From left to right; three Alcabes: Raphael, 13, Max, 23 and Carlos, 65
Sleepers in Seattle celebrated its 20th anniversary on July 1 and business has been growing rapidly in 2011 thanks to a website revamp.
Business awakens at Sleepers in Seattle
It was 1991 and Carlos Alcabes was living in Barcelona, Spain with his wife Meryl. His wife’s family lived in the Puget Sound area and wished for the couple to move stateside. All Carlos knew was he didn’t want to move to Seattle without a job.
Before making the move, Carlos got word from his in-laws that a Perry’s Furniture on California Ave S.W. was going out of business.
“We bought the store, sight unseen, by phone and I said, ‘It’s a piece of cake, I can sell furniture.’ Well, it was not a piece of cake; I had never sold anything before in my life,” Carlos, now 65, said.
“I thought a La-Z-Boy was a boy who never did his homework.”
Today, the business is growing like mad, with website sales across the nation (and sometimes beyond) doubling monthly in 2011 and a projected $1.5 million in online sales alone by the end of the year.
Here’s how they got there:
When Carlos and Meryl opened ALSO Furniture in 1991, Carlos said most of his customers were over 75 and most of them lived within four blocks of the store. He worried that they might not make it after all, but ended up becoming a general furniture store that could sustain the influx of big box store competition and the retail behemoth that is Southcenter in Tukwila … but just barely.
In 2000 Carlos decided he needed to specialize. They became Sleepers in Seattle and began focusing on selling high-end sleeper sofas and chairs. It worked, and over the next seven years Sleepers became a niche destination store for the Puget Sound region.
Carlos’s son Max, now 23, came back from a stint in New York in 2007 and was ready to join the family business. He came to West Seattle with a youthful eye on business and an understanding of internet sales.
“They had a website for several years, but it was informative,” Max said, meaning it told people how to contact them over the telephone and where to find them in West Seattle.
Even though there was no mention of shipping sales, they would occasionally get an email like this one: “Hey I’m in New York. Can I get one of your sleepers?” At that time the answer was no, however Max saw the potential in those occasional emails and in 2008 he made his first sleeper sofa sale out of state to Pennsylvania.
It took him three months to send fabric swatches back and forth with the customer and find a shipping company he could work with, but “that just got the feeling going,” he said.
He added a page to the website saying they could ship sleepers out of state and added a “Get a Quote” button and the inquiries began to slowly grow.
People were apparently interested in nice sleeper sofas that were a far cry those found in Grandma’s house or a dorm room where the bar wreaked havoc on your spine throughout the night and you ended up with your head lodged somewhere in the inner workings of the couch. Check their website for more details, but Max said the most important difference in their sleepers is the bar moved down two feet, so it doesn’t sit directly in the middle of your back.
Momentum and knowledge gained, Sleepers started growing their national sales and in 2010 Max decided it was time for an overhaul.
“I spent all of 2010, a $100,000 investment,” and thousands of hours designing the site (he wasn’t trained in website design, so it was on the job training). “It was scary, I was putting in all this investment and I had no idea what was going to happen.”
The final touches were put on the site by an outside web development company and the new site launched on Feb. 11, 2011 with a feature they call the Sleeper Design Center that allows customers to build their own custom sleeper, step by step.
As for why Max was willing to put all that time into the website, he said, “I figured we are bright, we are hard working and there is no reason we can’t sell more sleeper sofas than anyone else in the world.”
Since the launch, Max and his high school buddy turned marketing director David Feldhammer, 24, have been blown away by the massive growth in business.
“Overall, sales doubled (since the Feb. launch),” Feldhammer said, “and out of state sales are four times higher than last year.”
They are even starting to ship internationally, with recent orders going to Canada, the Bahamas and Isreal. While the sales numbers make them smile, both men agree shipping sofas is a bit of a headache.
“Logistics has become a lot bigger part of our day than we ever imagined for a West Seattle furniture store,” Max said. They have hired eight employees since the website launch (all West Seattleites) and figure they will need more help soon (wink, wink for those on the job search).
While the Sleepers in Seattle crew are enjoying watching new sales records each month, they realize there may come a time when they have simply inundated the sleeper sofa market and sales will begin to drop. To that end, Max said they have an all leather furniture website in the works, and hope to have it up and running by the end of the year.
For now, however, Sleepers in Seattle is absolutely dedicated to the world of sleeper sofas. If you question that dedication in the slightest, check out their Sleeper Sofa Rap on YouTube.
“No other company in the world is going to have a sleeper sofa rap,” Max said. “No other company is so dedicated to sleeper sofas.”
As the song’s chorus goes, “With 80 different styles and 600 covers/ Fall in love with a sleeper/ or choose from half a million others/ 7 different sizes and 9 different mats/ Sleeper Sofas only we don’t wear different hats.”
Sleepers in Seattle is located at 4741 California Ave S.W. in West Seattle.