More and more manufacturers and retailers were turning to consolidation to create massive monolithic brands. As scientific research and technology advanced, the demand for new materials spiked in the market. Coupled with a growing number of young millennials joining the ranks of first-time mattress buyers and a similar number of baby boomers transitioning into retirement, it became clear that the industry’s landscape as a whole was rapidly changing.
Since opening in 1904, Kingsdown had predominantly manufactured high-end innerspring mattresses. With a name that became synonymous with exceptional quality, service and styling, the company had broken the glass ceiling of maximum price points and successfully introduced luxury products into the market. After more than 100 years of tradition, though, President and CEO Frank Hood recognized that the industry was shifting and decided that Kingsdown was to change along with it.
In 2009, the company embarked on what would become an eventual expansion and rebrandingprogram with comprehensive consumer research. Beginning with initial Internet studies, the company was able to recognize the changing trends early on. Focusing on what the consumer was searching for, they were able to identify the growing interest in specialty products (a category that now makes up about 30% of the industry’s total revenue) and value price points. They followed up these studies with more in-depth segmented consumer research, identifying four different types of consumers, all looking for different things from their mattress.
Armed with this wealth of consumer research, Kingsdown set out to translate this knowledge into action in mid-2010. Looking to better reach a changing consumer base, it worked to broaden its product offerings, introducing new price-points, materials and technology, thus becoming relevant to all consumer types and their retailers.
Science and technology have played an increasingly larger role in every aspect of Kingsdown’s production line over the years. Since introducing its research arm, the Sleep to Live Institute, in 2007, the company has maintained a direct connection to the latest sleep research. With such a robust research and development department under its belt, Kingsdown has positioned itself as a creator of some of the most high-tech bedding innovations, including the bedMATCH diagnostic system and the SleepSMART sleep system.
During the initial stages of consumer research, Kingsdown discovered that many consumers harbored a general disdain for mattress shopping. With showrooms filled with a myriad of different options and styles, many people felt unsure about what they were looking for and easily susceptible to pushy salespeople. The bedMATCH process offers retail consumers a safe-haven shopping process, void of any biased behavior and instead based on proven science. Using 18 statistical measurements and over 1,000 calculations, it culls down the many options in the showroom to just three or four models that fit the person’s individual needs. This patented, science-driven approach to shopping is reassuring; the consumer knows they are not being influenced by marketing or sales goals, but only their specific needs.
Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Kevin Damewood revealed that the success of bedMATCH has been notable from the retailer perspective. “For salespeople who have committed to the process, rather than focusing on the typical “comfort selling,” this diagnostic program dramatically increases the gross profit of mattresses being sold (on aver- age, $2,800) in addition to providing the consumer with exactly what they’re looking for.”
Furthering this personalized, science-driven approach to bedding was the unveiling of the patented SleepSMART sleep system in January 2013. This new mattress uses similar technology to “read” the sleeper’s body, adjusting along its six comfort zones, to create the most personalized support solution throughout the night. Dr. Robert Oexman, Director of the Sleep to Live Institute explains that “where most mattresses use passive technology—meaning they don’t adapt and change with you—Sleep Smart uses active technology to optimize sleep. The collection also allows consumers to take an active role in their own sleep progression by using our built-in data tracking.” The SleepSMART bed actively interacts with the consumer, intuitively adjusting itself to the sleepers’ many different positions all in an effort to create less sleep interruption and thus better sleep and health.
For the 2013 Summer Las Vegas Market, Kingsdown has made key adjustments to the SleepSMART collection: introducing a softer comfort feel and an updated line of improved adjustable bases to better suit the integrated WiFi and Bluetooth technologies, along with a reduced price-point (starting at $6,999 in queen) to help retailers reach a wider market. “During our preview period at the start of 2013,” Hood explained, “we listened carefully to the input provided by our dealers on how to make this collection even better and the result is a top-notch product with a more accessible starting price point that makes it even more saleable for our retailers.”
