Interview with Cliff Levin, Pres. of Inada USA – 10/01/13 (Part 3)

Transcript of Video Titled “Cliff Levin Inada USA Interview – October 1, 2013 (Part 3)”

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Dr. Alan Weidner: I might also add in to that some people also, as part of their definition of zero gravity, say that the legs should be above the heart, and most zero-gravity chairs will put you in that position intrinsically, but that, by some definitions, is part of the zero-gravity position.

Cliff Levin: Right, right.

Alan: But you know, zero gravity is a big thing, and I mean it’s – I would say ‘zero gravity’ and ‘foot rollers’ have become the catch phrases for massage chair shoppers nowadays, I get a lot of questions about zero gravity and foot rollers, and I – you know, the industry kind of goes through that. It goes through certain features that, you know, people get real excited about, like rotating ottomans was a big deal a few years back. Then of course, armrests, or airbags built in to the armrests a la Sogno, and you know, now the foot rollers are kind of a deal. And who knows what’s going to be the big thing tomorrow, maybe it’s the longer roller track, I don’t know, but it’s kind of cool to see how this industry is evolving. There’s a lot different input from different companies, Chinese and Japanese, but the chair industry is cool. I mean, there’s a lot of new products coming up, a lot of new features. Now, whenever I hear that Sogno’s, or not Sogno, but Inada’s coming out with a new product I get excited because every time they put out a new model, it’s not a twist on a previous model. It’s not like ‘Well, this is like the Sogno 2 or the YuMe 2A,’ it’s like, it’s something completely new. Sogno had all that innovation, and then the YuMe came along, totally different chair, and then the Doctor’s Choice chair came along, totally different chair, and it was innovations in every chair. It’s not just a different look, like YuMe’s got the rocking and the calf massaging, Doctor’s Choice had the airbags on the shoulders, pulling the shoulders back, and of course, Sogno has a litany of technological features. So, if and when you guys decide to come out with a new bloody model, and I hope it’s like – I hope you guys do, I’m sure that you will – but I’m always excited to see what they’re going to come out with.

Cliff: Me too. As you noted earlier, there are models that cycle through the Japanese market. Some that we choose not to bring in to the U.S. market for a variety of reasons – tastes in the U.S. are very, very different, space limitations, and quite frankly, the average size of people in Japan, sometimes means that the models are simply too diminutive for the U.S. market, they’re just too small – and so those products, because they have such a limited market here from a business perspective, don’t make sense for us to import and put a lot of effort behind. But yes, there’s going to be new stuff.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: There’s going to be new and exciting stuff coming out at Inada.

Alan: Well, you guys have certainly been diminutive in your introduction of new models. I mean, there are some companies that are throwing out new models, one in particular, they’re throwing out like four or five new models just within the last month or two, and I don’t know, in a business sense, if that is smart or not because I’m not in that end of the business. But I do know that you guys are very, very reserved – and I don’t know if the word’s cautious, or you’re just really reserved and not, you know, going crazy with models – but you’re very, very selective, maybe that’s the word, you’re very selective in the chairs that you bring to market. So, when something does come, it’s usually a real, a great chair.

Cliff: Yeah, we are, I would, we are pretty cautious. I think that that’s probably true. And I think the only way that you get that kind of really, really broad model lineup, is that you do exactly what we don’t do, which is that you make really minor changes. Then, introduce it with a slightly different model number, or a slightly different design on the outside, so that you can – if you’re going after retail stores – you can occupy more than one slot on the retail store …

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: Or more than one price point on the retail store. You can take the same chair, make one look really fancy, and bulky, and have all kinds of features, and sell it at $5000, and then skinny it down, same mechanisms, precisely the same chair on the inside, which is really what matters from a massage perspective, and sell it for $2999.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: And that approach works, it works for some folks, and consumers like that choice. It’s not the road we walk down.

