Futon Mattress makers: wake up to marketing

GIVEN THE CURRENT SHAPE OF THE U.S. market, the nation's mattress manufacturers believe that the time is ripe for new approaches to marketing and merchandize these products.

According to the latest retail sales figures from the International Sleep Products Association, year-to-date mattress sales through October, on both a dollar and unit basis, are well behind the comparable period of last year. Unit sales were off by 9.5 percent for the first 10 months of this year, while dollar sales fell 11.1 percent. However, providers still got positive result in the sector of high-end products, details at High-end mattress retailers poised for strong growth

In ISPA's latest futon mattress market forecast, the association said, "Any hopes of a fourth-quarter industry recovery ... have been dashed by the meltdown on Wall Street." ISPA predicted that for all of 2008, dollar sales will plummet by 9.5 percent. "This will be the first industry contraction in dollar sales in over 25 years," ISPA said.

Looking ahead, ISPA forecasted that the industry won't hit bottom until well into 2009. U.S. mattress sales should rise by 4.2 percent for next year as a whole, but given how low the industry sunk this year, this won't be anything to write home about, ISPA said.

Mattress makers wake up to marketing

According to some of the industry's largest manufacturers, this industry needs fresh approaches flit to turn its slide into a climb--not only because of the industry's downturn, but because of the nacre of consumer purchasing patterns.

"A consumer purchases a futon mattress, on average, once every nine years," said Tim Oakhill, executive vice president of marketing for Simmons. "In other words, you have one decade, basically, to sell a consumer--and you can't make a mistake."

Given these aspects of the industry, mattress manufacturers are becoming more aggressive in marketing their products. For Simmons, Oakhill said, part of this effort involves studying consumer purchasing habits and drivers.

"This is an industry issue," Oakhill said. "We're saying, let's study the consumer and then create marketing that's backed up with the facts. It's always about understanding drivers, how and where purchasing decisions are made. Once you figure this out, it'll change your approach to the market."

Sealy's marketing approach is based partly on one particular consumer driver, the desire for a better night's sleep. Toward that end, its 2009 strategy will focus on its Get a Better Six national advertising campaign, which refers to the average number of hours an adult sleeps each night.

"This effort builds brand conviction because today's consumers are aware of how important sleep and its health benefits are, even though we continue to get less than the recommended eight hours of sleep," said Larry Rogers, Sealy's president and chief executive officer. Rogers also said Scaly will work with its retail customers to put co-op spending behind the campaign, "to ensure the message is consistent and clear across all channels, and maximizes the benefits of their expense."

Rogers also said Scaly will engage in "strategic R&D" to develop products that are technologically advanced, along with creating new marketing strategies to push those products.

Innovative marketing and products will also be crucial to Serta in 2009.

"The hot trend and big driver will be value for consumers, and successful marketing and merchandising programs need to reflect this," said Bob Sherman, the company's president. "Serta will continue to invest in growing our retailers' businesses by offering innovative products and marketing programs that will reflect to the consumer's desire for value."

Even with the unfolding of creative marketing and product development, mattress industry executives agree that it will be some time before sales pick up any velocity.

"It doesn't figure to be much of a growth year," said Joe Vicens, executive vice president of 1800mattress.com, the multichannel mattress retailer. Next year, "the focus will be on holding market share and sales numbers," Vicens added. "Consumers will continue to trend toward shopping for the best value. Specialty sleep mattresses that are drop-shippable will also continue to gain consumers' attention because of the lower price."

"Similar to what we observed in 2008, Scaly predicts the bedding industry will likely continue on its current sales plateau into early 2009," Rogers said. "The bedding and overall retail environment and constraints on consumer credit continue to impact consumer spend."

Oakhill's outlook is somewhat more optimistic. He compared the look of the industry now with 10 years ago: "Today, you've got retailers streamlining their point-of-sale strategies. You have the creation of the mattress specialty channel, which is more consolidated but which has given us more thought leaders than 10 years ago. Also, furniture retailers understand this category better now than 10 years ago. Related post: https://futonszone.com/sealy-changes-lines-marketing/

"By the nature of how this category is managing now, I think the industry will do better next year from the marketing approaches they use," Oakhill said.

Larry K. Jones

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