At the 2012 Summer Las Vegas Market, Kingsdown introduced three collections: Tradition, a luxury innerspring line, Select, a luxury foam line, and Passions, a value-priced line available in either foam or classic innerspring. In broadening its portfolio with these new collections, Kingsdown hoped to appeal to a diverse set of demographics: the stable baby- boomer, the innovative young millennial, and the first-time mattress buyer. Regardless of price-point or materials, though, what didn’t change was the company’s commitment to appealing specifications, unique styling, strict quality controls, and reliable service, which Damewood says really differentiates Kings- down from the rest of the industry.
Further broadening its premium mattress portfolio, Kingsdown has expanded the Passions Collection to include 18 models to be unveiled at the 2013 Summer Las Vegas Market. These new models feature such updates as gel engineered components for added cooling benefits, a unique coil system for in- creased contoured support, as well as new fashionable styling.
“The expanded Passions Collection is significant as it notably increases our offerings in the premium marketplace, which is the industry’s most competitive right now,” Hood said. “With a broad range of comfort feels, modern styling and smart pricing, we’re confident this collection will have the mass appeal needed to help retailers increase their margins and extend their reach in the marketplace.”
Along with expanding its line-up of product offerings, Kingsdown has also effectively increased its retailer base by 70% during this period of innovation. Working directly with retailers and plant managers, the company’s sales team maximized their already successful distribution processes and allowed for a strategic expansion of those efforts. In the coming years, Hood hopes to further this program to expand their manufacturing capabilities as well (maybe even adding a new facility in the upper Midwest!).
While the increase has been significant, the quality of these retailer relationships has not changed as a result, due to the selective and strategic nature of the expansion. Kingsdown has lauded itself as an alternative to the massive consolidated brands that have become increasingly ubiquitous in the industry. With this expansion, Kingsdown maintains only hundreds of accounts, not thousands. This selectivity allows retailers a level of exclusivity with the brand. “Distribution agreements are taken very seriously,” Damewood says. “When a partnership is established, retailers are guaranteed that the showroom across the street is not going to be selling the exact same product or at the national discount chain down the street.” This assures that the retailers’ margins remain high, even as Kingsdown continues to expand its distribution.
This level of quality assurance extends to the consumer as well. Regardless of the product line or price point, all Kingsdown collections still follow the “high end, high service, high quality” commitment. Every mattress that is sold goes through three levels of quality control testing: first, in the Kingsdown factory in Mebane, NC, then again at a third party quality lab. The final stage of testing is done with patented innovative comfort and postural support testing technology. This entire process guarantees that the mattress that goes in the consumer’s bedroom feels the same as the one they tried in the showroom.
The company recently launched a new marketing campaign under the affirmation: “We are Kingsdown.” Used internally within the manufacturing process and externally in retailer marketing, the motto reflects both the broadening of the brand and also its storied history. Certain products, innovations, and price-points may be new, but they are still the Kingsdown brand and consumers can be confident that they are still getting the same level of quality and service as before. This new platform also reflects the strong relationships Kingsdown has built with retailers. As an employee-owned company, Kingsdown workers are truly invested in its success and its growth. The sales team, the manufacturers, and the retailers are all working together under the same goals: to provide unique quality processes and a sound, growing brand.
“A NEW ERA OF SLEEP”
Coinciding with the introduction of its enhanced SleepSMART system, Kingsdown will launch a new website, sleepsmartbeds.com, at the Summer Las Vegas Market.
The new site is designed around the tagline “Only This Bed Stays Awake While You Comfortably, Soundly Sleep” and will serve as a portal to learn more about Sleep Smart, working to educate both consumers and retailers on the sleep science, research and technology behind this innovative product. It will feature a blog to highlight important industry news and serve as an outlet for retailers and consumers to connect with Kingsdown representatives either directly or through social media plat- forms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
“Sleep Smart provides an entirely new way to think about sleep,” Kingsdown President Frank Hood explains. “That’s why we need to be assertive in reeducating retailers and the general public that a bed can and should play an active role in helping them achieve the best night’s sleep possible.”