As long as there are bed bugs, there won’t be any recession for Protect-A-Bed, according to the Northbrook, Ill.-based manufacturer.
Protect-A-Bed manufactures mattress protectors that create a sleep zone free of bed bugs, moisture and allergens. The products use the company’s proprietary AllerZip with Bug Lock, a patented secure seal with a three-sided zipper system, which, Protect-A-Bed claimed in a company statement, creates “a healthy and comfortable sleep environment.”
Protect-A-Bed opened for business in 2000 with a line of waterproof mattress protectors. Four years later, the company began marketing these products to hotels, which opened the company to the growth potential of producing bed bug-resistant mattress protectors, according to James Bell, Protect-A-Bed’s chief executive officer.
One of the first things the company discovered is that mattress protectors are virtually the only way of dealing with bed bugs.
“We consulted with entymologists who told us you can’t eradicate bed bugs with chemicals,” Bell said in an interview with HFN. “They have developed an immunity to pesticides. You can try fumigating them, but that’s very costly.”
Another factor enhancing the opportunities for these products is the surge in the bed-bug population, particularly in metropolitan areas.
“Research and media coverage have shown that the number of bed bugs is rising,” Bell said. “In New York City, there has been a major resurgence in the bed-bug problem.”
Protect-A-Bed introduced its first mattress and boxspring encasement in January 2006—and the company’s sales have soared since then, Bell said. “In 2008, our overall sales growth was 30 percent,” he said “For bed-bug products alone, it grew in excess of 300 percent for the year.”
As a recent company statement showed, New York City remains a prime territory for Protect-A-Bed. During 2008, more than 65 percent of the company’s Internet sales to consumers came from the New York metropolitan area. Bell said Internet sales overall have expanded faster than sales at brick-and-mortar retailers, and he added that many consumers research bed-bug products online before buying either off the Web or in a store.
The hospitality industry remains an important customer as well.
“With the amount of travel declining, the quality of the furnishings is very important to hotels,” said Petra Minoff, vice president of hospitality sales at the International Hotel/Motel and Restaurant Show in New York City. “We help the hotels keep their existing customer base. If you’re a hotel and you have a bed-bug problem, you have to do something about it.”
The hotel clientele benefits Protect-A-Bed for consumer recognition, too.
“Consumers are asking about our products from staying in the hotels we sell to,” Minoff said. “Some hotels have guest-purchasing programs for the products in their rooms. It’s a very small business for us at this point, but it’s growing, absolutely.”
Whether the customers are individual consumers or the hospitality trade, Protect-A-Bed expects more growth in 2009. “Bed-bug infestations continue to rise,” Bell said. “It’s not just New York. We’re seeing a growth in bed bugs in Las Vegas and San Francisco, and in Columbus, Ohio, although no one knows why. Pretty much every resort area is experiencing problems, too.” —David Gill