SIZE MATTERS; LUXURY MATTRESSES ARE A HIT, BUT THICKER SILHOUETTES CAN BE A TIGHT FIT FOR RETAILERS
In luxury bedding, fat pillowtops and high-profile mattress sets are all the rage. And rage is what many consumers feel when they find that their expensive bed linens don't fit their new mattress.
It's a growing problem for bedding retailers, for whom product returns and angry customers are a costly combination.
Retailers have taken remedial steps to cut down on this element of surprise by warning customers in advance that their sheets, bedspreads and heirloom bed frames may not fit that fancy best futon mattress. The simple tape measure, once confined to tailor shops, has become standard equipment in bedding departments.
Some bedding vendors, including Tempur-Pedic, are addressing these size matters with a new low-profile sleep set.
Judy Blackledge, an owner of Blackledge Furniture in Corvallis, Ore., has been impressed with the sales of the Tempur-Pedic Deluxe Swedish Sleep System, an $1,800 item that is by far the lowest-profile luxury bed on her floor.
"From our standpoint, too thick isn't necessarily better," Blackledge said. "Tempur-Pedic is very flat, very `non-pillowtoppy.' "
To minimize surprise, Blackledge includes measurements on each display and provides tape measures.
"We ask them to measure the bed at home and call if they want us to order the low-profile foundation or change the order," Blackledge said. "It is very cost-ineffective for us to have to make multiple deliveries. In our sleep center, 90 percent of the beds are bigger and thicker than what Mrs. Jones has now.
"Women have tremendous investments in their bed linens," she continued. "These are not inexpensive with the sheets, the duvet covers, the shams, and on and on."
At Mattress Discounters, luxury bedding buyers are given a paper tape measure and asked to measure their old bed when they get home and phone back prior to delivery if they will need a new low-profile foundation, low-profile bed frame or both.
"When consumers see these mattresses in our store, they don't seem as high as when they put them in their bedroom," said Steve Newton, president and chief executive officer. "We have them measure it against their own bed -- and their own nightstand. That's one of the big issues. They find that they are now reaching down to the nightstand."
When a customer does purchase a luxury sleep set, Mattress Discounters gives her a 20 percent-off coupon from Linens 'n Things for the new, larger sheets.
"It's something we have to make people aware of, without frightening them off," Newton said. "There is a very real possibility that they will have to change all that bedding when they buy a new queen size futon mattress."
Bob Davidow, president of Benchmark Home Furnishings in Olathe, Kan., gives a free set of sheets to every purchaser of a luxury bed.
"It's an extra reason to buy," Davidow said. "When you sell luxury bedding, it is very important to make the sheets available in the store. If the consumer has to go somewhere to find it, they delay the sale."
Davidow also gets a few things in writing prior to the delivery. To cut down on bed returns due to height problems, purchasers of high-profile luxury beds are required to sign a statement acknowledging that they were offered both a high- and low-profile foundation and that they measured the height to ensure that they know what they want.
American Furniture Warehouse in Englewood, Colo., also takes the guesswork out. "To give a realistic measure of height, we show many of the beds on standard frames," said Pete Parker, the retailer's bedding buyer. "As far as the height issue [is concerned], she could either get a low-profile frame or a low-profile boxspring."
Blackledge would like to see bedding, bed frame and bedroom furniture producers work closer together.
"Some of these super-thick mattresses are destroying the headboard market," Blackledge said. "We find it difficult because headboards, footboards and rails seem to be the dominant look in the premium master bedroom suites. Yet, they don't work at all with these super-big, thick, high-profile mattresses."
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