Alan: Well, I think one of the things that that does do is it creates some confusion in the minds of the consumers. But it also creates this comparison mindset – ‘Well, that chair is just an iteration of this chair, which is just an iteration of that chair, why is it $2000 more?’ – so in other words, price then becomes a big issue, because people are saying ‘Well why, is that feature worth $1000?’ or ‘Is that feature worth $800 more?’ And I think it does tend to create a little bit of – I don’t know, I don’t know, I think, I don’t know, I think – people don’t like that as much. I mean, anyway, that’s just my take on it from my experience with it. I get way more questions from people saying ‘Well Doc, do you think it’s worth $2000 more, or $1800 more?’ – I don’t know, but that’s what happens when you have these little iterations of chairs, then people start to look at the pricing and going ‘Well, I don’t know if that’s worth it.’ Whereas if you have one cool – and I think I’ve used the word cool like ten times in this interview and I apologize, my vocabulary’s not any more broad than that, but of course, I have six children, so maybe that’s why I use cool all the time – but what’s neat is that when you come out with a chair that’s unique, it stands unique, and there’s not really a comparison to it. So, maybe that’s why people are willing to look past the price and think, you know, ‘I want that chair, that’s the chair I want, I don’t care what the price is, I like that chair and those features.’ But that’s just an observation, for what it’s worth.

Cliff: People buy, in general, people buy massage chairs for lots of different reasons. What we know about people who choose to buy our chairs is that, generally speaking, they’ve done a huge amount of research.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: They’ve done it online, they’ve done it in our stores, our store dealers around the country, they’ve maybe talked to a friend, they’ve just done a tremendous amount of research. And those customers, the more they dig, the more they research, the more clearly I think we sort of rise to the top of the heap.

Alan: Mm-hmm.

Cliff: And the more we’re able to justify what is a premium price in a massage chair. You get a great massage, you get a great company standing behind you, and you get years and years from the product. That’s one thing, the second thing is, I think we have a big core of customers who aren’t necessarily wealthy customers, but have a real issue. So, they’re making a choice based on this sort of therapy, this therapeutic deliverable of the product they’re buying. Price is actually irrelevant to their decision, they have ‘X’ back problem, and damn the torpedoes, we have to figure out a way to solve this problem.

Alan: Mm-hmm.

Cliff: Because it’s driving their husband, or driving their wife crazy, and in those cases, I think again, after quite a bit of research, they find their way to Sogno.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: So, you know, if quality of experience is the primary consideration for consumers, we would just encourage them very strongly, all of them, to look really, really hard at what Inada offers.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: And if after that, they make a decision that it isn’t the right product for them, so be it, but I do think we’ve seen enough consumers go through this process, where they end up realizing that there are lots of benefits to owning something with the Inada brand on it. You know, one thing I will, I sometimes share with people, because I’ve heard it enough, and we spend a lot of time at trade shows and such, somebody buys a less expensive chair, and they are happy that day, and the rest of the time after that, they wish they’d purchased an Inada chair.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: Because they know, in the back of their minds, that that’s the cat meow, as you said. The day somebody buys an Inada chair, the reverse is true, the opposite is true. It hurts a little bit on the pocketbook because it’s an expensive chair, so they’re sort of rubbing their – they’re kind of massaging their wounds a little from spending that kind of money, on that day – and then every other day of their life, they feel like they made a very, very smart choice.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: So, they’re happy for the rest of the time.

Alan: Yeah, I agree. The buyer’s remorse passes pretty quick, if you have it at all, yeah.

Cliff: Mm-hmm.

Alan: Well now, the market, now I want to kind of pull back a little bit, and have more of a bird’s eye view of the market as a whole, not just Inada and your chairs, but do you see anything in the industry that you want to make a comment on? Any trends, any things that you can see in the future that are going to happen, just your take as one of, you know, one of the industry leaders here in the United States.

Cliff: It’s growing. There’s no question that the industry is growing. There are very few, and I’m not going to name names, but there are very few reputable players in the industry. As a consumer, if I were looking for a massage chair, I would start by asking myself if they have a substantial service network. That’s critical.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: And if they have a significant presence in retail stores across the country. If the answer to both of those questions is not clearly yes, look for another brand. There are lots of massage chairs in pictures, and in description, and in price point, that can look very, very attractive on a computer screen …

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: That when you get home, can become a nightmare.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: And you know that.

