I recently spent a week in England for the National Bedding Federation Conference (NBF) along with John Walsh, Director of Creative Services for Leggett and Platt, Inc.; and what a great week it was. I had the opportunity to say hello to some old friends, see some incredible product, and give a talk to the 450 people in attendance at their gala dinner.
At the conference they did something that we don’t do here in the U.S., which is to incorporate everybody in the industry into one big show. Component suppliers AND bedding producers were on hand to show the retailers their latest and greatest for 2010. We did see some greatness in the way of product – there is no doubt. My friend, Simon Spinks, makes a bed as good as any I have ever seen. He is doing some very creative things with the green concept by raising his own sheep, and growing and using hemp, a very renewable resource in the production of his beds.
Fabric encased coils were everywhere with a healthy dose of visco and latex as well. One thing these guys understand is comfort. For the most part, fatter beds don’t equate to more value there. They do a great job making/marketing beds that are unbelievably comfortable at much thinner profiles. You save on raw materials, create more profit for producers and retailers, and most importantly, deliver great comfort to the consumer. It’s funny in a way if you think about it. In some cases we make our beds so thick in the U.S. that we have to compensate with low profile bed frames, low profile box springs and little stairs made for dogs. I’m not kidding. As boomers get older, they are not going to want to climb in and out of a tall bed either but I digress – it is the market today.
My speech lasted under ten minutes (lucky for them), and covered things that I have said before at conferences here in the U.S. (See that speech HERE.) Things like stop selling beds based on logic and use emotion instead; ARE MATTRESSES SEXY and if not, can you make them sexy, and if we don’t work together as an industry to help consumers see mattresses as a way to improve their quality of life, we are always going to be at the bottom of their purchase list. It was received well in England much as it was here in the U.S. and as a result, I had many great conversations with people (in this case until 4am). I enjoyed all of them and look forward to doing it again someday. On a side note, my counterpart, John, came back from the bathroom after the comedian had started his routine and of course we were sitting in the front row. After finding out that we were Americans, he proceeded to slap John around for the next 20 minutes. John is still seeing a counselor.
We finished our trip with our host Anthony Joyce, Chairman of the National Bedding Federation and also the President of Leggett and Platt Europe, who took us to his home to enjoy a little of England’s beautiful countryside. We had a great dinner with Anthony and his incredible wife at their local pub and spent the next day in London before going home. What a way to end it.
Thanks to everybody in England who made our visit a great success. It is clear that we have a lot to learn from each other.
P.S. A very special thanks to Jessica at the NBF and everyone there for organizing a terrific event and making us feel very welcomed. Also, thanks to Chris France and Adam Ashborn who work for Leggett and Platt in England doing some very incredible design work for our companies over there. You guys do a great job!