It wouldn’t be summer market if we didn’t start out our recap by mentioning scorching temperatures and “slower-than-anticipated” foot traffic. It’s become a pattern. Thankfully, this more laid-back setting once again served as the perfect backdrop for longer, more meaningful conversations—and even though the market was short on foot traffic, it wasn’t short on enthusiasm. Wandering about the World Market Center, our team was able to sit down with a number of manufacturers and really dive deeper into the state of the industry and where it’s heading.
Across the board, we sensed anxiety about the continually shifting nature of the industry. With Tempur-Sealy returning to Mattress Firm, there is plenty of uncertainty about how the revived relationship will play out in the months and years to come—and the impact it will have on the industry at large. In some ways, it could have a positive effect: when two of the biggest players team up, it can elevate and amplify the conversation farther and wider. But at the time same, how will the newly mended partnership impact current placements on retail floors—at Mattress Firm in particular, but across all mattress showrooms as well?
Of course, this sense of uncertainty extends beyond this specific partnership. The feeling of precariousness plaguing the category seems to be fueled by the sheer number of possibilities brewing in the bedding and mattress industry. It no longer feels implausible that some of the biggest brands could fully shift gears from retail distribution to direct-to-consumer—just as it felt almost inevitable that Casper would eventually make its debut at the Las Vegas Market. If the bed-in-a-box boom has taught us anything, it’s that with a little bit of strategic thinking and an influx of investor dollars smaller upstarts do have the power to turn the entire industry on its head.
Some of the most exciting conversations we had at market were those that leaned more towards the ideological. How can we break away from traditional approaches and infuse new energy and innovation into the industry? What can we all be doing to empower diverse voices and become more welcoming to new ideas? What role should sustainability play as we move forward? Is there a greater purpose to all of this?
Throughout the showrooms, we heard more and more about collaboration and transparency, calls to reframe the retail process to make it more consultative and talk of the responsibility manufacturers and retailers have to educate and support customers. Rather than pushing back on the same roadblocks again and again, these discussions reinforced the fact that true progress is achieved by taking a critical eye to the realities of the current climate—and choosing to see those issues as opportunities for growth.
Who’s to say what the sleep industry will look like in the coming years. But no matter what, we’re happy to see that—in the face of uncertainty—there’s still plenty of creative and optimistic thinkers who are committed to pushing the marketplace forward.
Fresh, Consumer-Centric Branding
This market, we were impressed by the wide variety of creative branding, marketing and styling updates across many of the different product categories. But even more so, it was the stories of how these looks came to be that really stood out to us. More than ever before, we heard about the extensive consumer research used to inform new branding choices—both on an individual collection level and for more overarching company positioning decisions. This research not only reestablishes the consumer at the center of the marketing equation, it can also help mitigate the risk of trying something new. It’s concrete reassurance that these new updates will really connect with consumers. But even amongst the companies who were not touting their market research, we still saw a more thoughtful and comprehensive approach to consumer-facing branding. Whether taking inspiration from other product categories or reimagining what is possible in the retail space, the most noteworthy branding packages were those designed with a specific consumer in mind.
Serta surprised everyone this market by unveiling a new update to its iComfort collection. Coming just eight months after its last debut, this refreshed line-up is Serta Simmons Bedding’s most accelerated product launch in recent years. While the company’s new corporate structure allowed for the expedited development, that doesn’t mean it was hastily put together. In fact, Serta first invested in comprehensive consumer segmentation research, delving deeper into who is buying the iComfort brand and what they are looking for. Doing so helped them zero in on cooling and pressure relief as the primary features. Additionally, these insights also informed the aesthetics of the line, including the snowflake iconography used to visually communicate the step-up program and the more modern color-blocking look of the POP headboards.
There have been a lot of changes at King Koil recently. Over the past few years, the global licensee brand has shaken up its corporate leadership and introduced a wide array of new products. For this market, the company focused on bringing that same evolution to its marketing. While the brand carries an ultra-luxury reputation abroad, it hasn’t held such a designation in the US for quite some time. With the goal of elevating its marketing to match this high-end positioning, King Koil turned to in-depth consumer research to evaluate all of its marketing assets. Exploring everything from new logo designs, colors and fonts to brand pillars and positioning statements, the company was able to establish a more cohesive look and feel across all of its collections—grouping everything under the banner of “We bring sleep home.” With new visuals and an updated website on the horizon, King Koil is on track to reestablish itself as a leader in luxury and wellness.
