While the pandemic is far from over in many parts of the world, certain aspects of normal life are starting to resume in much of the US—putting the bedding industry at an interesting cross-roads right now. Consumer demand spiked over the course of the past year and a half, giving the industry a somewhat unexpected win during a very unpredictable time. But major disruptions to existing supply chains created a new set of obstacles that many mattress makers and sellers are still trying to navigate. If nothing else, the pandemic has shown just how flexible the bedding industry can be in the face of unexpected circumstances—but the months and years to come will be another test of that resiliency.
So in the lead up to the summer Las Vegas Market, we wanted to take a moment and reflect on how the bedding marketplace has evolved over the past 15 months—and start looking for clues to where it may be heading.
Here are the top trends we’re seeing in the bedding industry today.
Natural Products & Sustainability
As consumers seek to prioritize the health and wellness of their families, they are also prioritizing the health and wellness of the environment in their purchasing decisions. With the understanding that our climate needs consumers to change some of their habits by taking the planet into consideration, consumers are continually looking for new ways to live more sustainability in all areas of their lives—including their sleeping surface. The following manufacturers are meeting this crucial and growing demand for eco-friendly products across sleep product categories by developing environmentally-friendly bedding and mattresses and in some cases, even altering their own production processes to be more sustainable.
In particular, Beautyrest has been working to incorporate more environmentally-conscious offerings in recent years. The company’s Harmony Lux collection includes high-quality, sustainable fabrics made in partnership with SEAQUAL, a leader in ocean plastic recycling efforts. In fact, each queen mattress from the Harmony Lux line helps eliminate the equivalent of 50 water bottles from the ocean. According to the company, the collection has helped convert more than 3.8 million plastic bottles from the ocean already. In addition to the sustainability story, this line-up also features a range of advanced technologies. These include a new carbon fiber foam for consistent support and gel memory foam directly below the quilted sleep surface for immediate pressure relief. Made with premium memory foam featuring diamond particles that help conduct heat away from the body, Harmony Lux offers retailers a chance to deliver a premium, luxury product as well as an environmentally-friendly option to consumers.
Eclipse International is similarly making a splash in the sustainable products segment with the launch of its Nemo brand. Consisting of a premium mattress, pillow, mattress topper and top-of-bed accessories, the line is produced using 100 percent polyester made of recycled plastic bottles collected from the Ocean Cleanup Project. With a bricks-and-clicks component, the Nemo merchandising strategy is especially advantageous for retailers.
Nemo is not the only sustainable product Eclipse International is touting these days either; the company also recently debuted its new Natural Dreams Pure Talalay collection at the High Point Market in June. The three-group collection is manufactured with 100% pure natural Talalay latex and hand-crafted in the U.S. using techniques that meet Eclipse’s most stringent quality standards. Geared toward consumers seeking mattresses made with certified, all-natural materials, the new line aims to promote a healthier night’s sleep.
A veteran of sustainable sleep, Naturepedic has eco-friendly production stitched into the very ethos of the brand. Boasting a strong portfolio of certified organic bedding and mattress programs for adults as well as babies and toddlers, Naturepedic is also incredibly invested in educating consumers in the area of sustainability and safety when it comes to sleep products. In recent months, Naturepedic has promoted the benefits of clean air inside and how clean sleep products contribute to safer indoor air quality. Additionally, the company celebrated Earth Day with the release of its 2020-2021 Sustainability Report. The report highlights the extent to which the brand seeks to be good to its customers by providing a truly safe product—but also to the earth in its sourcing avenues and business standards.
"At Naturepedic, we are committed to protecting the environment through the materials sourced, products created and business practices used. As detailed in our latest sustainability report, Naturepedic's commitment to certified organic cotton, for example, contributes to healthier soils, decreased pesticides use and other environmental benefits like CO2 removal. Naturepedic exclusively uses organic cotton fiber and fabrics instead of conventionally-processed cotton."
