After three years of successful marketing its mattresses in the Asia-Pacific region (including Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Malaysia), Sleep Therapy is expanding full force into China.
Sleep Therapy mattresses were recently introduced to the Singapore and Mainland Chinese markets and in Dubai and Kuwait where consumer demand for quality-made American goods has driven the brand to unprecedented growth possibilities. According to US mattress industry veteran Ed Scott, who serves as President of Wickline Bedding, Chinese consumers are becoming more affluent as their wages improve. Recent statistical reports show that China has a population of 1.366 billion people or one-fifth of the people in the entire world. The November 17, 2014 issue of Time Magazine reports, “…700 million or so Chinese… have attained or are striving for middle class status….” That is more than double the entire US population, and represents a huge marketing opportunity for companies willing to offer authentic, higher quality products to an increasingly affluent middle class.
Scott further notes that recent research confirms that Chinese consumers are aware of superior quality, non-toxic, high performance mattresses imported from the US, and they are willing to pay premium prices for mattresses offering a high degree of satisfaction over the life of the mattress.
“These studies indicate that discerning Chinese consumers are willing to pay prices that range from about 10 percent up to almost 80 per cent higher in the categories that were tested,” says Scott.
There are exciting, ambitious plans for the Sleep Therapy brand in China according to Scott. “The appetite for American-Made products is growing. We are currently shipping several containers a month to China, where the mattresses are sold in Sleep Therapy branded stores.” Unlike in North America, where sleep shops carry a variety of top named brands in one store, brand-name mattresses are sold in single brand stores in China—often with a fair number of competitive brand name stores all located in the same multi-tiered higher-end mall. In some cases American-Made products may be clustered together in a mall so that Chinese consumers looking to purchase higher performance, premium consumer goods can conveniently locate and shop for their new mattress.
Chinese consumers purchase mattresses in a very different way than do American customers. They expect a single brand at a given store. They expect the retail sales associates to be experts on the various lines and models sold under the brand umbrella in their stores. They expect to experience careful, consultative sales, often entailing having tea together and even social visiting and interaction. They expect to carefully experience selected beds and that their sales person will come to fully appreciate their needs, wants and desires as a customer.
At the current rate of store openings, Scott projects there will be 30 Sleep Therapy Stores open by the first quarter of 2015, selling three different American-Made lines under the Sleep Therapy label. Based on past experience and anticipated successful consumer reaction, there will be a total of 100 stores opened by the end of the year 2015, and another 100 stores opened in 2016 and again in 2017.
“We estimate at this point that we will have a total of 300 store openings throughout China by the end of 2017,” says Scott. “If the average higher end mattress store sells an estimated $1 million USD per retail store in a year, this could mean a run-rate of $300 million USD in Sleep Therapy retail sales in China by the end of 2017.”
Marketing plans for the premium priced Sleep Therapy stores will be aimed at reaching targeted middle class and wealthy Chinese consumers by using radio advertising, magazines, social media, the website and even possibly roadside billboards, airport terminal billboards and airline, in-flight seat back advertising. Besides the traditional advertising and promotion venues, Sleep Therapy will also use inbound marketing tools including such social media platforms as Facebook, Weibo, WordPress, QQ. This advertising will be primarily aimed at middle income to higher income homemakers, including upwardly mobile entrepreneurs, young contemporary, married couples, early-adopters and a broad array of consumers who follow trends and products offered by the West. Women are the primary key buyers for premium, higher performance mattresses in the home. The majority of marketing dollars will be focused on attracting these upper middle class and wealthy consumers to the Sleep Therapy stores. These discerning buyers will come looking for answers to their questions. Sales people have to be able to explain why the products they are selling are truly superior. They need a strong product story to tell the customers. The handcrafted, advanced technology Sleep Therapy line offers these retail sales associates a powerful story including demonstrable claims such as innovation in aeration, cooler sleep and higher performance fabrics.
Sleep Therapy, A Unique History and Product Story for Chinese Retailers and Their Customers
Sleep Therapy offers three high-value, premium performance collections, with a long history of design, development and manufacturing excellence from California-based Wickline Bedding, which has been an American leader in technologically advanced sleep systems for over 63 years. The company began handcrafting mattresses in San Diego, California in 1949. A pioneer in the bedding industry, Wickline was a leader with innovative product designs based on technology that would provide superior support, lasting comfort and outstanding performance. Over many decades Wickline’s technology has been recognized by medical doctors, physical therapists and chiropractors for alleviating insomnia and poor sleep posture. Wickline became a subsidiary of the Stylution Group in November 2009.
