Trends Boost Mattress Pads

Jeff Linville, Michele SanFilippo, February 21, 2005

New York — A shift toward benefits-oriented products and the rocketing popularity of foam have spurred much of the interest occurring in the mattress pad and topper category.

Driving this renewed interest according to U.S mattress pad suppliers, has been the consumer's growing concern for well being and better sleep and a decreased need for pads as protective barriers. Recent trends have blurred the lines between traditional mattress pads and toppers, which are used to enhance the mattress' sleep surface. Moderate and better priced pads now often include some improvement of the sleep surface.

Ron Murphy, vice president of Hollander Home Fashions' Laura Ashley utility division, said that the overriding influence has been an innovation story that is helping the category drive sales. “Mattress pads haven't really changed all that much recently except for fabrications. Therefore, Hollander is trying to bring innovation and some excitement to the category with two new items we've developed in the last eight months,” he added.

One of Hollander's patented innovations has to do with construction. Its new Cuddlebed Supersides mattress pad offers a gusseted side wall in three comfort heights for a good, better, best sleeping experience. The choices feature a one-inch High Loft, one and three-quarters inch Supreme Loft or two and a half inch Ultimate Loft gusset, which increase the amount of support. Cuddlebed Supersides pads range from $29.99 to $49.99, depending on the level of loft.

The other new innovation by Hollander involves fill. The company's Dreamy Nights mattress pad features a down alternative cluster unlike the usual bonded polyester fill as well as a one-inch gusset for a pillowtop feel. Hollander borrowed this technology from its pillow business and applied it to pads, knowing that the clusters cradle can move with the body and help eliminate pressure points. A visual of the cluster fibers is displayed on the packaging, so consumers can see what's inside the pad and better decide if it is worth $49.99 for a queen size.

“I think the industry has tried to make its products different every year, but there are just so many ways to change the construction with fabric, thread count, etc.,” Murphy explained. “So far, we've had great success in selling this story to retailers so that they can have something new to sell in mattress pads.”

He said consumers understand that these products can extend the life of their mattress and enhance sleep, and they are willing to pay more. “If you speak to the consumer and are able to show them a reason why they should trade up, they will,” said Murphy. “You have to explain how the product is going to improve their sleep.”

“In fact, the lines between mattress pads and toppers have really blurred in that suppliers are focused on enhancing the sleep experience as opposed to protecting the mattress. It's really about the benefits,” said Murphy.

According to Scott Walters, director of product development at Louisville Bedding Company, “A growing number of consumers are purchasing mattress pads for comfort — a lot of it due to the spa and hotel amenities trend. People are taking this trend and translating it into their own homes.”

Walters went on, “There's a shift going on toward more performance-driven features, which has been affecting several segments of the business. We think that the traditional, functional mattress pads will move away into fabrics on mattress tops such as double and circular-knits with nicer, smoother finishes and surfaces.”

From an amount of fill perspective, Walters said the industry has hit a wall in terms of different things it can do to make pads unique. “There's certainly opportunity for some new constructions and fills,” said Walters. “Packaging is critical. Talking about the benefits products offer is essential. We don't really do any national advertising as an industry, so there isn't the same kind of awareness as there is in the mattress business.”

Joe Blazar, director of marketing for the consumer products division at Leggett & Platt, said, “The bedroom has become a haven for most people today. People live on their beds much like they do on their conventional sofas. They can use toppers to improve their bedding experience and add more comfort.”

The dollar impact is the driver, he said, because it is a higher ticket item that doesn't take up much space. “It's the foam that creates the comfort that provides the enhancement,” he added. “Down is also still one of the leading properties in this category because of the warmth it provides and the visual presentation it offers.”

Blazar believes the industry is just starting to see the consumer react to foam, and sales will start to reflect this trend. “Foam is causing consumers to trade up by buying new bedding sets and buying or upgrading present pads or toppers,” he said, adding that there will be even more activity this fall with retailers hitting the category hard.

“When Pillowtex went away, it put the mattress pad business into play. It used to be a very sleepy category and people were forced to rethink it in terms of placements,” said Fritz Kruger, vice president of marketing at Pacific Coast Feather, who also stressed the importance of the new benefits orientation. “It used to be about bed skirts that would fit as opposed to those that didn't, and now there is much more of a focus on the benefits that each product offers,” said Kruger. “It's a much more shoppable category that has improved its offerings, how it differentiates itself and the benefits it provides.”

He then pointed to the growth of the mattress industry with newer options in air mattresses and visco-elastic foam. “A new mattress is a way to enhance your sleep, but so is adding layers with fiber beds, featherbeds and mattress toppers,” he said.

Aging baby boomers looking to purchase these kinds of products offer another favorable reality. “Fiber beds, featherbeds and visco-elastic toppers all feel different and perform differently, so the consumer just needs to try out which one works for them.”

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