By David Gill
A lot in fact—a whole business model, according to manufacturers of basic bedding.
Those vendors—along with manufacturers of decorative bedding, bath products, window treatments and other finished textiles—are assembling in New York City this month for the first of 2012’s New York Home Fashions Markets, ready to present their latest merchandise offerings to the retail community. Many of these new products will appear with a label that vendors hope will have meaning to their retail customers ... and, of course, to consumers, who are the ultimate deciders on how successful any product launch is—branded or not.
Focusing on brands is a whole new business model for the industry. Basic-bedding vendors have been growing their branded product portfolios over the past few years—after many years of positioning their products according to price.
Hollander Home Fashions, which has accumulated a slew of brands through licenses and its own product development, will be launching a collection of bed pillows and mattress pads under the Memorelle name, which it introduced at the textiles market last September.
According to Jannice Cameron, Hollander’s vice president of marketing, the company began to build its brand portfolio over the past two years. The strategy “came with the change in the consumer,” Cameron said. “Brands offer the consumer a recognized perception of loyalty and credibility immediately.”
The company’s brand-oriented business model has provided crucial benefits to Hollander, according to Cameron. “Our business is more focused,” she said. “Maintaining the overall design and keeping the integrity of each brand allows us to build our business in a more focused way.”
Pacific Coast Feather has a couple of new branded introductions ready for the market: MaxiForm, a memory-fiber line of pillows and pads; and LuxForm, a pad that is a follow-up to the September market launch of LunaLuxe fiber-filled pads.
These are not the first branded debuts of this year for Pacific Coast Feather. The company appeared at the recent Las Vegas Market with its line of Stearns & Foster luxury basic bedding, which includes pillows, pads, a sheet set and a comforter.
Putting the stress on brands is a crucial element in Pacific Coast Feather’s marketing. “Our expertise lies in our ability to effectively leverage brands into each basic bedding product category, which our industry has proven is not a straightforward proposition,” said Fritz Kruger, the company’s senior vice president of marketing.
Kruger described this market’s new brands as “a key next step in our vision to reinvigorate the mattress-pad category. This market, we are launching a new type of feel and comfort to add true differentiation within the category to expand consumer appeal through relevance and value.”
United Feather & Down, which joined forces in a merger with Pacific Coast Feather last year, has been putting a good deal of marketing weight behind its Sheex line, which began as sheets and expanded into basic bedding last September; and the Dr. Maas collection, developed in partnership with sleep expert Dr. James Maas and consisting of pillows branded under Sleep for Success. Kruger said United Feather’s brand focus was one of the reasons that Pacific Coast Feather sought to merge with them, and added that the combination “has significantly expanded our brand portfolio.”
For United Feather & Down, these brands underscore the quality statement the company is making with its products. “What we’re focused on is presenting better quality,” said Bob Hickman, senior vice president of sales and marketing. Sheex and the Dr. Maas products offer “better features and performance characteristics than what’s on the market now,” Hickman said.
Brands also have played a role in de-emphasizing price as a selling point for basic bedding, according to Hickman. “We aren’t pricing (branded products) down,” he said. “We’re not reaching higher and we’re certainly cost conscious, but we’re not afraid to be in the upper range when the product can support that level of retail. You need to give good value no matter what the price point is.”
The quality and value relationship make branded basic bedding attractive to retailers. “Our customers continue to do well with our better-quality branded products,” Hickman said. “Our customers are enjoying strong sales. Some of them have a broader assortment that reaches further up and down the price scale, but they focus on consumers who want better quality products.”