—Barry Cik, founder and technical director of Naturepedic
A pioneer in the certified organic sleep products category, Organic Mattresses, Inc. (OMI) is more than simply a manufacturer of certified organic mattresses and bedding. The company also considers itself a full-circle environmental company, committed to the health and welfare of the planet and its global family. A wellness-inspired brand since its founding in 2003, OMI prides itself on its dogged commitment to organic standards and sustainability year after year. Produced in accordance with organic standards maintained by USDA and other global organizations, OMI products are manufactured in facilities using processes that are audited annually by independent certifiers to assure strict adherence to the standards. Most recently, OMI celebrated 15 years of GreenGuard Gold certification in December 2020.
“Millennials are the growing power among consumers, and what they want are products that are made using eco-friendly materials. This puts us in a prime position because all of our products are made with environmentally friendly fabrics. Plus, these textiles are similar in cost to other materials, which helps keep our costs in line and which makes the choice easy for millennial consumers”.
—Billy Curtright, national sales manager, Magniflex USA
Prediction: The upcoming years will see an increase in concern for infant and child sleep health & safety.
According to a 2021 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, three out of four sudden infant deaths happen in unsafe sleep environments. This study, paired with an increased amount of concern about health and wellness in general following the pandemic, all contribute to our prediction that infant and child health and safety will remain a crucial topic within the industry in the coming years. We anticipate an increase in antimicrobial and washable sleep products for infants and children as well as a proliferation of potential regulations and certifications to protect infants and children from risks like soft bedding.
The New Luxury
While there have always been luxury mattress shoppers in the market, they have not always been a key demographic for retailers. For years, de-specing in the industry has effectively skewed many consumers’ perspectives, driving up interest in lower price points. Couple that with a go-go-go culture that prioritized hard work and hustle over regular rest, and it was no wonder that average unit selling prices suffered. But with so many people investing in both their health and their home during the pandemic, the bedding industry is seeing a new wave of premium buyers who are looking for real quality.
For a certain subset of consumers, this past year was a long-overdue opportunity to slow down and take care of themselves. When people recognize just how much their sleep habits can impact their health, they are often more willing to invest in higher end products that will help them achieve the optimum nighttime experience. And once you have a taste of luxury bedding, it can be hard to go back the next time you’re in the market for a new mattress.
With that in mind, it’s important to remember that today’s luxury isn’t just for luxury’s sake. The premium mattress collections that are making the biggest impact are those that offer clearly differentiated value. Consumers are looking for unique touches and specific details; they care where the materials come from and how they are processed. Being able to clearly communicate what makes a luxury bed special is key to connecting with this new audience.
“It’s no secret the pandemic upended our lives and dramatically impacted our sleep health. In fact, by the end of 2020, Americans collectively lost 30 billion hours of sleep, and as a result, we saw them gravitating towards premium bedding products. With a recent uptick in luxurious bedding demand, we anticipate consumers are continuing to prioritize getting a good night’s sleep and will be more willing to invest in premium products as we adjust to a new post-pandemic routine.”
— Taylor Beckstead, senior director of marketing for Beautyrest
Posh + Lavish has always been interested in doing things its own way. At a time when most mattress brands were figuring out how to migrate to online sales, the company has doubled down on in-person retail—focusing on helping retailers upgrade the existing luxury customer, rather than watering down their approach to meet a wider audience. Posh + Lavish is built on the idea that true luxury should be clearly differentiated and easy to understand. Each mattress is designed with simple, high-end materials that most consumers are likely already familiar with—wool, cotton, latex and high density memory foam—which makes for a stronger, more effective sales conversation. Posh + Lavish is also a pioneer of the split-head king model, a design that solves one of the most common pain points for adjustable base buyers. By allowing each partner to individually control their side of the mattress, the split-head construction means that no one has to compromise on comfort. With models from $2,000 to $5,799 in queen, the Posh + Lavish portfolio gives retailers a dynamic opportunity to reach this new premium consumer base.