Alan: Oh heavens, yes, I have it all the time in my showroom.

Cliff: Yeah.

Alan: As a matter of fact, we have people that come from out of state, quite often – as a matter of fact, we just had someone from Reno and someone from Missouri and I’ve got someone from California this weekend. And I’ll guarantee you, as was the case with all the other ones, they come with a chair in mind, of the one they think they want to get, and when they sit on all the chairs, I don’t think I’ve seen one person buy the chair they thought they wanted, based on what they saw on the Internet and on the screen, as you say.

Cliff: Right.

Alan: So yeah, I agree.

Cliff: It’s very difficult to compare a feature set through a list.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: And you have a list, on your site. You have a comparison tool on your website, and part of the reason why you do, is because the Internet is limited in that way.

Alan: Mm-hmm.

Cliff: OK, the sensation and experience of the actual massage has to be conveyed in some other way.

Alan: Right.

Cliff: And we default to lists and comparisons.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: It’s not the best way to shop for a massage chair. I would encourage more people to show up at your showroom, will you fly them out or something?

Alan: Well, they fly out, but we reimburse them $300 to $500 if they buy a chair from the visit, yeah.

Cliff: OK. Then, that’s a great deal.

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: That’s a way to save yourself a $4000 mistake if you buy the wrong one.

Alan: Yeah. Oh, no doubt, no doubt. And just as a plug, we also pick them up from the airport, buy them lunch or dinner depending on when they come, and drive them back to the airport. So, they won’t have to spend a penny out of their pocket once they leave the airport.

Cliff: When’s your next slot available?

Alan: Just let me know when you want to come in to town, we’ll take care of you.

Cliff: And what’s for lunch?

Alan: Oh, well but you have to buy the dinner though.

Cliff: OK.

Alan: That’s tradition now, that’s tradition, you can’t change that.

Cliff: Alright.

Alan: Well, I think that’s about all that I wanted to chitchat with you about today, Cliff. Have you got anything else that you want to make mention of, you know, before we close up here?

Cliff: I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you, it’s always a pleasure …

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: To share, hopefully it comes across, my passion about the product that we represent here in the U.S. I’m heading off to Japan in about a week or so …

Alan: Yeah.

Cliff: For another trip with my brothers and sisters over there in Japan, and that’ll be very, very exciting. I know one of these days I’m going to drag you out there so we can poke around in Japan.

Alan: Yeah, I’d like to come.

Cliff: Enjoy some sashimi and sushi together.

Alan: Yep, that’d be great.

Cliff: But no, I just appreciate the opportunity. I think you do, you know, you’re a stand-up business representing a stand-up brand, and we can’t thank you enough for that.

Alan: Yeah. Well, it’s a pleasure doing business with you – I think we’re very like-minded people and we approach our customers and our business the same way – so yeah, it’s pleasure doing business with Inada. There’s no doubt about that, I really enjoy it. Well OK, I guess that’s about it, so if anybody has any questions or comments, this video will be on YouTube, it’ll also be on my blog. Please, if you have any more questions for Cliff, you can ask them through the blog or through YouTube, and then either him or myself will answer those questions. But Cliff, we appreciate it, you’re a good man, and I know you’re busy, so I really appreciate the time you took to visit with us today. And yeah, looking forward to seeing what Inada’s got coming up in the next year. or in the new year, or whenever, you know, I’m not trying to put pressure on you or anything, but sure looking forward to seeing what you got cooking. I know you hate it when I do that.

Cliff: You’ll be the first to know. By the way, send people to – maybe post some links underneath this video – for the Sogno and YuMe videos that you recently got from us.

Alan: Yeah, I posted them on YouTube and yeah, people can see them. They’re getting some good hits, so I know that people are interested in playing them, but yeah, we’ll definitely do that, definitely do that.

Cliff: OK.

Alan: Well, thanks again Cliff, and I’m sure in another year we’ll be talking again, and we’ll record this, and we’ll kind of where we’re at in a year from now, but thanks very much for visiting today, it was good having you.

Cliff: My pleasure, talk to you soon.

Alan: Alright.

 

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