Sparked by growing consumer awareness, changing lifestyles and a variety of upgraded, easy-to-use features, adjustable beds are poised for another round of substantial growth this year. Sleep Savvy explores this dynamic category, identifying trends and sales strategies.
BY JULIE A. PALM
There is an important segment of the bed-buying public that is interested in high-end, high-tech sleep products, says Jay Thompson, president of Leggett & Platt Adjustable Bed Group based in Carthage, Missouri.
“These are people who want to reward themselves,” Thompson says. “They want all the bells and whistles on the car they buy—and on an adjustable base. This person wants to be able to retreat to the bedroom and enjoy the space while they are awake. They see themselves reading, watching TV and working in bed. These are luxury lifestyle consumers who are willing to pay a premium.”
To satisfy these consumers, L&P unveiled the Premier series at the January Las Vegas Market. The base, which retails from about $2,500*, comes in two styles—a one-piece unit and a two-piece, deck-on-deck construction, both with furniture-grade upholstery choices. Features include head and foot articulation, head tilt, wall-hugging technology, USB ports, sleep and nap timers, and dual wave and pulse massage. Most notable, the bases operate using a tablet and come with Apple iOS and Android apps. Multiple programmable room “scenes,” or scenarios, allow consumers to adjust the base and other room elements—lights, fans, music, TV—based on their preferences to create “watch TV,” “read” or other scenes.
“And we haven’t even fully tapped all that the tablets are capable of allowing us to offer,” Thompson says.
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L&P, which strives to offer a broad selection of adjustable bases assembled in the United States, also has retooled its best-selling S-Cape line, which has head and foot articulation, wireless remote and a wall-hugging feature. The revamped models feature unquilted covers, a softer finish on the retainer bar, a patent-pending safety feature called LP Sense to protect children and pets from injury, and an upgraded backlit remote. The beds were introduced in July and are shipping to retailers this month. Models retail from $1,200 to $1,500.
Mantua Mfg. Co., in business since 1952, specializes in “under the bed” products, such as metal frames, and entered the adjustable-base category with its Rize brand about four years ago. One of its niches is creating private-label adjustable programs for retailers.
Mantua’s best-selling model is the Contemporary, which has been in its lineup for about 2½ years.
“Every time we say, ‘We should update it,’ we hear from retailers, ‘Don’t change a thing,’ ” says David Jaffe, president of the company, which has headquarters in Walton Hills, Ohio. The five-segment base contains many of the features consumers want most: head and foot articulation, dual massage, head tilt, lounge feature, under-bed LED nightlights, and backlit wireless remote with one-touch auto-flat feature and four positional presets. It retails for about $1,699 in queen.
Softide offers eight adjustable-bed models, from basic to feature-loaded, in retail prices starting at $899. Among some of the more atypical features the company touts are a single motor that controls both the head and foot articulation, a slider on a wireless remote that allows someone to control either side of the bed or both sides together, and a KD line of beds, which allows for a single king or queen size to be delivered in two pieces and easily assembled once in the bedroom, says Mike Jaspering, director of sales and marketing for the Los Angeles-based company. Softide is the U.S. adjustable brand of Jiaxing Shufude Electric Bed Co., an original equipment manufacturer headquartered in Jiaxing City, China. The Chinese company has been producing adjustable bases for the U.S. and other markets for about a decade. The Softide brand debuted at the Las Vegas Market in January.
“In each bed, we’re trying to do something that someone hasn’t,” Jaspering says.
Adjustable beds look good
“The way the base looks has a lot of do with how the customer approaches the bed,” says Phil Sherman, a managing member of Natick, Massachusetts-based Customatic Adjustable Bedz. “We look to make a fashion statement with premium upholstery fabrics, furniture-style leg supports and unique frame designs that emulate a beautiful bedroom decor rather than a common hospital bed. These design changes are just part of what has helped advance the category.”
The company offers 14 adjustable bed designs, each with unique styling in looks from contemporary to transitional to traditional. At one end is the Spree, a sleek modern base dressed in black and gray. The Fashion has a tailored deck-on-deck design and solid wood legs, giving it the look of traditional furniture.
Customatic’s newest offering is the Dreamstar, which it markets as “The Most Advanced Adjustable Bed That Does Everything You Desire.” It has a deck-on-deck design with furniture styling, brushed steel legs and linen fabric; side-mounted AC power ports and Bluetooth connectivity; under-bed LED nightlights; zoned massage; and a wireless remote with one-touch auto-flat feature, three positional presets and more. It also includes the company’s new patented Edge-to-Edge lumbar system that provides extra midbody support when needed. The Dreamstar has a suggested retail price of $1,999.
Glideaway introduced the Comfort Base brand at the Las Vegas Market in July and is shipping its first models to retailers this month. All Comfort Base models, which are manufactured in China with German motors, are deck-on-deck design with upholstery-style fabrics.
“With adjustables, a lot of companies are selling an item,” says Dan Baker, vice president of sales for the St. Louis-based company. “We’re selling a full program to retailers, giving them a ‘good-better-best’ story that both the consumer and the retailer can understand. Each base has a quantifiable reason why you’d want to buy it.”
The line opens with the Xplore, a head articulation-only model with wired remote. It starts around $799. The line steps up to the Navigate, which has full head and foot articulation and a programmable wireless remote with anti-snore and zero-gravity options. The Navigate models retail from $999 to $1,299. At the top end is the Grand, which adds wall hugging (within 5 inches of the wall), head tilt, four USB ports, timed LED nightlights, a flashlight feature on the remote and Sleep Enhancement vibration options. It retails from $1,499 to $1,699.
