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The mattress: technological marvel

From the HGO Merchandiser

 4 July 2017     Michael J. Knell 

If one was to ask the man or woman on the street if a mattress is a technological marvel, the immediate answer is most likely to be no. Having surveyed several of Canada’s leading mattress manufacturers, it could be reported that’s not quite correct. In fact, whether its technology incorporated into the construction of the mattress itself; technology used in the manufacturing process; or, technology used to support the interaction with the consumer, the making, marketing, selling and use of this rectangle used to sleep on has become a technologically sophisticated endeavour.

Technology is also impacting the mattress business in other ways. The emergence of the ‘pure play’ e-commerce retailers (see ‘The boxed bed – selling the mattress online’ elsewhere in this issue) are beginning to change how the industry interacts with the consumer. What’s not immediately appreciated is they are not just disrupting retail; they are also disrupting manufacturing as most of these players make and sell their own product assortment. Generally speaking, the ‘pure play’ e-tailers aren’t offering the consumer established mattress brands.

Adjustable beds, such as this model from Sealy Posturepedic, have crossed over from the healthcare/institutional market to the mainstream consumer market to become one of the fastest growing categories in today’s mattress business.But most Canadian mattress company executives agree the fundamentals haven’t changed. It’s all about building a better bed that’s delivered to the consumer at the best possible price while providing solid margins to the retailer. For most that means using technology to ensure profitability and cost efficiency throughout the supply chain.

“Creating value for the retailer and the end consumer is the best way to ensure profitability,” said David Gèlinas, executive vice president of Zedbed, the specialty mattress maker based in Shawinigan, Quebec. “Cost efficiency is something we never stop working on for a smaller company like Zedbed, it’s a must.”

He believes many mattress manufacturers are missing the value proposition. “They continue to bring to market fairly similar products year after year or they tend to copy each other,” he says. “It’s very difficult to increase the price of the goods when you proposition isn’t different from anything else on the market.”

The need to create differentiation while adding to their value proposition was partly why Zedbed acquired the license to manufacture the Natura World brand last year. “We now have two specialty bedding brands and can claim to produce the largest range of all-foam mattresses in Canada,” Gélinas said. “We continue to pour own high-density foam. This gives us a unique and exclusive feel. We also manufacture adjustable beds to order.”

Zedbed, the foam specialty producer has created a line of mattresses specifically designed to help traditional brick and mortar retailers to compete with the ‘pure play’ online mattress purveyors. The family-owned manufacturer also provides support for the retailer including educational materials and drop shipping.Most industry executives agree the two biggest mattress technology advances of recent years has been the widespread integration of gel and other cooling materials in to the mattress itself, coupled the movement of the adjustable bed out of the specialty/healthcare market into the mainstream.

Steve Millar, vice president and general manager of Tempur Sealy Canada (TSC) notes this evolving mattress technology has significantly slowed the price pressures the industry suffered in the years immediately following the 2008 recession. “Our unit selling price continues to increase year-over-year,” he says, adding this has been fueled by the expansion of company’s Tempur-Pedic, Stearns & Foster and Sealy Posturepedic brands, all of which occupy suggested retail price points above the entry level.

These are brands, he adds, “that continue to drive traffic and conversion in the store. From our market data, we continue to see the trend that average unit selling price is accelerating while unit growth is flat to down.”

TSC retail partners are also building profit in other ways. “In the past three years, we have seen the average ticket grow with retail sales associates selling higher ticket mattress as well as by increasing their attachment rates to adjustable beds and accessories including specialty pillows and mattress protectors,” Millar says.

Click here to read the rest of our report. It begins on Page 36 of the Summer edition of the HGO Merchandiser.


MIFF
Protect-A-Bed
This HGO article was written by:
Michael J. Knell
Michael J. Knell

Michael is the publisher and editor of Home Goods Online. A seasoned business journalist, he has researched and written about the furniture, mattress and major appliance industries in both Canada and the United States for the past three decades.


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