Why a greater focus on health and wellness is creating valuable opportunities for mattress sellers
Sales for mattresses, sleep accessories and bedroom furniture hit record highs during the pandemic as many consumers looked to invest in both their health and their homes. But as more states start to fully re-open, the question on everyone’s mind has been: will that interest in sleep products continue once there are other things to do and other places to spend money? New research is showing that, even with more options on the table, many consumers are still thinking about sleep—for a few different reasons. While some people are still suffering from so-called “corona-somnia,” others have simply opened their eyes to just how good it feels to be well-rested. Overall, consumers remain more focused than ever on health and wellness—and sleep plays a major role in that. But is that interest enough to continue to drive bedding sales?
The pandemic has shifted a lot of consumers’ ideas of what health and wellness is and how it can be achieved. And that shift can already be seen on the retail level. In a recent April survey, the financial services company Piper Sandler found that the majority of mattress retailers believe that consumers are “more aware and interested in better sleep as a key component of their overall health and wellness”—with 75% of respondents saying they “definitely” think so and another 25% saying consumers are “possibly” more aware than before.
The driving force behind that increased interest appears to be two-fold. Some consumers have made sleep a priority in their life because they’re finally sleeping better, whereas others are paying more attention because they’re still not getting the sleep they need.
The Pandemic & Sleep
For many people, the onset of the pandemic wreaked havoc on their sleep. In a survey conducted last summer, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that 20% of adults in the US said the pandemic was making sleep more difficult for them. According to research from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, nearly 36% of adults reported sleep issues during the pandemic—the most affected being coronavirus patients themselves (75% reported experiencing disturbed sleep) and health-care workers (36%). When it came to the general population, the journal’s research found that 32% of people said they were having sleep problems. (The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine’s report took into account data from 12 other countries in addition to the US, which may explain the slight differences between it and the AASM report).
In a lot of ways, the pandemic was a perfect storm of sleep-disrupting conditions. Stay-at-home orders and newfound work from home plans upended normal routines—leading many to go to bed later at night and stay in bed longer in the morning. Sudden changes in habits can have a detrimental effect on the circadian rhythm, making it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. Cutting down on both physical activity and time spent outdoors can have a similar effect, as does increasing alcohol consumption. But the biggest sleep-stealing culprit? Heightened stress and anxiety. Even in the most normal of times, added stress is one of the most common triggers of insomnia. In a year when nearly everyone had a whole new set of worries to contend with—worries about their health, the health of their loved ones, finances and even politics—it is no wonder that many struggled with sleep.
With vaccination rates on the rise and states starting to fully open back up, it may seem like the the biggest stresses of the pandemic have abated—but for a lot of people, the insomnia is still lingering. When the AASM repeated its survey in March of this year, they actually found that more people were suffering from sleep difficulties than 10 months prior. Nearly 60% of respondents said they had struggled with pandemic-related insomnia and 50% reported that their sleep quality had diminished. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association found that more than 40% of adults reported having more anxiety in May of 2021 than they did at the start of the pandemic.
“A lot of people thought that our sleep should be getting better because we can see the light at the end of the tunnel — but it’s worse now than it was last year,” Dr. Fariha Abbasi-Feinberg, a sleep medicine specialist and spokeswoman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, told the New York Times recently. “People are still really struggling.”
Because even if the risk of contracting the virus has lessened, life is hardly “back to normal” for a lot of people. For some, it may be difficult to turn off their anxiety after such a prolonged period of intense trauma—even if life is technically safer now. For these folks, sleep is still a vital asset in managing their mental health, even if it remains somewhat elusive.
On the other side of the spectrum, there is a subset of people whose sleep actually improved during the pandemic. Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and the author of the best-selling book Why We Sleep, specified in the New York Times that the people who benefited the most were those who tended to go to sleep later pre-pandemic and who no longer had to wake early to commute to work or school. With that simple change in morning routine, many night-owls were able to reclaim the sleep they had previously been sacrificing in order to fit into traditional early-morning workplace standards. For this faction of consumers, the question now becomes: how can I maintain these new habits even after my office or school goes back in-person?
Interest In Health & Wellness
This increased attention on sleep is all part of an overarching conversation about health and wellness, which has only grown more prominent over the past year. From social distancing and mask-wearing to the widespread adoption of Telehealth practices and pop-up testing and vaccine locations, the way we think about health has changed on both a structural and habitual level. And experts predict that this will have a significant impact on how people approach “wellness” moving forward.
“We’ve been seeing this growth since 2014 [in] what we call the move from ‘sick care’ to ‘well care,’” Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail told CO recently. “Even before the pandemic, many people around the U.S. were beginning to dabble in proactive and preventative health and wellness practices. What this pandemic has revealed is that taking care and control of your own health — individual, family, home, etc. — is even more critical than before.”
And even though shuttered brick-and-mortar businesses cost the wellness industry billions in 2020, Beth McGroarty, vice president of research for the Global Wellness Institute, believes that “at the big-picture, long-term level, the case for the wellness concept and wellness markets post-pandemic looks very bullish.” In particular, she predicts that “wellness culture” will shift away from the aspirational concept (think: expensive retreats and juice cleanses) and more towards everyday activities like daily walks or meditation. Not only does this approach integrate both mental and physical health, it is also more focused on preventative care.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the health care system upside down and challenged consumers’ sense of well-being,” stated a new report from Deloitte on the future of health. “In many ways consumers are taking charge of their health more than ever before. They are learning about their health risks, communicating with their doctors in new and different ways, and changing their attitudes about data privacy.”
For people interested in taking a more engaged approach to their own health, getting their sleep on track is a valuable place to start. Research has long shown that good quality sleep is key to the body functioning at its best.
So what does this mean for the mattress industry? Well, for one, it means that there is a formidable opportunity out there.“We believe this trend reinforces the shift to higher average selling prices,” noted the Piper Sandler April Report. “As consumers place more focus on premium products, this encourages greater attachment of adjustable bases and accessories. Consumers will likely be more willing to pay for emerging tech-integrated products.” With more than half of retailers surveyed already seeing a shift towards higher ASPs, the firm says that this ongoing interest in sleep and health “could continue to support healthy demand trends into 2022 and bodes very well for premium brand strength.”
As retailers look to tap into this opportunity in the years to come, it’s clear that this conversation around the intersection of sleep, health and wellness will be key to sales success.