15320 Thu, 10/02/2008 - 9:45am
Rising home-heating bills have created an opening for manufacturers of warmth-providing top-of-the-bed products, such as comforters and blankets.
The opportunity lies in the potential to merchandise these products as energy saving and money saving for consumers. Vendors believe that they can gain some mileage for these products with this kind of positioning—and hope that they can persuade retailers to warm up to the idea.
An example of such a program was on display in Pacific Coast Feather’s showroom during the New York Home Fashions Market last month. The company presented its Energy Saver point-of-sale program for its down- and down-alternative-filled comforters, featuring informational signage with text such as “Save 15% while you sleep.”
The response from retailers who visited the showroom was “very positive,” said Danielle Ebert, vice president of marketing for Pacific Coast Feather. “Retailers have been looking for ways to push the value of these products, as opposed to chopping down prices.”
JLA Home also explored this merchandising possibility with retailers who visited its showroom, in regard to packaging for the company’s Microtec and Coral Fleece blankets, electric blankets and electric mattress pads.
Dave Fraser, vice president of JLA’s blanket unit, said some mass retailers were “all over” the concept. “The retailers definitely get it,” Fraser said. “If people use your product, how much energy do they save? It’s got to be in the billions of dollars.”
The concept has even got the weight of a trade group behind it. In a recent statement, the American Down and Feather Council, part of the Home Fashion Products Association, said, “Because of its natural insulating properties, down and feather beds, comforters and blankets save energy through simple conservation. The money savings that can result from lowering thermostats, even just a few degrees, is enormous.”
A good deal of the conversation with retailers at the United Feather & Down showroom during market involved this idea, said Bob Hickman, senior vice president of sales and marketing. Hickman said the company began discussions with its customers on this prior to market. United Feather is encouraging retailers to use point-of-sale items such as stickers and in-store shelf talkers (small cards with a point-of-sale message affixed to a shelf so that it sticks out) to convey the energy-saving message.
“The retailers are positive about it,” Hickman said. “They know the consumers are clamoring for ‘green.’ They want their energy bills reduced, and wait till they see the huge energy bills that are coming soon,” when the weather gets colder.
Some retailers have gone further than the listening stage. “Some of our customers are creating their own collateral to help the consumer see the benefit of the products that will hang in the store, and also be promoted in their advertising as the weather cools,” said Jyl Davis, marketing director for Downlite.
“We know that consumers often respond most to energy and eco stories that often benefit their own wallets, and this year, it is particularly important,” Davis said. “We cannot lower the cost of oil or gas for them. We can, however, offer products which will allow them to save money in a different way.”
The use of these products as energy savers need not be confined to the bedroom, according to Tim Joseph, director of marketing and media at Woolrich. “I’m also seeing an increasing number of people using throws in their living rooms or family rooms to keep warm,” Joseph said.
A strategy of this sort makes particular sense for the upcoming holiday season, he said: “Holiday is a traditional time to ramp up interest in blankets, due to the colder weather at that time, as well as the increased interest in blankets and throws being sold as holiday gifts. But I anticipate that some retailers will take advantage of the current energy climate to offer blankets earlier than usual.”
Not all retailers have reacted positively to the concept. “We’ve tried on numerous occasions to convey this message to our consumers. However, in the land of private-label packaging, we really have no say,” said Beth Mack, chief merchandising officer for Hollander Home Fashions.
But the consistent belief among the vendors is that the energy pitch is a timely one. “We think that this message is strong and the retailers should take advantage of the warmth-without-weight philosophy,” Mack said.
“Our message to the consumers is, you can have a payback on your comforter over the course of the season,” Hickman said. “We can communicate this to the consumer at the point of purchase and on the Web, both on our site and retailers’ sites.”