By David Gill
Vendors of basic-bedding products are responding to the fact that Americans can’t get a good night’s sleep these days.
Consumer interest in quality of sleep has grown over the past few years. Results from medical studies have established links between lack of sleep and a host of physical disorders, including high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. With the oldest baby boomers advancing to the age in which the incidence of these health problems increases, it’s no wonder that interest in better sleep has soared.
The recession has provided an even bigger charge to this trend, because people who are under stress for any reason tend to lose sleep. “Sleep is not just to rest your body, but it’s also to restore your body,” said Andrew Schantz, president of the basic-bedding division for JLA Home. “The better you sleep, the better your immune system performs. The better your immune system, the better you cope with stress.”
For the past several years, manufacturers of mattresses have been positioning their products as sleep improvers.
Manufacturers of bed pillows and mattress pads now support the idea of merchandising their products this way. “We market and merchandise our products on a regular basis with the handle of improving your quality of sleep,” said Mandy Talbert, product-development manager for Louisville Bedding. “People want to sleep better, no question, and we work hard to provide them with a better night’s sleep.”
Beth Mack, chief merchandising officer of Hollander Home Fashions, said, “All the health and wellness products have taken center stage these days, in several different categories.” However, Mack also said that the basic-bedding industry has fallen short in this effort. “We have not made great strides,” she said. “We’ve been trying to work with our retail channels, but there’s not enough margin in the pillow business to do a full-court-press advertising campaign, so they shoot it down.”
This hasn’t stopped some vendors from pursuing this line, and in creative ways. Last year, Carpenter introduced two efforts, the sleepbetter.org Web site and Zzzz Across America, a trailer “sleep tour” designed to educate consumers at each of its stops throughout the nation on getting a better night’s sleep.
Dan Schecter, vice president of sales and marketing for Carpenter’s consumer products division, said the mission for these efforts is “to provide easy-to-understand information about sleep without getting bogged down in medical lingo.” These campaigns also underscore Carpenter’s dedication “to providing a high level of comfort and support relative to all manner of sleep surfaces,” Schecter said. “From mattresses to toppers to bed pillows, our focus is on the science behind sleep.”
JLA’s sleep-quality merchandising centers on the components of the products themselves, according to Schantz. “We’ve been pushing for a couple of markets now that we use brushed fibers, which provide more loft and more fill weight than garneted fibers, in our mattress pads,” he said. “At our higher price-point products we blend puff-ball fibers with low-denier microfibers to tell a comfort and support story. The easiest way for us to get this to the consumer is through our packaging, which has call-outs for these features.”
Hollander, too, has displayed the quality-of-sleep benefits of its products on its packaging. Examples include the company’s Natural Elements pillows, introduced last year, with packaging proclaims that it is “ideal for back and side sleepers”; and its Asthma Friendly pillow, with a certification from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Mack said the company is also encouraging retailers to do more about sleep quality at point of sale, in the form of signage “changing the selling story to a more definitive story of comfort,” she said.
Louisville Bedding has adopted an almost in-your-face approach. “We work hard to let consumers know that there are basic questions they should be asking themselves when selecting their bed pillow,” Talbert said. “‘Am I a back sleeper, stomach or side sleeper? Do I prefer a natural pillow (feather or down) over a synthetic fill?’”
Schecter is optimistic that the retailers will see the need for better-sleep merchandising. “Marketing the health and wellness of a good night’s sleep and the importance of proper sleeping ‘tools’ speaks directly to consumer needs and makes an emotional connection,” he said. “We know it resonates by the many calls and letters we get from consumers telling us how their lives have been improved by a great night’s sleep.”