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Jeopardy!: I'll Take Bedding for $800

Furniture World Magazine
Volume 149 NO.4 July/August


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Take a few cues from Jeopardy's big winner
James Holzhauer, and you just might WIN BIG at retail!

I’ve been a fan of the Game Show, "Jeopardy!" since the Art Fleming days. I love the trivia challenge, the pace, and the strategy. Even if you are not a fan, or have never watched it, you may have noticed that it’s been in the news.

James Holzhauer recently finished his impressive “Jeopardy!” winning streak, earning $2,464,216 over 32 games. He came very close to beating Ken Jennings' regular game total of $2,520,700. While that IS impressive, what is more astounding is that he has reinvented the way the game is played, working the categories bottom to top, wagering all his banked winnings, and rarely giving a wrong response.
Similarly, our retail world has changed. It's not the same game as it was 24 months ago. Take a few cues from big winner James, and you can WIN BIG!

Shake Things Up

“If you are tired of getting the same old results, maybe you should change the same old process.

I’ve watched "Jeopardy!" for decades, and over this time period every player had the same strategy. Answer the easy questions first, the harder questions later. When they got a daily double, or on Final Jeopardy!, when the player controls the wager, just bet enough to win. JAMES DOES THE OPPOSITE. He goes BIG first, bets big and wins big.

It’s about the same in our retail world, show the good stuff in the front, the cheap stuff in the back. Greet the shopper the same old way, ask the same old questions, and (maybe) ask them to buy. Then show them a few “add-ons” and hope they do. If you are tired of getting the same old results, maybe you can change the same old process. Look for things you can update at the front door, move through your advertising, sales process, inventory, pricing, and delivery. I’ll wager there is something that can improve.

Know the Other Players

Like champions in sports, James Holzhauer knows the other players better than they may know themselves. He knows what their money count is in the game, and how fast they can buzz in. In the last couple of games, his other two opponents checked out and stopped playing because he was so far ahead, he simply browbeat them.

You can see the same thing with RSAs and Store Owners. They get dazzled by the advertising claims made by the retailer down the street. They ask me, “How can they offer that?" But they ask me without doing their research.

Know your competitors. Know their fine print, exceptions, extra charges, and deceptions. Visit them in the brick or on the click. In most cases their cost of doing business is not radically better than yours. They are just a little bolder.

Next month or next quarter you can become the store that dazzles. Take a risk on a super-hot untouchable promo. Be the store that competitors look at and cry “How can they do that?”


“That may mean
investing in inventory, a new location, building refresh, advertising dollars, or a hot-shot manager. ”

A Lot of Knowledge

When you see Mr. Holzhauer play, you will be amazed at his range and depth of knowledge. Although he is a college graduate, he admits that he missed as many classes as possible and majored in Poker! When interviewed he revealed that he gained most of his knowledge from reading children’s books, many of which have accurate historical data in easy to digest formats.

Your sales and operations team will never lose if they continue to learn. RSAs should be required to read our industry publications along with books about sleep, business trends, and marketing. Senior Managers need to read The Harvard Business Review and The Wall Street Journal. Operations leadership would gain a lot by reading The Toyota Way. Customer Service people need to read Dave Thomas’ (CEO of Wendy’s) biography Dave’s Way.

“It may mean calling every customer that bought a flat bed and asking them to upgrade to adjustable comfort. Or, ask every shopper to buy and every buyer to purchase two beds.

And if all of that is too heavy for you, spend $6.95 on a copy of “Green Eggs and Ham”, by Dr. Suess. It is the greatest book on closing the deal ever written!

Invest in Yourself

James is a resident of Las Vegas and he makes his living as a sports gambler. In Las Vegas we say, "GOT A HUNCH, BET A BUNCH". Like betting on sports or a Jeopardy! Daily Double, there is no sure thing. Professional gamblers take calculated risks. As a business owner or commissioned salesperson, you take a risk every morning when you turn the key in the door. But those who take the biggest risks are those who gain the biggest reward. If you own the business, that may mean investing in inventory, a new location, building refresh, advertising dollars, or a hot-shot manager to move the needle. If you are a salesperson, it may mean calling every customer that bought a flat bed and asking them to upgrade to adjustable comfort. Or ask every shopper to buy and every buyer to purchase two beds. You won’t WIN every time, but you will WIN BIG most of the time.

It will be interesting to see if future players follow his exciting strategy or go back to the old way making the game seem HO-HUM. Don’t become another ho-hum shopping experience for your shoppers. Take risks, improve and measure for improvements and you’ll be a champ in your market.

Gordon Hecht is Senior Manager-In Store Concepts for Serta Simmons Bedding Company, introducing and expanding bedding business in conventional and non-traditional venues. He started his 30+ years experience in the Home Furnishings industry in Las Vegas, NV as a delivery helper and driver and later served in sales, retail management and consulting roles.
Read other articles by Gordon Hecht