Mattress mfrs. targeting younger generations

Hoping to ride the coattails of the fast-growing youth furniture market, several mattress manufacturers have developed products exclusively for the younger generation.

Producers are hoping to get parents out of the habit of either buying their children the cheapest twin-size mattress on the market, or simply giving them a mattress once used by another family member.

"Their children have young, developing bodies, and we have to emphasize ... the importance of sleeping on a good mattress," said Tim Oakhill, brand manager for Simmons' BackCare line, which will roll out a line of children's mattresses later this year & Let your fingers find a mattress - via telephone

Since the unnamed BackCare kids line will be only the second nationally distributed line of children's bedding (Sealy has the other), it's impossible to say how many mattresses are purchased for children each year.

Data from the International Sleep Products Association, the mattress industry's trade association, show that 29.6% of all mattresses sold in 1999 were twin size. Producers assume that the majority of those units were purchased for children, but there's no way to know for sure, since twin size also is purchased frequently for guest bedrooms or by single adults.

"Since we launched our line two years ago, sales have grown, but it has been less than the growth rate of our company," said Mark Wozniak, director of marketing for Sealy-brand products. "The success of our line depends largely on how much emphasis a retailer places on the (children's furniture) category."

Wozniak said the Sealy Kids lineup consists of six models that retail for $99 to $199 in twin size.

Three carry the name "My First Sealy," and the others are labeled "My First Posturepedic" after Sealy's well-known flagship line.

The mattresses include features such as colorful ticking in primary colors, anti-microbial fibers and fabric protector to help with the inevitable stains.

Oakhill said the design of his company's kid line hasn't been finalized, but said the mattresses likely would be built with a single-sided design that was hugely successful when it was made part of the flagship Beautyrest line last year.

The single-sided design, which is being added this year to the regular BackCare line, means the mattress doesn't have to be flipped.

On the other hands, other companies, for example Minnesota-based King Koil and California-based Wickline Bedding, also have mattresses marketed specifically for children, but their products have very limited distribution.

While manufacturers say they have emphasized the health benefits for children who sleep on a good-quality mattress, they're not ignoring the marketing possibilities. That's particularly important to Sealy and Simmons, who have two of the industry's best-known brand names.

"The youth market is where brand loyalties are first developed," said Oakhill. "If we can attract them while they're young, they will often become repeat customers as adults."

Wozniak agreed, noting that the product must actually be marketed to two demographic groups -- the children who will sleep on them and the parents who will pay for them.

He said Sealy Kids has been most successful in furniture stores that have youth furniture departments, since a mattress is a natural add-on sale to parents buying bedroom furniture for the youngsters.

"It works well in stores that promote kids furniture as a business unto itself," Wozniak said. "Retailers like Rooms To Go and Slumberland have been very successful with that format ... and we don't see them backing away from it."

Brand-name crib mattresses get boost

High Point -- Although infants are a bit young to begin developing brand loyalty, increasing numbers of them are sleeping on brand-name mattresses in their cribs.

That's because their baby boomer parents are keenly aware of brands, and producers say they're willing to pay a bit more for a brand they can trust.

Mattress mfrs targeting younger generations

None of the nation's leading innerspring bedding producers make crib mattresses, but three of them -- Sealy, Serta and Simmons -- have licensees who use their well-known brand names to grab slices of the $45 million crib mattress market.

"It has always been a good bread-and-butter business for us," said Andy Newmark, senior vice president of sales at Kolcraft, a well-known juvenile products manufacturer who is Sealy's crib mattress licensee. "We think we've got the lion's share of the crib mattress market."

Newmark said Kolcraft positions its Sealy products at the upper end of its crib mattress lineup, which is topped by the Posturepedic Crown Jewel, the name Sealy also uses on its luxury bedding for adults.

He said Sealy models use a crib-sized version of the Posture-Tech innerspring unit Sealy uses in its flagship line.

Simmons, meanwhile, produces crib-sized Pocketed Coil innerspring units at its Janesville, Wis., plant, but the mattresses are assembled by its licensee, Simmons Juvenile Products, a company Simmons spun off in the 1980s.

Newmarksaid brand names are important for crib mattresses because the product is all but an afterthought for expectant parents.

"They will spend a lot of time picking out the crib and the other furniture, but the mattress is a very low priority," he explained. Related post:

And that's why few, if any traditional furniture stores or sleep shops carry crib mattresses. Newmark said three-quarters of all crib mattresses are sold by big-box retailers Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, Sears and Toys "R" Us. - the stores where expectant parents shop the most.

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