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Global Trade Impacts Bedding Industry
There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about trade, as the US administration continues to roll out new tariffs on Chinese goods. While initially not expected to have much of a direct impact on the bedding industry, the effects of this so-called trade war are starting to hit closer to home.
Due to their cumbersome nature, mattresses have traditionally been manufactured stateside. But today’s manufacturing and packing technologies, combined with new advanced shipping means, have lessened the once prohibitive cost of transporting the products overseas, allowing for an influx of affordable imports from other countries around the world. New access to these imports has enabled some manufacturers to produce mattresses and their components at lower costs, but it also puts domestic manufacturers at a disadvantage.
The total share of imported mattress sales jumped from 9% to 15% over the past year, according to Jerry Epperson, managing director of Mann, Armistead & Epperson Ltd (which provides research analysis to the International Sleep Products Association).
In particular, American companies have been increasingly worried about the growing number of low-cost mattress imports coming in from China. In 2017, mattress exports from China to the US hit $427 million - up nearly 160% from the year before. This growing competition of cheap mattresses has even prompted some to consider lodging an “anti-dumping trade complaint” with the US government.
The White House is already fighting back against China - and this new trade war is now starting to hit the mattress market. After introducing two rounds of tariffs that were predominately focused on raw materials, the US administration recently introduced a third round of proposed tariffs that would extend to consumer goods as well. While they would not go into effect for at least two months, these new tariffs would be 10% on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports - including furniture and mattresses (among others).
While these tariffs could be beneficial to American mattress manufacturers that source materials in the states, particularly those that are already struggling to compete against new low-cost sleep products, there is still risk involved here. Many American manufacturers have found great success selling their American-made beds internationally. These manufacturers are now concerned about the possibility of retaliatory tariffs on American exports.
We are already starting to see this from countries like Canada. Following the US administration’s recently imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, the Canadian government introduced a list of “retaliatory tariffs” that include 10% duties on 79 American-made products, including mattresses.
According to the Retail Council of Canada, Canada imported $174 million in mattresses and bedding from the United States in 2017. New tariffs will likely decrease the number of imports from the US - and ultimately have an impact on retail price inflation throughout the country. Similarly, the EU has threatened the US with additional tariffs of their own, on everything from cotton fabrics to bed linens and down or feather-filled bedding.
Could this be a major blow to American mattress and bedding manufacturing, which has been steadily expanding its global distribution in recent years?
We believe it could. So, while tariffs may help protect US manufacturers against the dumping of low-cost foreign goods into the marketplace, they could also hinder further growth. When it comes to a trade war such as this, the question is ultimately: is the reward worth the risk?
3 Ways To Practice Corporate Responsibility
This article is brought to you by Malouf
At their core, bedding manufacturers and retailers provide consumers with a basic human need: safe, restorative and clean sleep. Sleep products are essential to supporting a happy and healthful life - and there is true value in extending that care to the wider world by giving back to the community.
From the very beginning, Malouf has built its brand on the promise of delivering economic, social and environmental benefits to all. We spoke with the company recently about its dedicated approach to corporate social responsibility - and how other brands can adopt similar practices.
Start In-House: Value Your Employees & Believe In What You Do
Fostering a satisfying internal work culture is a key component to any successful company. While giving back to the local, national and global community is an important step, it’s critical to create a supportive work environment within your company first. Studies show that happy employees produce better work. In fact, they are said to be 12% more productive than unhappy workers.
That said, you don’t have to throw office parties all the time just to keep employees happy. Work is still work. However, offering meaningful benefits, regularly acknowledging the value of your employees and promoting open communication and camaraderie among employees are a few ways to develop and nurture a positive work culture.
One way Malouf does this is by covering its employees’ health insurance in full. This communicates to employees that their health is a priority and it encourages them to take care of themselves, recognizing that wellness is crucial to strong performance and overall satisfaction at work and in life. While not all companies can afford to provide such a meaningful but costly benefit, think critically about what kinds of benefits you can provide and what message they’ll send to your employees.
Developing a clear and simple purpose for your company is another key to motivating your employees. When each and every team member understands how their contributions fit into the company’s vision, they glean more satisfaction from what they do. Part of what buoys Malouf employees to internalize this shared sense of purpose is the brand’s happiness-first approach and commitment to balance and giving. Company founders Sam and Kacie Malouf purport that “if you put happiness at the front of the equation, and create a culture and environment that people enjoy, hard work and success will naturally follow.” By inspiring a love of life, advocating for balance and promoting generosity, the brand clearly communicates to employees that while their skills and work are prized, their physical, mental and social well-being comes first.