ES Kluft continues to deliver the high-quality components and styling details that luxury consumers are looking for. At the Las Vegas Market earlier this year, the company introduced a new nine-model Kluft National Collection. Not only is this line-up made from high quality cashmere, horsetail and organic cotton, it also features individual hand-tufts and nested pocket coil systems. This construction delivers maximum pressure relief, comfort and support in addition to a natural luxury story. The collection is finished with Belgian Jacquard Damask covers, giving it a look that immediately signals its $5,999 to $19,499 price point. ES Kluft imbues all of its luxury offerings with an eye-catching sense of specificity—the brand aesthetics are uniquely Californian but deliver an aspirational quality no matter where the retail store is located.
“The pandemic motivated people to invest in their homes, with the demand for home furnishings, including mattresses, the highest we've seen in recent years. It also raised awareness about the importance of sleep and investing in good sleeping products. We’re still seeing extremely high demand for quality bedding products – including high-end mattresses – and we expect this to continue at least through Labor Day, and possibly through the end of the year. At some point, demand may slow down but we think the overall interest in health and wellness, and how a good night’s sleep plays into that, is here to stay. And consumers will keep these health benefits in mind when they are considering future purchases.”
—Magali Castillo, vice president of marketing for E.S. Kluft & Company
Kingsdown’s flagship Vintage Collection has long been a staple in the luxury category. By combining the finest natural materials with advanced coil support, the line offers traditional premium quality for a modern age. The mattresses are handcrafted from 100% cotton, Joma and alpaca wool and genuine horsehair, along with layers of specialized latex foam designed to deliver enhanced support and breathability. With three unique zones of individually wrapped coils, the mattress contours to the body for personalized comfort. Completed with a tufted damask cover that is elegantly hand-quilted and finished with double cross-stitching, the collection delivers a unified and visually appealing look that will draw the consumer’s eye on the showroom floor. Elevating the classic look for the current market, the Vintage Collection is also adjustable-base friendly—giving retailers another opportunity to enhance the luxury sale.
At a time when so many products on the market are built to break down and be replaced, the appeal of quality craftsmanship has grown among consumers. The Shifman brand has long been known for delivering on that demand while still embracing modern touches. The company recently upgraded its American Heritage line with a Belgium Damask cover, giving it a more contemporary, high-end look. The 10-bed line includes both quilted and hand-tufted models, all of which are made with a two-sided construction, natural cotton comfort layers and individually wrapped coil system. The premium models within the collection are foam-encased to create a firm seating edge and a more tailored bed profile. With price points ranging from $1,799 to $9,699 in queen, the American Heritage line makes for a step-up story that clearly communicates its value. In addition to these product upgrades, Shifman recently introduced new marketing support as well—expanding the program to include co-op dollars for print, radio, TV and direct mail advertising.
“The indicators we are paying close attention to suggest that consumer demand will remain strong. Whether it’s the reported $1.4 trillion in incremental savings that consumers accumulated over the first nine months of 2020 alone, the impact of economic stimulus checks, the strength of the housing market, the improvement in employment levels since the initial lockdowns occurred, or consumers’ focus on their home, their health, and their wellness—all indicators suggest that demand will continue to be robust. This perspective was certainly evident over the recent Memorial Day holiday, when feedback from our retail partners suggested that – despite the increasing access consumers have to travel and entertainment—consumer traffic and purchases reached all-time levels.”
— Steve Rusing, President U.S. Sales at Tempur Sealy
Financing solutions help make buying a new mattress much more approachable for consumers who may not presently have the funds in full or might not feel comfortable spending a large dollar amount up front. Offering multiple pay-over-time options can help retailers increase conversion rates for in-store and online purchases and offers opportunities for retailers to reach a larger consumer base—one that includes those who may not have the credit to purchase with a traditional credit card. Working with a financing provider also allows retailers to offer more payment options while assuming little to no risk in doing so.
Snap Finance is a provider of fast, flexible, pay-over-time digital financing options. Using a lease-to-own model, Snap Finance offers easy and convenient approval for shoppers with bad or no credit. Recently, the company announced a new partnership with Affirm, a transparent alternative to credit cards. Retailers using Snap can seamlessly integrate Affirm’s additional financing options to capture more revenue from high-intent shoppers and offer alternative payment options to the 40 percent of consumers who are building or rebuilding their credit profiles. While most pay-over-time financing solutions leave behind consumers who do not qualify for financing under traditional credit models, Snap and Affirm help retailers offer a pay-over-time option that takes into consideration more than a consumer’s credit score when making underwriting decisions. Of course, consumers will see the amount they'll pay upfront with no hidden or late fees.