Michael Malkiewicz, whose family owned and operated the Wickline company, was the architect behind the Sleep Therapy “No Turn” design in 1980—inspired by a service call he made to a consumer who could not manage turning a heavy high-profile two-sided mattress.
“I spent my college summers handling customer service for Wickline, working with customers who had no idea that they had to turn their two sided mattress. The truth was, most people could not turn their queen or king size mattress so they just ignored it eventually developing a body impression,” said Malkiewicz. Malkiewicz remembers one elderly lady requesting that manufacturers create a mattress she did not have to flip. That idea caught Malkiewicz’s attention and he began researching “why we had to turn mattresses in the first place”. Malkiewicz, along with a local San Diego retailer began to test market this unique No Turn design. In the early years the company took a lot of criticism that they were selling half a mattress.
“Our commitment to the design won out as customers, especially women, recognized this as the most female friendly sleep product on the market. We learned back then that customers didn't care so much about the brand as they did about the performance of the product,” stated Malkiewicz. The secret to the “No Turn” Sleep Therapy was the quality of the filling materials. Springs rarely failed—but upholstery layers, especially cotton and lower density foams did. By placing the best quality high density foams on one side of the No Turn construction, Wickline was able to engineer a revolutionary concept in mattress construction. To this day Sleep Therapy offers a superior quality, maintenance-free, non-flip mattress that saves the customer the chore of flipping a heavy mattress. Wickline’s “No Turn” technology has influenced the entire multi-billion dollar bedding industry worldwide—changing how the world sleeps. Today a number of major American brands have followed the innovative Sleep Therapy design marketing single-sided mattresses around the globe.
Malkiewicz continues to advise Wickline in Sleep Therapy product development for Asia and the Middle East, focusing on performance features that will create market separation in a product that is very much a commodity. “Not only does Sleep Therapy separate itself from sameness in features and benefits,” he explains, “but it has also separated itself in the language used in marketing to the end user. Conveying “female friendly” is key in establishing brand trust.”
The three Sleep Therapy lines offer a wide selection of products with a powerful retail story. There will be six introductory and mainline Sleep Therapy mattresses retailing at a range of $899 to $1399 for Queen. For consumers specifically looking for “eco-friendly” or “green” mattresses, there is the four bed Natural Therapy line that features among other components a 100% “certified organic” mattress cover. Sleep Therapy specifically chose a cotton mattress cover supplier that has achieved both GOTS certifications and Textile Exchange OSC 100 certified cotton covers for their Natural Therapy line. The full retail offering is rounded out with a youth premium line called Simply Kids from the Makers of Sleep Therapy. Simply Kids, the world’s #1 selling youth mattress will feature foam encased verticoil, pocket coil and an all foam gel mattress all with removable engineered zippered covers from Inoffa for cleaning.
All of Sleep Therapy’s foams are certified by CertiPUR-US , which certifies that the foams are made without ozone depleters, PBDE flame retardants, mercury, lead, other heavy metals or Phalates that are regulated by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission ( CPSC.)
Sleep Therapy utilizes zoned pocket spring technology from Europe and the United States in its designs. In November 2013, Wickline was one of the first US manufacturers to incorporate Vertically Ventilated Aerated Gel Latex in its Sleep Therapy line to enhance comfort and provide a cooling comfort layer. The Sleep Therapy line also utilizes micro fiber technology and state of the art textiles to add cooling layers nearest the sleeping surface for a consumer’s sleeping comfort.
“People who do not keep up on the trends and realities of the Chinese market often wonder how an American-designed and constructed mattress line can do well in China,” Scott explains. “In the past four years I’ve seen some very significant changes creating opportunities for US products in Asia. The United States has improved its cost competitiveness compared with China. We are now able to offer higher brand value at the same price points as our Chinese –made competitors. By offering American Made Sleep Therapy, Chinese consumers will get the benefits of our superior mattress components such as certified CertiPUR-US® foams, first generation steel, performance fabrics and American hand craftsmanship. The key factor that is very important to the Chinese consumer is when we say Made in America, Sleep Therapy provides these consumers with exactly what we are claiming is in our mattresses. There is no chance that we will produce a “fake” product or make claims that are not there. We place law tags and origin authenticity on every mattress according to US regulations. Even though our beds are sold in China, they are made here in America, and we are very clear about all claims made for our materials, the processes and the finished features and benefits offered by Sleep Therapy beds.”