Markets have always been a mainstay for the bedding industry, serving as a place where manufacturers can test new features and materials and retailers can explore new products and collections. But throughout the pandemic, the idea of attending a bedding market wasn’t an option for many retailers and industry professionals. So manufacturers adapted, supplementing their in-person showrooms with virtual meetings and digital showcases to ensure that all of their retail partners could stay in the loop on the latest products. As we look to the year ahead and, hopefully as a society, feel more confident and comfortable with business travel, we’re curious to see how how the role of in-person markets may evolve.
What role will the in-person bedding market serve moving forward?
Steve Rusing | President of US Sales | Tempur Sealy
Las Vegas and High Point Markets provide a unique opportunity to showcase our products, to engage with our retail partners and for retail buyers to experience our products in person. This is also consistent with what we know about consumer preferences—our research shows that consumers overwhelmingly prefer to try a mattress before they buy it. We understand that with a mattress, it’s important to touch, feel and physically lie on the product; this is what attending a physical market can offer to retailers, so they can have that experience before committing to flooring new products, and then bring it to life for their shoppers. Plus, we design our showrooms to be best-in-class examples of an in-store experience, to generate conversations around where Tempur Sealy can be a partner with our retailers through our Retail Edge program in offering both turnkey and customized solutions for their retail floors. Of course, while we’ve all adapted to working in a virtual world, it’s wonderful to once again have the opportunity to engage in-person and continue to build on our strong relationships by meeting our customers in-person. We look forward to future markets, and the opportunity to again showcase all of our Tempur Sealy brands.
Stephen Chen | President | MLILY USA
Looking ahead, and assuming the COVID-19 situation improves, we believe the in-person bedding markets will likely be as strong as they were pre-COVID. During the pandemic, we, like many others, conducted virtual meetings and presented digital showrooms, which were very helpful, but moving forward I think it’s important to realize that people want to get out and conduct business face-to-face so they can touch and feel products. That can’t be done digitally. The digital elements will still be useful for those that are not able to attend markets, but we believe the human interaction that face-to-face meetings provide will always be the default as the way to do business.
Melanie Huet | CCO & CMO | Serta Simmons Bedding
At SSB, we’re taking a digital-first approach—helping us learn faster and better respond to the needs of both consumers and retail partners. In 2020, SSB created its first “virtual showcase” in an effort to protect the health and safety of our team and our customers—and we were pleasantly surprised by the positive response to this new way of sharing our latest products and innovations in a fully digital way. Looking ahead, we see changing consumer habits and predict that in-person tradeshows will evolve as consumers evolve. Traditional tradeshows will be less attended and may morph into regional events. SSB is setting up its future to leverage our headquarters facilities in Georgia and other spaces to provide our customers with a personalized preview. Our path forward is multidimensional, combining virtual options with more intimate, in-person opportunities to connect with our customers and showcase our products. We see this as a great opportunity to continue strengthening our relationships and providing even more exceptional service.
David Binke | CEO | King Koil
There will always be a place for in-person bedding trade shows in our industry. As the pandemic ebbs and buyers become more comfortable at larger events, we will see Las Vegas resume its place as the industry’s leading show. What validates this for me were King Koil private events we did over the past year with our customers. We had great success hosting select events at our factory in Arizona. We were able to bring in small groups, show them product and give them a tour of our production facilities and entertain together. These were well received, and the results were great. It reinforced for us the importance of in-person events, even with all the necessary precautions being taken.
Bryan Smith | President & CEO | Southerland
In-person markets will remain important to our industry because of the nature of our products. In order to truly understand what the product looks like, feels like and how it performs, retailers will always need to experience them in person. Visits to our showroom, either at market or at regionally positioned showings, allow our dealers not only to feel the differences between product assortments, but also better understand how our products can be merchandised on the retail floor. While we have had success with virtual product launches and showrooms out of necessity during COVID, I think that these in-person experiences will be hard to replace in the long term. What I think may change as we look toward the future is whether these in-person markets will continue to be held at the traditional locations or if they will become more regionally focused events. We have seen a trend toward more retailers visiting our manufacturer showrooms across the country, where they can make the trip in a day versus spending multiple days at Las Vegas Market, for example. Time will tell, but I think there is certainly some paradigm shifts like this that may have an impact on the future of markets as we know them today.
Andrea Antinoozzi | Director Of Merchandising | BEDGEAR
High Point and Las Vegas Markets give us a chance to meet with our retail customers and prospects in a one-on-one setting, which is something you cannot do virtually. Being able to touch, feel and even test the products is crucial for retailers so that they are not placing orders for new products sight unseen. Both in-person markets also give us the chance for us to hear first-hand the voice of the retail customers: what is going on inside their stores, what is working, what is not working. Having this insight gives us the opportunity to continue to innovate our products that buyers and owners are specifically looking for to fill voids in their assortment. These constructive conversations rely heavily on being able to interact with products in-person. Any in-person time that exhibitors can have with their retail customers is crucial. With our standard markets being rescheduled and travel being restricted in 2020 and 2021, we didn’t get the chance to meet with all our retail customers. Moving forward, we are eager to welcome everyone back to the BEDGEAR showroom as we follow all safety protocols to carry on a safe and effective market.
Nick Bates | President | Spring Air
We made a key change in our product introduction cycle earlier this year, no longer following a tradeshow model for launching new models. Our new approach allows us to collaborate with our retail partners and our licensees across the country to better fill their merchandising gaps, in a more realistic timeframe, when they need them. While we no longer use the market timeline to drive our product development cycle, we certainly still see benefits in attending in-person markets. For example, networking and in-person product reviews are elements of these events that are hard to replicate virtually. This year, the combination of our virtual products launches, followed by in-person market, has enabled us to promote our new product lines to wider audience, building momentum and helping our sales force presell the lines heading into a market. We have found that this process speeds up decision-making because our retail partners walk into market ready to buy. At the end of the day, I think markets are here to stay, but the traditional timeline and buying/ selling processes as we know them today may shift as the industry has learned to adapt to new ways of doing business over the last year and half.