New approaches to customer acquisition saw a drastic increase during the pandemic—financial uncertainty during the crisis, as well as the rise of Gen Z as a valuable consumer segment, are both driving more need for change. Lease-to-own providers like Katapult give retailers greater access to a specific demographic whose purchasing power is relatively untapped: the nearly half of Americans in their 20s who don’t have a credit card. While many of the traditional "Buy Now, Pay Later" financing services offer loans for four- or five-figure purchases, with interest rates similar to those of credit cards, many retailers rely on more everyday purchases like mattresses and bedding that often cost more than $300 and exclude nonprime customers. Offering lease-to-own (LTO) financing makes it easier for those retailers to connect with this consumer base. Katapult is a unique and ideal partner for lease-to-own service offerings as it takes on credit and fraud risk by paying retailers up front and allowing the customer to pay over time. While there is no long-term obligation for the customer to continue leasing, returns are typically made to the LTO provider, not to the retailer, with no further obligation other than amounts past due.
"As more people are embracing the better sleep habits and lifestyle, we see a couple of areas that could be the ‘next big thing.’ One is sleep productivity, a term we use at Diamond Mattress to categorize innovations that enhance the benefits of sleep so you can get the most out of the time you spend sleeping. We’re exploring options for deeper more restful sleep, skin and hair benefits, muscle oxygenation and recovery, and more. We’re looking at partnerships with leaders in specific and emerging innovations that will help enhance sleep. We’re looking beyond the traditional mattress because consumers are looking for more.”
—Shaun Pennington, president of Diamond Mattress
A few months into the pandemic, we started to see a surge of new “antiviral” sleep products hitting the market. Made with advanced fabric technology, these mattresses, pillows and protectors spoke to the underlying anxiety of the moment: the fear that COVID-19 could be caught and spread anywhere. For a lot of people, the home had become a safe haven during this time—and these antiviral sleep products delivered the peace of mind they were looking for. They also provided retail sleep shops with additional protection, helping to alleviate consumer fears about the safety of in-store rest-testing.
But even as the threat of COVID-19 has lessened over time, we expect that the appeal of “clean sleep” products will endure. A lot of consumers have simply grown accustomed to thinking more actively about how to protect their health, with precautions like regular hand-washing and occasional mask-wearing becoming standard practices. Rather than seeing health issues as something to be fixed after the fact, many people are now more focused on preventing the problem from happening in the first place.
Quality sleep is a big part of preventive health care—and maintaining a cleaner bedding environment is a key to achieving that. Allergens like dust and bacteria can easily accumulate in standard mattresses and pillows, causing inflammation and congestion that can trigger snoring, sleep apnea and even just tossing and turning. But now with an array of antiviral, antimicrobial, antibacterial sleep products on the market, consumers have the opportunity to invest in a total clean sleep system.
Clean sleep has always been a cornerstone of the PureCare brand. All of the company’s products are treated with antimicrobial silver protection that inhibits bacteria, mold and mildew—helping consumers maintain a cleaner, more sanitary sleep environment. By neutralizing bacteria on the surface of the product, this treatment keeps the microbes from absorbing oxygen and multiplying. This helps maintain freshness and offers relief for consumers who suffer from allergies. Additionally, many of PureCare’s protection products also feature its OmniGuard Advance base protection fabric, which recently passed the highest barrier performance test established by the Centers For Disease Control. It is certified to block viruses 32 nanometers in diameter (for reference, the COVID-19 virus is approximately 125 nanometers in diameter). It is also designed to be washed and dried on hot settings for optimal sanitation.
