Travel Broadens the Mind

One of my recent posts centered on culture, and how we need to pay attention to the consumer segments that might have a different way of looking at sleep and/or retail shopping in general. For the most part, that discussion was directed at the retailer. Now it’s the bedding manufacturers’ turn. What are you guys doing to study other markets to see how they address consumer needs?

I have had the good fortune to make several trips overseas to study the bedding business, most recently to Europe. There are some big differences, to say the least. What are our friends in the European community doing that we should consider emulating?

  1. Thin is in. I know I run the risk of sounding like a broken record here, but for the most part, Europeans create value in the core of the bed, rather than all the stuff on top of it as we do here in the U.S. I realize this sounds very self-serving coming from a components guy, but that’s not what drives my comment. This is all about giving the consumer a product they are going to enjoy for the next 5-7 years without a body impression, which will save unnecessary raw material usage and create a product that we don’t have to compensate for with low-profile foundations, etc.
  2. The divan base is very popular overseas, but relatively new to the US audience.

    Box springs can be beautiful. These guys still see the value in building value in the foundation. In many cases, their box springs do something to add to the comfort of the set and help the RSA actually build value in the sleep system, rather than just the mattress. In the U.S., we all sell exactly the same foundation, or in other words, one that just fills space. Can I see a show of hands from those who might see an opportunity there in terms of differentiation?

  3. Power is intoxicating. When you walk onto the stand of a bedding brand in Europe, the presence of this category is incredibly strong. The design of their product is very sexy and well-represented at retail. There is no doubt that their push in the category is helping drive that average ticket up.

I recently spoke in England at the National Bedding Federation, which had an attendance of over 400 people. It was interesting to attend that show and see so many things that were done differently in terms of taking products to market. We do have something in common, though. We both have an inability to work together as an industry to drive consumers to our products emotionally by talking about the things that matter most, such as how our mattresses can help consumers improve their sleep and enhance their life.

My thanks to all of my hosts during that trip, and for the many great conversations I had. You should all come to Vegas in June – I’ll meet you at Paris.

What am I missing? What are you thinking?

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