We saw a number of previously OEM-only manufacturers turning their sights on branded distribution this market—and NCFI was one of the most notable. The long-time supplier for BedInABox.com, the components maker has officially merged with the boxed brand and is also introducing its own products to the retail sphere. As part of this shift, the company understood that it first needed to invest in making its brand more unified. Using extensive focus group research, it fine-tuned the aesthetics of both its product styling and packaging choices—even finding some surprising results in the process. By utilizing these insights as a jumping off point, NCFI created a cohesive visual story that serves to elevate the key features of its mattresses.
Consumer research isn’t the only way to effectively revitalize a dormant brand. Case in point: Spring Air’s new Nature’s Rest collection. As a widespread licensee network, the company believes in the power of collaboration—and it works to foster this by bringing together a cross-section of top talent to serve on specialized committees. Each committed to brainstorming new ideas for its designated area of expertise, these groups work to infuse fresh thinking into all aspects of the company. A long-time legacy brand for the company, Spring Air reimagined Nature’s Rest as a five-model, all-latex line-up that carries with it a strong “natural sleep” story. Building upon that theme, the company’s specialized branding committee crafted a comprehensive branding packaging that drew inspiration from America’s National Parks. With POP materials that incorporate vintage-style art prints and cult-favorite Pendleton blankets in place of traditional foot protectors, the collection’s branding isn’t designed to be everything for everyone—but rather, it tells a cohesive story that will connect with certain consumers on a deeper, more personal level.
Always an eye-catching presence at market, BEDGEAR once again wowed market attendees with its unique and engaging approach to the in-store experience. Beyond its clever use of the front window display, the brand also showcased a variety of POP and display options that are available to retailers of all categories and sizes. Its new space-saving vertical racking system makes it much easier for new and different retail spaces to feature BEDGEAR’s products. Adding bedding and mattress products to a technology store, for example, gives a new dimension to the product assortment—and the visual appeal of the racking system is hard to deny. By continuing to buck the more traditional approaches to bedding retail, BEDGEAR has created more innovative in-store resources that always put the consumer front and center.
With origins in the mental health field, weighted blankets have historically been used to help calm children with sensory processing disorders, but everyone can benefit from their soothing features. The weighted blankets of today have received some cosmetic upgrades—the ones we saw at market were sleek, with very evenly distributed weight created by the presence of glass beads in the quilted pockets of the blanket. Most came with soft and colorful duvet covers as well. But the general weighted blanket concept is fairly simple: they are constructed to evenly distribute weight over the body to create deep touch pressure stimulation—firm but gentle pressure similar to a hug or being held that relaxes the nervous system. Weighted blankets make children and adults feel calmer and more relaxed because they facilitate a feeling of security and can help pull individuals out of a prolonged state of alertness.
The sheer prevalence of new weighted blanket product introductions this summer marks a clear shift in industry focus. Today’s consumer has a holistic perspective on health and, as more and more scientific research shows, quality sleep is essential to overall health and well-being but increasingly hard to come by. Without proper rest, individuals are more susceptible to myriad health problems. Weighted blankets can aid in solving this problem as well as supporting general well-being. Not only can a consumer use a weighted blanket to sleep at night, but also to relax after a long day. And the value proposition for a weighted blanket is clearly oriented toward health and wellness—which will likely remain a key focus of the bedding and mattress industry moving forward.
Featuring a seven-layer fabrication and smaller, four-inch pockets to ensure even weight distribution and minimal noise, Zensory from PureCare’s construction features and benefits support the pursuit of weighted wellness. With three-tiers, the line includes two adult weighted blankets in 15lb and 20lb, and three optional duvet covers in fashionable colors that feature reversible velvety fleece and soft Tencel Lyocell designs. The removable duvets are fully washable and feature a color-match tie allowing customers to easily reconnect the duvet to the weighted blanket. Treated with Antimicrobial Silver Product Protection, the new line even includes options for kids. The brand is offering a seven pound option that includes a reversible duvet cover in soft Minky fleece and Tencel.