Long committed to delivering advanced airflow in its products, BEDGEAR has further stepped up its clean sleep game with the new GermShield Mattress and Pillow Cover Set. Developed in partnership with Polygiene, this protection product is made with an antimicrobial treatment that has been lab-tested to actively protect against 99% of certain allergens, germs, bacteria, microbes and odor. Engineered using BEDGEAR’s Hyper-Cotton, this treatment cures the fabric through a heating process to eliminate any space between the yarns where allergens or dust mites could enter. When placed between the sheet and the mattress protector, the cover set provides an additional layer of protection close to the sleeper—while the pillow cover delivers vital protection around the mouth and nose area. And not only does GermShield ensure a cleaner at-home sleep environment, it was developed to be travel-friendly as well. Consumers can easily add this layer to a mattress, no matter where they are—ensuring a safe and clean sleep environment even when they’re on the go.
“Airflow has always been the core of all bedding products from BEDGEAR but given the COVID-19 pandemic, offering bedding products that provide maximum airflow that helps to alleviate the buildup of allergens, dust, dander, bacteria and other foreign microbes is crucial to providing a clean and healthy sleep environment.”
— Eugene Alletto, CEO of BEDGEAR
With an array of proprietary technologies, Soft-Tex offers a wide range of wellness-oriented bedding products—including two new products touting clean sleep benefits. First, the Microshield Mattress Protector is made with a proprietary allergen-blocking fabric that blocks 99.78% of all allergens on micron or greater. The company’s Fresh & Clean Mattress Protector is made with Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial protection, which has been shown to deliver a more than 99% reduction in bacterial growth, protecting against both stains and odors. Made with 100% back panel waterproof protection, all of Soft-Tex’s protectors prevent any spills or moisture from reaching through the mattress—which, in turn, prevents any allergy-aggravating mold or mildew from accumulating.
Looking beyond just protection products, Spring Air’s Breathe Collection incorporates a clean sleep story directly into the mattress itself. This four-model line-up is made with Nano Shield technology, which eliminates more than 98% of viruses within four hours of contact and 98% of bacteria within just one hour of contact. This technology is made by integrating small particles that repel viruses, bacteria and stains directly into fibers and textiles—which is then used as the mattress ticking. More than just offering protection from viruses, this collection was designed to deliver added relief for allergy sufferers as well.
“I believe that consumer demand will stay steady and retail will continue to show strong results. Consumers will ultimately return more traditional spending patterns as the pandemic winds down and they gain more freedom to spend on items other than their homes. However, I think consumers realized during the pandemic that a good mattress is key to restorative sleep and that quality sleep greatly affects one’s health, so the products they’ll be looking for will be those that deliver the best combination of comfort, quality and sleep health benefits. Keep in mind that the largest demographic group—millennials—are starting families, and buying their first homes, which will continue to fuel the need for mattresses. With our broad portfolio of brands at a variety of price points, Spring Air is positioned well to serve this demographic.”
— Nick Bates, president, Spring Air International
Back in the day, some people might have been averse to bringing technology into the bedroom—but today, consumers cannot get enough. Smart Home products are designed to make their day-to-day simpler and more on-demand. In order to satisfy the desire for these high-tech applications, several manufacturers in the bedding and mattress space have developed products that are compatible with Smart Home devices. By giving consumers the ability to adjust their beds, lighting and more with their voices, these products integrate seamlessly into this new way of life.
With its introduction of Quest Connect, Ergomotion is imagining a future where beds instruct the coffee maker to automatically begin brewing at the first sign of waking, instruct the shower to begin warming and signal the window blinds to open slightly – allowing the sleeper to rise from a restful night’s sleep. The new line of smart bed bases from Ergomotion combine corresponding connections with smart home technology, providing an endless array of home automation possibilities and making its wellness dream a reality. Winner of the 2021 CES Editor’s Choice Award from USA TODAY, Ergomotion unveiled the new Quest Connect line at the Las Vegas Market in April via a hybrid show experience. Available in Twin, Queen and King sizes and featuring its Universal Smart Home Connected Bed App, the Quest Connect delivers the following benefits: quick access remote and custom presets, rise to wake features, including a silent alarm that slowly raises the head of the bed in the morning, anti-snoring technology in the form of the built-in Quiet Nite app and cloud-based, smart home automation features via IFTTT applets.
