By David Gill
Value has stepped up in importance as a factor in marketing and merchandising basic bedding.
The elevation of value marks a turnaround for the industry. Recently, price has been driving the sales of bed pillows, mattress pads and comforters.
But the industry's largest manufacturers have now found that consumers focus less on price than on what they are getting for that price. And a key element in this development is that "value does not default to price," said Beth Mack, chief merchandising officer of Hollander Home Fashions.
"In 2008, when down prices were near record highs, the down market barely existed," Mack said. "In 2009, when down prices were near historic lows, we enjoyed extremely large gains at retail, although down products were still positioned at higher retails than (polyester-filled products). The products moved because the consumer saw its value."
In basic bedding, value comes in many forms aside from down fills. During the September New York Home Fashions Market, Hollander made brand a value focus by reintroducing some of its classic brands, including Sontique, with redesigned fabrics and polyester fills; Dreamscape Supima, a grouping of pillows, pads and comforters made with supima cotton grown in the United States; and Holiday at Home, produced with European fabrics and white goose-down fills.
Not only are the fabrics and fills important value points, but so are details designed and woven into the fabrics, Mack said. "The addition of quilting, gussets and/or new stitch patterns easily identifies better products to the consumer," she said. "These additions are clear callouts when the consumer is matching up products to their perceived value."
At Louisville Bedding, value has taken on a functional look. The company recently reintroduced its Mattress Makeover, a mattress topper specifically designed to rejuvenate older mattresses.
"We developed our Mattress Makeover with the idea of putting life back into a tired mattress through knit fabrics or mattress ticking," said Mandy Talbert, product development manager, Louisville Bedding. " [A consumer] may be prolonging the purchase of a mattress for one or two additional years, and seek an alternative solution to enhance or refresh her existing one. While at the end of the day it may not be the cheapest product or SKU on the floor, it adds greater value and puts life back into a product she already has."
Function and performance add up to value for Downlite as well. According to Glen Alberi, sales manager, the company has put extra emphasis on its oversized and overfilled down and down-alternative comforters and pillows, pointing out that these features make products that are warmer, larger and longer lasting.
Alberi said this strategy has had a positive impact. "We are very excited and encouraged with our performance-feature offerings that focus on giving benefits along the lines of what consumers want, need and are buying," he said. "We are aware of the sales pressure our retailers are experiencing. We continue to work with our buyers to target aggressive retails, but more important is to show actual value to the consumer.
Product quality and brand are intertwined to provide the value points for United Feather & Down. "The UFD value reflects better quality fabric and fill that translates into a longer and more productive life span, which long term save the consumer money," said Bob Hickman, senior vice president of sales and marketing.
During the September market, United Feather pushed value as "the new luxury" in basic bedding. The company underscored this with the launch of the Borghese brand of basic bedding, through its license with Villa Borghese, the marketer of high-end spa products; skin-, hair- and nail-care products; fragrances; and cosmetics. Two months later, United Feather debuted this line to the hospitality trade at the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show, also in New York.