LA area?
When we looked into LA, we toured a bunch of places and we just really fell in love with the vibe of Brand Boulevard—you have the theater and all the stores. We just really honestly felt like it was the perfect spot for a T&N store. It has character, there is a lot of mixed use in the area—it’s really diverse and a place where it feels cool to be. So that’s why we lasered in on Glendale, because that area really excited us.
What is your favorite part of opening new stores?
I think the people are my favorite part. The people that we hire and the customers that come in. The first couple days that we open are always my favorite because we have people come in and they say, “I love my mattress, I’m going to go tell my mother-in-law you guys are here.” The energy from new store openings is so invigorating and makes everything worth it.