As the International Sleep Products Association digs into its archive for a series of BedTimes magazine articles celebrating its 100th anniversary, the association has discovered a lot of interesting tidbits for mattress retailers, too. ISPA, which also publishes Sleep Savvy, is happy to share with you some of the news and trends from the period 1961 to 1990.
If all went well, you and your team are recovering from a wildly successful Labor Day sales weekend as you read this article. Many mattress retailers count on three-day holiday weekends to boost their profits throughout the year.
Busy as you likely are planning promotions for the next one on the calendar—Columbus Day, Oct. 12—you probably haven’t given much thought to how these long, revenue-generating weekends came to dot the calendar. But you have the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to thank.
The law, which took effect in 1971, declared that a number of federal holidays, including Washington’s Birthday (also called Presidents Day), Memorial Day and Columbus Day, were to be celebrated on Mondays. Labor Day already was a Monday holiday—one pointed to as a model by supporters of the legislation.
Water world: ‘Floatation’ sleep systems make a big splash
Though never a rival to innersprings in terms of market share, waterbeds began to saturate the consciousness of consumers in the late 1960s as bold marketers positioned the beds as sexy playgrounds.
Sure, some manufacturers touted waterbeds as a way to alleviate aches and pains and guarantee more restful sleep, but others gave their beds evocative names like Pleasure Island and placed titillating advertisements in outlets such as Playboy and The Village Voice. Innerspace Environment Inc. offered the Pleasure Pit, a waterbed dressed in leather and fur, while its competitor Aquarius Products promised that “loving” on its Aqua Bed “is having silky smooth stimulating ripples of pleasure … making nighttime an event of total joy.”
A typical queen-size waterbed of the time retailed in the $399 to $499 range, but Craft Associates priced its 10-foot by 11-foot waterbed—with stereo system, color TV, lamps and seating—at $2,900. In a January 1976 Bedding magazine article, one manufacturer of conventional bedding derided the category as appealing only to “swingles.”
In the early days, waterbeds’ potential popularity was limited by that sexy image, consumer concerns about “seasickness” and leaks—and, frankly, some shoddy products with unreliable heating units and thin bladders. Manufacturers set out to improve the quality and reputation of their products, forming trade associations and establishing construction standards. A 1980 Better Homes & Gardens survey showed 4.9% of respondents were sleeping on a waterbed, compared with 84.2% slumbering on innerspring mattresses and 9.2% on foam, according to a June 1980 Bedding article.
As waterbeds matured in the latter part of the 1970s, conventional bedding makers, including King Koil, Therapedic, Englander and Jamison, tested the waters, introducing floatation systems designed to look more like conventional bed sets and adding components such as baffles to reduce motion. Those innovations created a new category, the soft-sided waterbed or hybrid waterbed, that enjoyed limited popularity into the late 1980s, when foam constructions and even early airbeds began supplanting waterbeds in the minds of consumers and on the floors of retailers.