Philanthropy: Start Small & Build From There
When Sam and Kacie first founded Malouf, they were not only eager to create a better way of life for themselves – they wanted to establish a better way of life for others as well. This included their employees, customers, the community and beyond.
Get Involved In Your Local Community
Initially Malouf started local. The company has been a long-time supporter of CAPSA, a non-profit domestic violence, sexual abuse and rape recovery center based in Utah. Malouf outfits the shelter with bedding that the individuals can take with them when they move on to new living arrangements – helping to continue on with a fresh start.
Let Your Philanthropic Work Grow With Your Company
“From the beginning, the growth of the company and the growth of the philanthropic activities have gone hand in hand,” explained Jake Neeley, communications director at Malouf. “The two tie together. As much as the company has grown, our efforts to give back to the people we serve have grown as well.”
In the past year, Malouf has started the Malouf Foundation with the goal of uniting its partners in the cause of fighting human trafficking. While Kacie manages this exciting and large-scale initiative, Malouf also involves all of its employees, who are happy to donate their time and expertise to supporting the foundation.
The key to Malouf’s philanthropic work is that the company has chosen to help address issues that matter to them deeply - and is working to solve problems from as many angles as possible. Not only does the Foundation host its annual Forging Freedom event at the Las Vegas Market to educate industry peers about this global problem, but Malouf also works with its retail partners to provide concrete information on how to pick up on signs that someone may be a victim of human trafficking.
Malouf’s latest step towards its goal of supporting this cause is through its products themselves. The company is donating $5.00 from every sales of its Active Dough Pillow and Triple Layer Down Pillow to the Foundation. Some of the foundation’s work includes re-entry services for victims. Additionally, Malouf uses its network of factories to help recovering victims achieve a living wage so they can financially support themselves.
Be A Good Steward Of The Earth
Finally, sustainability is an important social responsibility we all have. Stocking eco-friendly products, creating facilities that emit less waste, educating the public on how to recycle sleep products and even simply recycling general waste in store locations are simple ways to be a good steward of the earth.
Why do all this?
When you take a comprehensive approach to corporate responsibility, you are communicating authenticity to consumers and employees alike. From employee benefits and community involvement to environmental sustainability and charitable giving, Malouf weaves social consciousness throughout the fabric of the brand’s identity. Whether you are a manufacturer or retailer, practicing corporate social responsibility adds a new layer of purpose to what you do. It communicates your brand’s values to customers and employees in a very real way and creates a sense of connection within your work community and your local or global community. When people work together for something bigger than themselves, it not only does good for the world – it also powerfully bonds the individuals involved. The result is a happier, healthier and more successful working environment.
The Perks Of Pink Noise
Many people rely on the soothing sounds of what we call ‘white noise’ to help them drift off to sleep and stay asleep. Made up of a variety of sound waves that extend across a wide frequency range, white noise masks other more jarring and inconsistent noise that may occur when you’re sleeping, allowing you to continue to sleep uninterrupted. However, it turns out that white noise’s more comforting, balanced and lesser-known cousin, pink noise, might offer more health benefits – especially for older adults.
Researchers at Northwestern University published the results of a small study exploring the effects of pink noise on adults over 60 in 2017. For the over-60 crowd, sleep can become much less valuable for memory consolidation because when we age we experience far less slow wave sleep, the kind that helps us piece together memories. While white noise combines sounds of multiple frequencies, pink noise more evenly distributes sound. With pink noise, every octave has equal power, making it sound more natural to the human ear. By syncing pink noise to the rhythm of the subjects’ brain waves, scientists discovered that this sound stimulation significantly increased deep sleep periods and improved memory retention.
While more involved studies are needed to conclude the long-term benefits of syncing pink noise with brain wave rhythms, there is hope that this process could ultimately yield an affordable solution providing the same health gains without a sleep lab. But regardless, simply listening to pink noise can definitely aid in general sleep improvement and relaxation, which is music to everyone’s ears.
If you’re interested in experiencing pink and white noise as well as the differences between them, try this Spotify playlist. You can also use a playlist like this one to create a restful atmosphere in your showroom.
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