mattress industryRetailSleep

Are We Falling Short?

Whenever I am asked what my biggest fear is, my answer is always the same: I am afraid that I will not live up to my full potential. There is no doubt we are all blessed with a different set of skills and talents and don’t want to fall short of using them as they were intended. How about our industry? Are we living up to our full potential?

In March of this year, I took a small group to Las Vegas, where we partnered with POCO Labs and conducted some consumer research. You may remember the “Sex or Sleep”article Barron’s published last year that addressed a problem pretty much undiscovered by industry insiders. The issue was “…a decidedly controversial type of mattress.” Consumers were complaining about memory foam beds and how they lacked the necessary properties to provide a good surface for intimacy. I have to admit being mildly aware of this prior to reading the article, but never gave it much thought. The author, Miriam Gottfried, did an excellent job explaining a problem that must be impacting a lot of people – the article generated nearly 5,000 comments and 10,000 shares on Facebook. That type of response got us thinking.

If a mattress really can have a significant impact on sex, shouldn’t we as an industry be paying attention? With that question in mind (and many others), we went to the CBS Television City marketing research facility in Las Vegas and talked to 255 consumers about this very subject. We purchased two mattress sets at the same price, one made of memory foam and the other an Ultimate Hybrid (made with Leggett & Platt’s Comfort Core fabric-encased coils plus – in this case – memory foam). We asked people to test each mattress as if they were shopping in a retail store and to evaluate which bed they preferred for sleep comfort/performance and which bed they preferred for sex comfort/performance. No, we did not ask participants to “get busy” right there in the facility. We did, however, want to know more from people who had actually had sex on complete memory foam mattress. So we pulled aside more than 50 people that fit the criteria and conducted in-depth interviews. Stir that all together and you get the SexySleep Consumer Research Project.

SexySleep Blog PhotoWithout going into all the details, here is a preview: The Ultimate Hybrid was a strong favorite. There are some in our industry that have a funny way of ignoring consumers on certain topics for as long as possible before coming to the conclusion that we have to address it. For the longest time, we heard consumers complain that memory foam sleeps hot, while the people making memory foam beds claimed it just wasn’t true. Then, all of a sudden, memory foam beds were being made to sleep cooler. That seemed to address an issue that supposedly didn’t exist. Then we heard consumers complaining that they felt like they were stuck in a hole on memory foam beds – that it was just too hard to move around. How did the industry react to that one? Some dug in their heels and said there was NOT a problem with memory foam beds restricting movement. Then memory foam beds were made to react faster to the human form to minimize the concern – again, addressing a problem that hadn’t been acknowledged in the first place.

My net takeaway from the past few months of research tells me the industry has a really big opportunity: First, to shine a light on a problem that is clearly on the radar for consumers, and second, to educate consumers about the relationship between mattresses and intimacy.

If a mattress can impact the quality of a sexual experience, don’t we want to share that? Think back to the days of waterbeds and how we used to talk about them in relation to sex. It was almost assumed that a waterbed led to better intimacy. The sex conversation was almost never off limits. Now that waterbeds aren’t as popular, the sex issue gets taken off the table? Why?

There were many people we talked to that were not just concerned about the lack of education on intimacy and the mattress – they were flat ANGRY. Many brought their mattress home, never considering sex, and ended up having to take their intimate moments to another location (like the couch or a guest bedroom). This was a real problem for people.

Do what you will with this information, but know this: We also talked with more than 100 retail sales associates and 86% said they had fielded intimacy-related questions from consumers at least once. You can choose to ignore the research, but understand that this means we are asking the RSA to shoot from the hip in terms of answering consumer questions about sex and the mattress. I say we help out. Arm them with information, such as a handout or a website like, so they don’t have to make it up as they go along.

Subscribe, or come back next Tuesday because I will share details from the research we conducted with the RSA.

What do they think? Are we falling short? How can the industry address intimacy issues and support the RSA?

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