The latest product introductions and insights from the rescheduled Winter Las Vegas Market
Though we have yet to return to a totally “normal” market experience, the most recent Las Vegas Market was a good indication that a return to normal may be on the horizon. Originally planned for January of this year, it seems that the World Market Center made the right choice in rescheduling the winter market for April—attendance was noticeably up from last summer’s market. And, with plenty of new product launches and brand debuts on display, spirits are high; consumer demand is expected to stay heightened throughout the year and the industry is already preparing for new opportunities.
Here’s some of the key insights and product introductions from the Las Vegas Market:
More Traffic Than Anticipated—But Not Quite Back To Normal Yet
While most people expected to see traffic up from last year’s sleepy summer market, the turn-out for last week’s event ended up being a pleasant surprise. Not only was attendance up, it exceeded many people’s expectations.
“We predicted light traffic heading into this Market, but we were blown away by the actual turnout,” said Patrick Wolf, VP of sales and education for Diamond Mattress.
“Our showroom traffic was more than double our expectations. While furniture shoppers were light, bedding shoppers were out in force looking for new and exciting products.”
We heard a similar sentiment from Joe Paviglianti, EVP of sales for Southerland, who said, “We had a good steady flow of people, more than we anticipated. The attendee mix of existing customers, who were looking to expand their placements of our products, and new customers looking to add our brands to their assortments was very encouraging.”
Of course, this market was far from back to normal pre-pandemic levels—but this uptick in attendance will hopefully bode well for the spring and fall High Point Markets as well as the summer Las Vegas Market. With travel increasingly safe thanks to vaccinations, it sounds like a lot of people are itching to get out after over a year of all-virtual-everything.
Retailers Are Planning Ahead
With last year’s sales hitting record highs, the bedding industry is looking to maintain that momentum through the rest of this year and beyond. “Buyers were not just shopping for their immediate needs, but also planning ahead for the rest of the year,” Paviglianti from Southerland explained. “They were writing orders, not just browsing the line, which was very positive.”
This is a pivotal moment for bedding retail. Not only are retailers looking to ride the high of last year, they also need to figure out how to adjust their strategy for a post-pandemic world. How do you compel consumers back in-store? How do you catch their attention online?
“Buyers are particularly interested in finding new technologies that enhance the quality of sleep for consumers, along with new looks that will draw shoppers’ attention when they visit the store,” Stuart Carlitz, president of Eclipse International explained. “Our products have always had strong feature and benefit stories behind them, and retailers come to our showroom looking for more than just mattress, but a unique sleep experience to present at retail.”
Focus On Product Availability / Service & Support
While innovation will always be a key part of any product showcase, this market was all about practicality as well. With consumer demand booming, one of the biggest issues the industry faced over the last year was supply—fulfillment delays limited inventory and extended delivery wait times. As retailers prepare for the year ahead, they’re asking the important questions up front.
“In terms of what retailers are looking for first and foremost, it can be summed up in one word: inventory,” explained Stephen Chen, president of MLILY. “One of their first questions after arriving at our showroom was, what is currently in stock? Which is understandable, given the fact that demand has been very strong for our products since the middle of last year and so many manufacturers have been impacted by supply chain disruptions.”
We expect that the supply chain disruptions of the past year are going to continue to have a big impact on decision making moving forward—on both the manufacturing and retail side. Retailers are looking to partner with the companies that are prepared to fulfill orders in a timely manner. And manufacturers are diversifying their component sources to minimize the risk of delays and price hikes.
Across the board, we heard from bedding brands about their fulfillment capabilities. Whether through vertically integrated factories, stocked warehouses or expanded production, mattress makers are putting logistics front and center in 2021.
Integrating New Digital Capabilities
While there were a number of manufacturers on-site, there were plenty that decided to wait and sit this one out as well. Even so, this market proved that it’s possible to seamlessly blend in-person and virtual elements of a product showcase—and reinforced why this may be a valuable strategy moving forward.
Nationwide Marketing Group offered a vital virtual resource for anyone unable to attend the market with “Las Vegas Market Live.” The video program featured a series of conversations with an array of vendors at the show, along with new product demonstrations, trainings and more. Not only was the content available in real time on the event’s website, it will remain available on demand on the Nationwide Marketing Group YouTube channel.
Companies like MLILY, Therapedic and Ergomotion launched similar virtual opportunities, offering video content straight from their market showroom for anyone who was unable to attend. While these sort of virtual experiences may, at first, seemed like temporary hold-overs until the pandemic winds down, they have proven to be valuable assets. So much so that Spring Air recently announced that it will be introducing all of its new products digitally first, utilizing its own web platform and social media channels to keep its customers informed on where and when to watch.
“The virtual component is here to stay, and we anticipate that technology will become an increasingly valuable sales tool going forward,” said Nick Bates, president of Spring Air. “Digital video launches allow our customers the option of adding new products when the time is right for them. It also enables buyers to share the benefits and features of new products in a more dynamic way with a broader group of executives than might have traveled to a normal market.”
By incorporating video and virtual elements on a permanent basis, we can ensure that all future in-person events will remain accessible to more people—which will be a great step forward to making the bedding industry more welcoming and inclusive to all.
Here are some of the programs that caught our eye this market!
MLILYs new juvenile JAMA collection features both mattresses and pillows designed specifically for children. Available in five-inch and seven-inch models, the mattresses feature MLILY’s adaptive foam or gel memory foam, along with enhanced cooling properties. “The positive feedback we received from the new JAMA line was overwhelming,” Chen said. “All of our introductions got very good comments, but the JAMA line was the star of the show.”
