Improving on a good night’s sleep

January 2018—

Innovation continues to drive and define the mattress industry

You could be forgiven for not spending much time thinking about mattresses. After all, these giant rectangles, if they are doing their job properly, are household items that consumers take for granted. But the mattress industry is not static. In fact, recent industry consolidation, both at the retail and manufacturing level, has created a great deal of transition and change. This is affecting merchandising, product promotions and vendor/retailer relationships. The consolidations have created some industry instability, as has the current political climate.

But with housing starts estimated to increase and new innovations in mattresses hitting the market, almost daily it seems, there is much to be positive about whether you are a manufacturer or a retailer. The mattress industry is poised to continue to grow at a healthy rate, while weathering whatever challenges it faces in the years ahead.

Innovations that matter

More and more shoppers are equating the quality of a mattress to a good night’s sleep. Not only have mattress manufacturers turned their attention to the role a mattress plays in delivering restorative sleep, but also the general population is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of sleep to their health.

Certainly, consumers are still focused on price. It’s how they shop, and it is what retailers focus on in their advertising. But according to Kevin Damewood, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Kingsdown, consumers are demanding more quality, better styling and more innovation for their money. “Consumers are also a lot savvier than they once were,” Damewood says. “They continue to do a great amount of online research, and they collaborate on other’s opinions. They are interested in more convenience when shopping for a new mattress. More consumers are pre-shopping online, testing their selections in a store, in person, and then striving to get their purchase delivered home seamlessly and quickly.”

Connecticut-based mattress maker Gold Bond believes innovation for innovation’s sake is no substitute for quality materials such as those used in the company’s Venice mattress.

“Innovation for innovation’s sake isn’t the future for the category. Better quality materials make a higher quality bed,” says Bob Naboicheck, president of Connecticut-based Gold Bond. “In the mattress industry, when you sell a white rectangle you have to be able to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. At Gold Bond, we turn toward innovation while maintaining tried-and-true quality in raw materials to make a better product. We’re not just bringing in the latest innovation to add bells and whistles.”

Brad Warner, owner of Marshall Mattress, knows about innovation. For more than 100 years, Marshall Mattress has built on its reputation in that area. The company’s founder, James Marshall, patented his pocket coil spring design back in 1900. “We work to not just impress the consumer, but also we work to make the bed feel the way it’s supposed to,” Warner says. “And there has to be some perceived value, and hopefully that’s what some of the other brands are doing—refining and restoring usefulness to their programs.”

Mattress Firm recently launched a new campaign designed to drive awareness around technology in mattresses, highlighting two products—the Serta iComfort TempTouch and the Simmons Beautyrest Black Hybrid. The Serta design offers hi-tech memory foam with cooling technology and TempActi Technology, a regulation system that dissipates excess heat. The Simmons introduction combines memory foam with individually wrapped coils supported by triple-stranded Advanced Pocketed Coil Technology.

“Mattress Firm is in constant pursuit of solutions to help Americans sleep better and offer our customers a curated selection of the best sleep products,” said CEO Ken Murphy. “The collaborative partnership between SSB and Mattress Firm brings together renowned industry expertise and creates unparalleled choice and innovative products to help our guests get the best night’s sleep.”

Success in retail

Manufacturers and retailers both have gotten the message from consumers who want to know the truth when they are shopping for a mattress. From making the shopping experience more collaborative by looking through reviews and shopping online, to then testing beds in person in stores, consumers are continually seeking what’s true and what’s fake in finding the right mattress, with the correct support, pressure relief and quality to meet their sleep needs.

Damewood cites Kingsdown’s in-store testing pods as a way to use new technology to guide consumers to the best possible mattress choice. “Consumers are looking for a more tech savvy shopping experience that differs from browsing through white rectangles simply lined up against the wall,” says Damewood. He says Kingsdown’s in-store testing pods deliver a unique, more modern shopping experience. “Our brand agnostic bedMATCH system directs consumers to a handful of mattresses that deliver proper alignment, pressure relief and proper support based on a comprehensive set of measurements.”

Naboicheck feels that the most successful retailers in the bedding category are the specialty stores and the specialty departments within full-line furniture stores. “Those specialists deliver a top-notch service experience when consumers walk in looking for a new mattress.” He explains that a well-trained sales person in a bedding specialty store or a store-within-a-store can showcase choices and deliver a near custom shopping experience. Naboicheck adds, “The brick and mortar retailers are passionate about helping consumers find the best solution for their sleep needs. The Internet-only retailers can’t come close to that.”

Changes in the landscape

The Sleepmaker Portfolio by Marshall Mattress is a collection offering traditional tight-top, pillow-top and comfort-top mattress designs with five distinct comfort choices from extra firm to luxury plush comfort.

Many manufacturers and retailers can probably recall when, not that long ago, department stores and larger furniture stores were dominant in the mattress category. Today, thanks in large part to consolidation, regional retailers have been minimized, while online mattress shopping via has exploded. Bedding has seen a dramatic increase in the importance of sleep shops and warehouse clubs, shifting mattress distribution dramatically.

The bed-in-the-box concept continues to grow, as company’s such as Design Your Own Bed (DYOB) look to disrupt the traditional marketplace. DYOB founder Karen Day Roma says, “We want to help people take charge of that one-third of their life and sleep well with proper musculoskeletal support.” DYOB offers consumers the chance to create their own mattress that is modular, interchangeable and features customized pressure management design.

Roma explains that consumers can select from a variety of environmentally safe foam and latex support materials when designing their DYOB mattress. Then, depending on their body type and the level of pressure displacement needed, the consumer can determine which bedmate option is best for them and their bed partner. Finally, as consumers’ bodies change, they can order extra modular parts. “Authorized chiropractors can perform a precision “bedfitting” to give you the proper musculoskeletal support,” Roma adds.

These changes have forced each channel to zero in and focus on differentiation, Damewood finds. “Many of the larger furniture stores are offering consumers a more haute couture shopping experience with a much more consultative approach to help find the right mattress for each individual person,” he says. “Many of the regional stand-alone stores are more along the lines of where they’ve been in the last 10 years touting value, large selection, promotions and financing programs.”

Warner, whose Marshall Mattress just returned to the U.S. market, has seen continuous growth for the last six years, but acknowledges the impact of multiple mergers and acquisitions in the mattress industry in recent years. “There’s been a lot of confusion on the consumer and retail side,” says Warner. “Consumers may not be able to find what they had bought 10 years ago.” He sees this as an advantage for a long-established manufacturer like Marshall Mattress, because while they have made modifications to their designs over the years, consumers can still find options they recognize from previous purchases.

Kingsdown’s in-store testing pods (inset) are a way retailers are using technology to guide consumers to the best possible mattress choice, such as the company’s Kingsdown Prime mattress.

From reinventing the way mattresses are made to reimagining how consumers shop for them, there are a host of changes happening on the horizon for mattresses. There are many new superior products that will enhance the sleep experience and provide a higher quality of sleep, too. The savvy manufacturer and retailer know that the days of mattresses being thought of as one size fits all are gone, and not coming back.

About the Author

Ginny Gaylor
Ginny Gaylor is an award-winning writer and editor based in Greensboro, N.C. She has more than 15 years of experience writing about the home furnishings industry. She can be reached at