Featuring several innovations that set it apart from the typical weighted blanket design, the TRUBlanket uses tiny polished glass beads to ensure that the blanket is not noisy. Using a fresh diamond stitching pattern with smaller blocks, the TRUBlanket creates an especially even distribution of weight and features smooth 400 thread count cotton weave. With extra loop ties, the TRU Blanket keeps its inner blanket connected to the zippered duvet cover for added warmth in the winter. As a finishing touch, the TRUBlanket is embroidered with the word “happiness” on the bottom corner of the duvet cover to promote positivity and contentment. Retailing at $247 in the 15-pound version and $257 in the 20-pound version, TRUBlanket is available direct to consumers.
Malouf’s Anchor Weighted Blanket is available in two sizes and three weights per size, allowing sleepers to have a throw version for general relaxation or a queen version to help them sleep at night. The brand’s website offers advice on choosing the appropriate size and weight. Also using glass beads to create gentle pressure, the inner and outer blankets in Malouf’s model are both washable. Featuring channel stitching on the outer blanket as well as silky soft microfiber, the Anchor sports a sophisticated aesthetic while offering soft comfort feels, stain resistance and allergy protection. Consumers can choose from two classic colors—ash or driftwood. For every Anchor Weighted Blanket purchased, Malouf will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Malouf Foundation, which fights child sex trafficking and exploitation.
With a clear emphasis on features that consumers can easily see and understand, the summer market also introduced numerous new innovations in cooling. From MLILY’s Power Breeze Sleep System—a mattress made of breathable material atop a power-base with built in fans—to the straightforward step-up story inherent to Serta’s iComfort relaunch to the new AURIA climate controlled sleep system from Sleep Research Technologies, cooling is more top of mind than ever—and rightfully so. Sleep temperature is another huge factor impacting how individuals sleep.
Because our temperatures drop in order to initiate sleep, a cool environment—ideally 60-67º F—can speed the process and help us get sleepier faster. While in the past cooling could feel like a mystical or overly complicated feature with varying types of phase change materials in the mix, many of the innovations we saw at market simplified the benefit, making it easier for a retailer to explain and simpler for a consumer to understand. Particularly, the majority of innovations we saw offered more mechanical applications.
Powering the AURIA is Sleep Research Technologies’ new, robust SRT-9000 climate control module. Using convection currents and a process known as “inversion,” the system creates a micro-climate around the entire perimeter of the sleep environment to maintain a doctor-recommended temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Creating a cooler or warmer sleeping environment depending on the individual’s requirements, the thermostatic control ensures that the processed air gently cascades an invisible cocoon of cool, filtered air. However, what truly sets the AURIA apart is its ability to help the sleep achieve “Thermo-Neutrality”—a thermal balance between the temperature of the body and the sleep environment.
MLILY’s Power Breeze Sleep System offers consumers a package deal that includes a mattress and standard adjustable base. Using a fan powered by an exceptionally quiet motor installed under the bed within the base, the product creates a cooling effect when the fan pushes air up through the mattress—circulating the cooler air to the top of the bed. Within the base are two fans, one in the foot and one in the head, while the mattress is designed with channels to move the air throughout the bed. Together, the mattress with base retails for $4,000.
Developed with the guidance of in-depth research and testing, Serta’s iComfort relaunch is the first significant innovation under new leadership. Featuring a memory foam layer infused with carbon fiber for cooling as well as strength and resiliency, the iComfort system channels heat away from the body and provides exceptional strength for back and neck support. With a very clear step up story, increases in cooling power are indicated by distinctive snowflake icons on each model. The relaunch will be fully rolled-out in October.
Smart Sleep Gets Smarter
While smart beds were certainly popular at winter market, the updates to smart sleep products this market emphasized automation and unobtrusiveness. Designed to help support consumers’ desire to be healthier and more efficient by recording data on how its users sleep, adjusting to their sleep needs and even offering tips to help improve sleep, Smart Beds are the pinnacle of sleep technology right now.
At the same time, there is some skepticism about bringing technology into the bedroom. Is data collection secure? Does sleep data tracking actually impede our ability to sleep well or does it help us improve? Sleep technology companies like ReST, Tempur-Pedic and iOBED by King Koil all address these burgeoning concerns as consumers weigh the benefits of smart sleep innovation and eagerly seek the benefits they can provide.