An early adopter of smart home technology, Reverie has long offered a voice activation integration in its product line allowing hands-free operation of its adjustable power bases through Google Assistant or Amazon Echo devices. With the ability to receive up to nine voice direct commands, the Reverie Connect platform enables users to activate the base to various positions and pre-sets including zero gravity and flat, without lifting a finger. In addition to the Reverie Connect platform, the brand also offers voice command and smart home capabilities through its Nightstand app. The upgraded app allows for complete customization of the controls for the base and allows users to save specific bedtime routines to ensure they consistently get a good night’s sleep. Featuring a customizable dashboard, the app is compatible with Reverie Connect, the company’s voice activation system that works with Google Home and Amazon Alexa. The original Nightstand app was introduced in 2015.
“With technology becoming an integral part of both producing and marketing mattresses, I believe that we are entering a period in which beds will literally communicate with the sleeper. The next big thing in sleep products is technology that can “inform” consumers about their sleep habits and ways to improve their sleep.”
— Stuart Carlitz, president and chief executive officer of Eclipse International
Rethinking Sourcing & Supply Chain Strategies
Beyond the spike in demand and the shift towards online buying, the biggest story in the bedding industry over this past year has been the disruptions to the supply chain. These delays threw a wrench in many companies’ existing production schedules, which in turn slowed down retailers’ delivery times. Consumers proved to be understanding when it came to delays in the early part of the pandemic—but as life starts to feel more normal, that amenability may be running out.
Today, manufacturers are still navigating multiple issues at once—including material shortages, price increases and newly negotiated trade deals. At the same time, both manufacturers and retailers are facing more frequent fulfillment disruptions due to the extreme weather effects of climate change.
While it’s impossible to anticipate every potential hiccup, we spoke to a number of manufacturers that have found a variety of different ways to mitigate the impact of these supply chain issues:
“As a vertically integrated manufacturer, we are always looking at ways to do things in house to minimize supply chain disruptions. Being able to cut our own foam in house has been an advantage. We have become more efficient with our systems and analytics in projecting and forecasting so we can maximize getting mattresses to our customers. We have had to develop new ways of looking at planning and manufacturing to utilize materials, such as foam, efficiently. These tools are helping us now and will continue to help us in the future.”
— Shaun Pennington, president of Diamond Mattress
Spring Air International
“Given the widespread challenges our industry is still facing with raw material cost increases and availability, we are focused on diversifying our supply chain and bringing in new suppliers from around the globe. As an industry we all tend to rely on many of the same vendors, but as we learned over the past year – and as Spring Air continues to grow – we will be placing a greater emphasis on using a global network of vendors. Through our licensee manufacturing network, Spring Air has been able to keep up with growing demand and we will continue to focus on diversifying our supply chain to position ourselves as a trusted partner with the capacity to supply our customers no matter what challenges are thrown our way.”
— Nick Bates, president of Spring Air International
“Fortunately, because we are vertically integrated, we are not experiencing the same level of price increases that others in the industry are facing. Making our own coils, pouring our own foam and sewing our own covers provides our retail partners a tremendous advantage from a cost perspective. While raw materials availability and price have certainly been affected, we have been able to rely on our strong global supply relationships to keep increases to a minimum.”
— Stephen Chen, president of MLILY USA
“Foam alternatives have become increasingly important in our efforts to manufacture mattresses as cost-effectively as possible, and we are using vertical-stranded, densified polyester fiber, which replicates the feel and durability of high-quality foam. By using this fiber, we can match the comfort levels from soft to firm, in both pads and surface quilting, at costs significantly less than foam. Sourcing alternative fibers such as polyester, along with cotton and wool, has also helped us address the supply-chain disruptions the industry has been dealing with over the past year. These alternatives have enabled us to continue production at full capacity. We are fortunate in that our international network of licensees allows us to source raw materials globally.”
