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Online Pad/Pillow Business Grows

Stefan Hunter DownliteStefan Hunter Downlite
NEW YORK - When it comes to how the pillow and pad category is performing in the thriving e-commerce space, the answer seems to be "it depends," but there's a general consensus that the business is growing.
     "Market-share wise, we see a similar amount of pillows and pads bought online as in stores. One exception would be feather beds and fiber beds, where we see more sales online due to the size of the item as well as convenience," said Stefan Hunter, Downlite's director of ecommerce.
     Bret Kelley, president of White Loft, a maker of silk comforters, pillows and pads, told HTT, "Pillows are the most personal thing on the bed. It's like buying shoes." Making the point that customers often want to feel and touch and try out a pillow at the point of purchase.
     Nevertheless, he continued, "We're definitely seeing the trend of online, but more so in comforters than in pillows and pads."
     Andy Schantz, ceo/chief product officer, Allied Home LLC, pointed to a significant presence of pillow and pads online. Most online retailers can expand assortment significantly, he noted, saying while there's definitely high quality on the floor at major retailers, but consumers can find even higher quality online.
     Online offers "an added ability, if there's something unique or specific to need you're probably going to look online," said Schantz
Jeffrey Tauber Royal Heritage HomeJeffrey Tauber Royal Heritage Home
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     "It's a sizable position as a lead-in, leading for our company," said Bob O'Connell, executive vp of sales and marketing at Soft-Tex. "It's a big position."
     Most suppliers contacted by HTT agreed that Amazon and Overstock are the 800 pound gorillas in the room when it comes to purely e-commerce merchandising sites, but QVC and HSN also were cited.
     Valerie Stranix, chief marketing officer, Natura World believes that sites offered by brick and- mortar stores are seeing that "online allows them to offer greater assortment." She adds that customers know and trust these brands already.
     And the most important brick and- mortar retailers for home textiles are also big online outlets for pillows and pads as well.
     "Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers basically offer an extension of their core format into the online channel. Consumers will see online what they would see in-store - well thought out, planned product assortments. And catalogers have a niche/specialty item focus." said Fritz Kruger, senior vp of marketing at Pacific Coast Feather Company. He added: "Whereas on Amazon and Overstock, consumers find a plethora of choices without great focus on organization. Essentially these two e tailing giants are trying to be everything to everyone."
Fritz Kruger Pacific Coast Feather Co.Fritz Kruger Pacific Coast Feather Co.

     But there are also specialists. Jeffrey Tauber, ceo of Royal Heritage Home, owns four allergen brands - National Allergy Supply, Allergy Solution, Allergy Control and Allergy Guard Direct - which primarily sell directly to consumers.
     "Our allergy prevention pillow and mattress covers business is up 42%, this as more people are being diagnosed with allergies," he said, adding the company has also seen strong wholesale increases with major retailers.
     With respect to flash sites, Soft- Tex's O'Connell sees varying degrees of success depending on the timing of what else is being offered. Tauber, on the other hand, views flash sites as a "big fat zero. They are not focused. We could help, but they don't focus on this big opportunity."
     White Loft's Kelley chalks up most of the online growth to changing habits.
     "Ten years ago, you had people in their 50s and 60s with purchasing power leery of the Internet. Now, you have that same demographic much more comfortable purchasing online. People enjoy the free shipping and convenience." Kelley said.

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