Built around a patented pressure-sensing technology that is seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the mattress, the ReST Bed measures the unique shape of the user’s body and the pressure it exerts upon the mattress, using a sensor that records data on the sleeper’s movement. This information powers the surface of the mattress to automatically adjust in any combination of firmness or plushness—and these levels are adjusted throughout the night.
To make sleep tracking less invasive, ReST has developed a sleep quality monitor that requires no wearables or charging of devices. The patented technology enables the bed to measure several unique items such as body position and bed exit and entry. It also reports sleep duration, efficiency, stages and cycles, along with restlessness and respiration rate. ReST focuses on purposeful insights and customization. Rather than technology for the sake of wow-factor, the ReST Bed offers actionable insights into sleep and employs artificial intelligence to thoroughly customize the sleep experience.
Combined with adaptive Tempur-Pedic mattresses, the TEMPUR-Ergo Smart Base creates an integrated system that offers personalized sleep coaching and a foundation that automatically responds to your needs. Using a pair of sleep monitoring sensors to capture data, without the use of either microphones or cameras, this secure and anonymous data collection allows users to opt-out, or even temporarily pause their sleep tracking at any time. When snoring is detected, the Tempur-Pedic Sleeptracker automatically adjusts the smart base to raise or lower the sleeper’s head to a position that may reduce snoring. The TEMPUR-Ergo Smart Base Collection consists of two options and will be first available at TEMPUR-PEDIC Stores across North America in August 2019, with expanded retail availability planned for later this year and in 2020.
Through a strategic alliance with South Korea-based iOBED, King Koil will be exclusively manufacturing and distributing a new lineup under the “Smartlife Mattress by King Koil” moniker, globally. Utilizing a scientific algorithm that powers its smart cells to adjust the mattress automatically to fit a consumer’s unique body shape, weight, sleep position and preferences, the Smartlife Mattress by King Koil—powered by iOBED’s technology—offers consumers real-time sleep monitoring and data analysis for direct feedback on sleep quality. Each mattress incorporates 80 individual smart cells and eight independently controlled zones from head to toe. Smartlife Mattress by King Koil has also incorporated a built-in alarm that wakes sleepers with a gentle motion instead of a shocking noise.
Working Around Tariffs
Tariffs have been top of mind for many bedding companies for quite some time now. While, in theory, these economic duties aim to better support American companies - the reality is that manufacturers, retailers and consumers often end up shouldering the impact of price increases. But after nearly a year, the bedding industry seems to have found stable ground in how to work around both the tariffs and anti-dumping laws. For some manufacturers, this has meant shifting away from production facilities in China to instead focus on other countries in Southeast Asia. In at least one instance, we heard from one manufacturer that was investing in a new US-based factory. Regardless of the solutions, it’s clear that mattress makers are finding new ways to prevent the trickle-down effect from impacting their (or their retail partners’) bottom lines.
Known for its ecommerce acumen, Classic Brands has built an extensive portfolio of roll-packed specialty mattresses that help retailers compete against online sellers. In recent years, the company has been nimble with its manufacturing, shifting its production capabilities to partners across Southeast Asia to avoid the added costs of Chinese tariffs. At the summer market, Classic Brands debuted a new line-up aimed at retailers that may be worried about how the Chinese trade decisions may impact their showroom assortment. Starting at $199, the new three-bed Value Pedic collection is a straight-forward, all memory foam option at a super entry-level price point. While somewhat limited in features, the line is a valuable placement—especially for discount retailers who have benefited from low-cost models. Coupled with its new high-end Sleep Options and Natural Loft collections, Classic Brands is giving retailers even more opportunities to connect with consumers across all demographics and budgets.
While still relatively new to the US, MLILY has built a solid reputation for itself abroad. Though most of the company’s manufacturing has been based in China, it has also maintained facilities in countries like Thailand, Serbia and Spain. Switching gears to focus on these factories has allowed the company to continue to grow within the US without the added pressure of tariffs. MLILY is further investing in its American footprint with its new factory in South Carolina. Currently used as an assembly site, the company is in the process of expanding the facility—and by the end of the year, it will be a full-service operation that covers everything from pouring foam to assembling the mattresses. The newly debuted Ego mattress will serve as the company’s flagship bed in the United States and will be made at this factory—allowing the company to eliminate the tariffs affect on its pricing or production. This new luxury hybrid mattress delivers zoned support and enhanced temperature regulation in a roll-packed design, to further elevate the boxed bed category.