— Stuart Carlitz, president of Eclipse International
A New British Invasion
Oftentimes, industry trends come in the form of a specific product feature or service offering—other times, there are more behind-the-scenes trends that emerge. Recently, we’ve been interested to see a number of new strategic partnerships start to crop up between American and British brands. From Eclipse teaming up with Millbrook to Tempur-Sealy acquiring Dreams and SilentNight expanding its distribution throughout the United States, it appears that the relationship between the US and the UK is having a resurgence—at least when it comes to mattresses.
These aren’t the first bedding brands associated with the UK to ever make a splash in the US, of course—a British branding story has long carried a sense of prestige and elegance in the states. But it does seem notable that three new British-American partnerships have emerged in a relatively short amount of time. Why now? Perhaps in the wake of Brexit, British brands are looking to forge stronger relationships in the US to supplement or replace their European partners. From the American perspective, these partnerships are both an opportunity to strengthen their international presence—and a chance to introduce a new product line to the US market with a built-in message, history and audience base. But more than anything, we think this trend underscores the growing value of a global sales strategy more generally.
AW Industries & SilentNight
Known as one of the UK’s most trusted mattress makers, SilentNight recently made the move to expand its presence in the United States. Last year, the company inked a licensing deal with AW Industries to establish retail distribution in the US—and is continuing to look for additional US partners to further expand its reach. Founded almost 75 years ago, Silentnight has been designated as one of the UK’s “Superbrands,” giving it a built-in branding story that resonates. The partnership with AW Industries made its debut last fall at the High Point Market, showcasing an array of well-merchandised mattresses, including memory foam, hybrid and latex options. Offering attractive features and eye-catching styling, the line was designed to deliver elevated gross margins and higher average sales tickets—at a time when many retailers need them most.
Eclipse International & Millbrook Beds
Eclipse International recently announced its new joint venture with the UK-based Millbrook Beds, debuting two new mattress models at the spring High Point Market. This new collection is hand-crafted from all-natural fabrics and fills, including crimped wool from sheep that are exclusively bred in Hampshire, England (where Milbrook’s headquarters are located). They also feature cotton, cashmere, Angora and silk. As with all Millbrook mattresses, these new models also feature hand-side stitching. And rather than using a chemical fire-retardant layer, the cover and fillings of the new mattresses are treated with a biological solution that meets the FR standards in both the UK and the US. As part of this new joint venture agreement, Eclipse will also distribute a line of mattresses produced in the UK throughout the US—and Millbrook will produce and distribute an Eastman House collection in the UK.
Tempur Sealy & Dreams
Tempur Sealy recently announced its plans to acquire Dreams, one of the leading specialty bed retailers in the UK. With over 200 brick-and-mortar locations, a successful ecommerce program along with robust manufacturing and delivery assets, Dreams has created a winning omni-channel strategy in recent years - making it an ideal partnership opportunity, as Tempur Sealy looks to enhance its existing UK operations. Once the transaction is closed (which is expected to take place in the third quarter of 2021), Dreams will retain its current management team and will continue to operate as an independent business unit. Both brands see the new acquisition as a mutually beneficial endeavor to optimize their offerings in addition to driving growth on a global scale.
Equitable, Adaptable Event Formats
The pandemic initially threw the events side of the bedding and mattress industry for a huge loop. However, many organizations have ultimately found new opportunities in the challenge of developing online-only and now hybridized events. Not only have many organizations discovered that virtual events—when done well—can be extremely engaging and well-attended, but they’ve also found that virtual events make professional development, buying opportunities and other important perks much more accessible and inclusive for a variety of populations. Virtual events are physically easier to participate in and often more affordable as well, allowing more entry-level professionals and smaller operations to participate. The following organizations in particular have really capitalized on virtual events and made the need for virtual-only gatherings much more of an opportunity than a challenge. For many of these companies, the pandemic has likely fundamentally changed the way they offer events in a way that makes industry professional development increasingly more equitable.