For retailers looking to deliver the clean and healthy sleep capabilities consumers are still looking for, BEDGEAR showcases new bedding products made with enhanced airflow and antimicrobial properties. In particular, the company’s GermShield Mattress and Pillow Cover Set was a hit at market. This new product incorporates a lab-tested antimicrobial treatment to actively protect the fabric against 99% of certain germs, bacteria, microbes and odor. Because it lacks a waterproof barrier, there is increased airflow and there is an allergen barrier to enhance long-term protection. The GermShield Mattress Cover is placed between the sheet and mattress protector, while the Pillow Cover is placed beneath the pillowcase to inhibit germs and allergens being exposed to the mouth and nose. Not only do these products help consumers keep their own sleep system clean at home, they are also ideal for those on-the-go: they can easily be transported and used at hotels, college dorm rooms, on airplanes and even staying at homes of friends or family members. With this kind of flexibility, BEDGEAR has tapped into a whole new sleep product category that could be a real hit with consumers as they start traveling again.
In addition to new furniture and accessory products, Malouf also introduced eight memory foam Weekender mattresses at market. Available in five different profile options, this new line also features cooling gel and bamboo charcoal infusions that deliver cooling benefits and remove excess moisture to help consumers maintain a fresh sleeping environment.
Believing that the bedroom is “the next frontier of the smart home,” Ergomotion launched its new Quest Connect line of smart bed bases at market. These adjustable bases are equipped with smart home technology, providing an endless array of cloud-based home automation possibilities. In addition to connecting to other home automation products via IFTTT platform, the line-up also includes a range of customizable sleep technology, including Rise to Wake features and anti-snoring technology. Designed to help people enhance their everyday wellness habits, Ergomotion’s smart beds aim to meet consumers where they are in their adoption of smart home technology.
Eclipse debuted its new NEMO brand at market, delivering an exciting new sustainability story. The lineup will be produced using 100 percent polyester made from recycled plastic bottles that have been collected from the Ocean Cleanup Project. More than simply using recycled materials, Eclipse is taking the story one step further: the mattresses are designed to be fully recycled themselves as well. Once they reach the end of their life cycles, the mattresses can be de-constructed, washed to National Health Service (NHS) standards and recycled into loft insulation. To promote the collection, Eclipse will conduct a media campaign including print, digital social and mobile advertising, in addition to launching a separate branded website and providing point-of-sale materials to its retail partners.
GhostBed is bringing its digital D2C prowess to the retail space, showcasing its new “totally separate and non-competitive product lineup” at market. With this collection, the company is helping retailers tap into the online mattress market. “As always, our dealers are looking for strong brands, and GhostBed has built a major presence through our online sales model,” said Alan Hirschhorn, executive vice president of sales for GhostBed. “We designed and built the B-to-B SKUs for brick-and-mortar retailers with all the look, feel, convenience and margin online retailers have realized with our direct-to-consumer products. With the B-to-B collection, we can help drive traffic to our dealers and let our online experience promote their in-store business.
Diamond relaunched its original Highlight memory foam mattress at market, generating some valuable buzz in the entry-level price point. “Retailers are looking to differentiate from the large selection of low-priced online mattresses,” Patrick Wolf, VP of Sales & Education, explained. “Knowing this, we decided to compress the Highlight mattress with two pillows in the same box and provide the customer a quality sleep kit. The Highlight is a 10-inch memory foam mattress with a new, bold look at a value. Sub-$1,000 domestic mattresses have taken a beating over the years because of the imports. Our mission was to bring this great look and include two premium pillows at $899 retail while still providing good margin to our partners.”
At a time when many retailers are looking for domestically-made products, Southerland spotlighted an array of bedding programs made in the USA at market. In particular, the company showcased its temperature-regulating ThermoBalance Collection. Available in five models, this lineup delivers maximum airflow and hybrid technologies with a blend of proprietary cooling yarns and Tencel, a vented border for maximum airflow and moisture wicking properties.
Recognizing the demand for eco-friendly bedding in today’s market, Magniflex launched its new Cotton Lux 10 mattress at market. As part of its eco-friendly Toscana lineup, this new mattress is a valuable option for anyone who is looking for more environmentally-safe bedding on a budget. Priced at $1,899, the Cotton Lux 10 features a GOTS-certified organic cotton cover and OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certification against any toxic chemicals—making it a meaningful entry point into the sustainable sleep category.
Shifman remains committed to delivering true luxury bedding. The company received “strong and positive feedback at market about the level of quality and tailoring of Shifman products,” said Bill Hammer, president of Shifman Mattresses. “We remain committed to handcrafting two-sided products, our exclusive Sanotuft (hand-tufting) process, selecting the finest natural materials, and building real working boxsprings, all of which differentiate Shifman within the industry.” The company spotlighted its new American Heritage Collection at market, positioning it as a true differentiator for retail floors. With luxurious Belgium Damask cover and enhanced comfort options, Shifman is providing retail partners with a highly valuable product made with unparalleled craftsmanship.
Looking Ahead To The Rest Of The Year
Though, historically, the winter market has always been the busiest of the year, 2021 may see a bigger impact at the spring High Point Market in June and Summer Las Vegas in August. That’s what many manufacturers are planning for anyway, with more updates and introductions on deck. While virtual showcases and smaller events have been vital over this past year, it’s clear that people are missing the camaraderie of in-person events—and companies are already on track to meet that pent-up demand in the coming months.