I just returned from the IMM Show in Cologne, Germany, and I am sure glad to be home. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cologne, but there is nothing like sleeping in your own bed. Am I right?
Europeans bring a much different approach to mattress marketing. In many ways they are more advanced, in some a step behind, and in others ways just different. I saw springs made of wood, plastic, foam, and, of course, steel. Fabric-encased coils were without a doubt the focus of the show. One of the interesting things Europeans do is really highlight coil counts of the spring systems. Yes, that is very retro for us in the United States, but they use coil count to differentiate value given that most units are pockets with similar geometries. There is a lot of innovation in this space, as springs are being made smaller to replace many of the comfort layers that exist.
Visco foam is big in Europe, enjoying an even larger market share than the category does here in the states. Tempur-Pedic is a major player, but does not dominate the landscape as it does here. Many foam solutions share center stage, but I was disappointed to see nothing really innovative or new in this category.
The biggest difference to me was the fashion of the products. The European manufacturers make some beautiful beds, really going after the upholstery look as it relates to design. Most everything is placed on an adjustable base, giving a lot of attention and validity to the category. Europe has always been a leader when it comes to adjustables, but from what I am seeing in the U.S., maybe not for long. I saw a fantastic system that would not only do the head-up/foot-up adjustments, but also leaned forward/backward, and even lifted up off of the ground several inches. This category is just getting better and better.
Foundations, in general terms, are FAR MORE sexy than what we see in the states. Consider that just about everybody sells a set with a static foundation. In Germany we saw 20 different foundations that made a huge difference in how the set felt. Not only that but we saw some very cool systems in which the comfort level changed as the product was tested. You could feel the mattress becoming softer and firmer, all by manipulating the tension in the box spring. Many of these systems were slatted bases, so not much new on that front — however, they have evolved nicely into something much more experiential at the point of sale.
My favorite part of the experience, aside from the excellent food and German beer, was walking to the show across the bridge over the Rhine River. We came upon the fence that kept you from falling into the water, and there were literally thousands of bike locks chained to it with people’s initials engraved on the side. When I asked a local what that was for, she explained to me that when you fall in love and get engaged, you take a walk to the bridge with your lock, connect it to the gate with all of the others, profess your love to one another, and together, throw the key into the river signifying eternal love. I thanked her for her explanation and then asked what you were supposed to do if it didn’t really work out with that person. Were you then obligated to jump into the river after your key to take down your lock? I don’t think my sense of humor translates to German.
If you have never been to the IMM Show, I encourage you to go. It is a great way to expand your thinking.