Nationwide Marketing Group
Despite the limitations of the pandemic, Nationwide Marketing Group (NMG) has not slowed down one bit. A strong example of creative pivoting, NMG very successfully took its annual show virtual for the first time in October 2020. The organization held its second virtual PrimeTime in March 2021. Both events saw high engagement numbers due to a combination of strong marketing and creative partnerships, irresistible giveaways, meaningful learning opportunities and an easy-to-use hosting platform. In fact, the second virtual PrimeTime saw record attendance numbers: 2,500 attendees logged into the Virtual PrimeTime platform, including more than 1,400 representatives from over 1,100 member companies. While the organization is returning to in-person events in August of 2021, we anticipate we haven’t seen the last of virtual and hybridized events from NMG.
International Market Centers & The High Point Market Authority
The Las Vegas and High Point Markets went through quite a season of adaptation and evolution over the past two years, altering its schedules and creating new formats for their programming. Ultimately, these changes have made some of the industry’s largest annual events much more robust and created new year-round content opportunities. Not only did the pandemic bring about a new webinar series called Ideastreams from the High Point Market Authority, but it also created a strong incentive for International Market Centers to bring together its myriad of digital tools into a unified suite in the new Juniper Suite of Solutions. These new digital counterparts and virtual stand-ins once again make some of the industry’s most popular events much more accessible to all.
WithIt, the women’s leadership development network, similarly turned lemons into lemonade in 2020. The organization fully interpreted the need for online events as an opportunity and has utilized its newfound knowledge to host even more events throughout the year—giving women increased opportunities for professional networking and development. During most of 2020, WithIt was virtual-only, but in the spring of 2021, it began hosting more socially distant in-person events at the rescheduled winter Las Vegas Market. Despite mask mandates lifting across the country now, WithIt still has several virtual events per month planned through July and offers a monthly New Member Meet-Up over Zoom to welcome new organization participants. From virtual brunch to webinars to speed-dating and more, WithIt has translated nearly all the hallmarks of its typical programming into an online format and has found that the switch has made it easier for more people to get involved. For organizations like WithIt, it seems that virtual event components and even fully online events are here to stay—likely in combination with all the favorite in-person events of the past.
The Sustainable Furnishings Council
Not much had to evolve for the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC) during the pandemic, apart from a pause in in-person events, as the organization has long held a variety of virtual events in addition to in-person educational programming. So, we think the council deserves some kudos for being ahead of the curve when it comes to hosting online gatherings. Its popular GreenLeaders course is offered online and its six working groups continue to meet using GoTo Meetings allowing attendees from across the country to participate.
Prediction: The lines between ecommerce and in-person retail will continue to blur.
Even before the pandemic turned everything upside down, the industry landscape had been showing interesting new fault lines. Once touted as “disrupters,” we’re now seeing many of the online DTC brands embrace more traditional strategies and constructions. In addition to embracing brick-and-mortar retail, a number of these companies are promoting new cooling elements—a feature that’s been a mainstay in the wholesale market for nearly a decade. At the same time, more traditional brands and retailers have really stepped up their game when it comes to ecommerce; and options like boxed shipping and at-home trials have simply become run-of-the-mill expectations.
In a lot of ways, the playing field has been leveled, which leads us to wonder: Who in the bedding industry is really driving innovation these days? And what does that innovation even look like?
More consumers than ever before took the plunge and purchased a mattress online for the first time this past year. And while many retail stores upped their ecommerce platforms and offerings to meet the needs of the pandemic, we expect that some of these features and functionality will become incorporated back into the physical store moving forward. A hybrid shopping experience gives consumers the freedom to research and comparison shop on their own, while also delivering the tactile experience of in-person rest-testing—as well as the reassurance of an expert salesperson, if they so choose. Simply put, it allows retailers to meet consumers where they’re most comfortable. The growing interest among ecommerce brands to either open their own locations or partner with retailers also supports this notion. While brick-and-mortar retailers and ecommerce sellers used to fall into distinctly separate categories, we are now seeing a situation where bedding and mattress sellers are meeting somewhere in the middle. Although more consumers are comfortable buying a mattress online than once thought, there is also a clear consumer desire for in-store shopping options.