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Jennifer Marks

In Detail: Mattress Pads and Toppers

The mattress industry's pain is the mattress topper category's gain as consumers favor lower-cost alternatives to improving their sleep experience.

With mattress sales down nearly 15% during the first eight months of 2009, toppers and mattress pads that offer rejuvenation to the top of the mattress are showing some traction at retail, suppliers told HTT. While sales aren't necessarily blockbuster, they are generating better revenues in a broader home textiles environment that remains lackluster, at best.

“A few years ago, we introduced the 'upholster your bed' concept. Now we're getting a little more play on that because the economy is such that people aren't making big ticket purchases,” said Steve Elias, president and ceo, Louisville Bedding.

For Louisville, items that target that niche include the company's highly-filled top of pad constructions with the Easy Grip skirt, but Elias said foamtoppers are also seeing a pick-up in business. To keep the momentum going, Louisville recently introduced a fusion of polyurethane and memory foam. “It has the benefit of providing support and the feel of the memory foam,” he said.

“There is real growth opportunity in the comfort area,” said Dan Schecter, vp, Carpenter Co. “If suppliers and retailers provide a reason to buy based on real efficacy, the consumer will spend the money to get the benefit. However, if we and they keep doing what we are doing by reducing quality to get a lower cost/retail and disappointing the consumer they will respond and it won't be positive. Just look at the reduced shelf space from two years ago compared with today compared with just last year especially in the big boxes.”

Carpenter Co. is emphasizing its new foams and comfort technologies such as Avena, Omalon and Isotonic, he said. “Slabs of foam have run their course. Products that provide specific real benefit through various constructions are leading the way in sales volume,” he said.

United Feather & Down in the past six months has seen an uptick in its feather bed business, although the feather bed business “still isn't what it was a few years ago,” said Brandon Palmer, co-president. The company's high-end pads — starting at $49.99 — are also selling well, he said. “It's still a tough market out there, but it's a little bright spot.”

During last month's New York Home Fashions Market, Down Lite saw “a tremendous amount of interest in products that rejuvenate the top of the bed,” said Bob Altbier, senior vp.

Soft-Tex is getting response to its products that combine foam with poly or down and feather, said Arthur Perry, president. “Anti-stain treatments seem to be important. That's working as well,” he said.

Pacific Coast Feather Company is working to jazz up the category with the introduction of its new Super Grip mattress pad skirt and a new in-store presentation for its classic Bed Armor pads, which packaged are about twice the size of a sheet set. A new display box can be customized by pad size, and four boxes set on the floor back-to-back take up the same space as two pillow boxes, according to Fritz Kruger, senior vp of marketing.

“It's a very demonstrable product. It has a real story to it. It's about being out in front of people and getting them thinking about that product,” he said.

American Textiles Company's Jack Ouellette, president and ceo, attributes the sales spark not just to a declining mattress market but also to a shift in consumer priorities. While the company does a small business in pads, “we have seen in mattress covers and pillowcases that this business has held up pretty well,” he said. “People are taking care of their homes. They are more home-centered, and they're being more practical.”

The toppers business “is not just hanging in there — it's actually doing well,” said Lonnie Scheps, vp of sales and marketing, Hudson Industries. For Hudson, the company's Polar Foam cool technology has really taken off, he said.

Ironically, as foam toppers are showing signs of life, suppliers were hit this month with a price increase from the chemical companies, with a second, even larger increase headed their way next month.

“It's not related to oil prices; it's a supply and demand increase,” said Scheps. “Unfortunately, nobody can dance around it.”

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