About half of Ergomotion’s business is manufacturing bases directly for mattress manufacturers, but it also supplies retailers with Ergomotion-branded and private-
“Our furniture look is our best-seller, by far,” says Leo Vera, president and chief executive officer of the company, which is based in Santa Barbara, California. “We do several different ‘flavors’ of that.”
Ergomotion’s market research shows 60% of its consumers use their bases as a standalone piece of furniture without a traditional headboard and footboard.
“It attests to the high-quality aesthetic and the value proposition—it’s a much easier sell to the consumer when it can be a replacement for their bed frame,” Vera says. “The base stands on its own.”
Ergomotion, which touts its dedication to innovation and customer service, has made adjustable bases since 2005 and got a huge boost to its business when Serta launched and heavily advertised the adjustable-friendly iComfort mattress line paired with Ergomotion-made bases, Vera says. Ergomotion has two bases in preproduction that will be introduced in Las Vegas in January. Retail prices for the bulk of Ergomotion bases fall in the $1,299 to $1,699 range, with a high end of $2,099.
Jaffe says Mantua’s latest Rize model, the Revolution, is high in style. The deck-in-deck, foam-padded base comes with wood legs and is dressed in a tweed fabric. The electronics package includes USB ports on both sides and Bluetooth wireless capabilities for operating everything from music and game systems to alarm clocks. The massage and head-and-foot adjustability are augmented by an added lumbar support. It retails for just under $2,000. Mantua also plans a significant product rollout at the Las Vegas Market in January.
Give the people what they want
“The adjustable-base category is changing quite a bit,” Ergomotion’s Vera says. “It used to be more the supplier or vendor saying, ‘Here’s what we’ve got to offer.’ Now we’re doing more R&D with our partners. When we do programs with retailers, we give them exactly what they need.”
Customatic has a similar philosophy.
“We come from retail,” Sherman says of himself and his business partners. “We have a better understanding of what each retailer needs. We want each retailer to be successful in their own way. We say, ‘We are Customatic: We’ll customize a program that’s right for you.’ ”
While retailers increasingly demand customization to set them apart from their competitors, consumers also expect more personalization.
“We recognize that everybody likes to sleep differently,” Vera says. “How do we merchandise our line of adjustable bases to meet individual needs? It’s an exciting opportunity to give customers more choices.”
Softide is making available to retailers add-on items that allow them to customize its bases for customers at the time of sale. One is a Wi-Fi receiver, which is the size of a thumb drive and comes in retail packaging. It can be inserted into the control box of any of Softide’s wireless beds, allowing consumers to control the bed via iPhone or iPad. Other add-ons include a safety sensor to protect children and pets from getting caught in the bed’s mechanisms by disabling the bed for 15 seconds if anything comes in contact with the top of the bed panel and a protective, clip-on foot covering that hides the mechanism when the foot of the bed is raised.
“Those items are available in all of our wireless-remote bases,” Jaspering says. “It keeps the cost down for consumers who don’t need them but is a nice add-on for the retailer to offer for consumers who do want them.” O
Adjustable beds meet medical needs with style
Many of the features of the newest adjustable beds—especially those at the high end—appeal to consumers who are less concerned about health issues and more interested in customizing their beds for work and relaxation.
But one company Sleep Savvy interviewed is committed to meeting the growing needs of baby boomers who seek adjustable bases largely to help with medical and age-related problems.
Transfer Master Products Inc. in Postville, Iowa, has produced adjustable hospital beds and pressure-relief mattresses since 1993. It’s now offering the Supernal Sleep System with styling and marketing to make it more attractive to consumers who need a hospital-style bed but don’t like the look.
The Supernal has many of the features of other high-end adjustable beds: head and foot adjustability, head tilt, wall-hugging technology and an illuminated wireless remote. But it has other features that make it appropriate for people with more serious medical conditions. Those include an optional guard rail for safety and a Supernal Hi-Low model that can be lowered and raised for people who use wheelchairs or have other mobility limitations. The base comes with a mattress made either of the company’s therapeutic polyurethane progressive foam core or a memory foam core. The mattress cover is available in fabric with Joma wool padding for comfort and cooling or a stretch waterproof cover that’s easily cleaned.
The Supernal Recliner retails for about $2,500 (base and mattress in twin size). The Supernal Hi-Low retails for about $4,000 (base and mattress in queen size).
“Millions of Americans have some sort of disability—arthritis, rheumatism, multiple sclerosis, back issues, swelling in their legs—that keeps them from getting a good night’s sleep,” says Aaron Goldsmith, Transfer Master president. “We’ve designed a medically therapeutic mattress that’s super comfortable and super stylish.”
Selling adjustable beds: Show and tell
To sell more adjustable bed bases, mattress retailers can start by making some simple adjustments to how they display and think about the category, base manufacturers say.
“A lot of retailers who’ve committed their stores have amazing success,” says Leo Vera, president and chief executive officer of Ergomotion, an adjustable base manufacturer with headquarters in Santa Barbara, California. “Once retailers go all in, they see how much customers love them. Honestly, it’s a fun part of the bedding business, and it’s fun to be part of a growing segment of the business.”
Mattress majors with hefty marketing budgets, including Serta and Tempur-Pedic, are featuring adjustable bases in TV commercials and across their marketing campaigns. That’s helping drive both consumer awareness and demand.
“People are seeing them on TV and are going to go from an ‘I like’ to an ‘I want’ to an ‘I need’ product,” says Mike Jaspering, director of sales and marketing for Los Angeles-based Softide, the U.S. adjustable brand of Jiaxing Shufude Electric Bed Co., an original equipment manufacturer headquartered in Jiaxing City, China. “If people come into your showroom and want one and you don’t have it, do you want them to go next door?”
Several base producers interviewed by Sleep Savvy could point to at least one of their dealers that enjoys an attachment rate of as high as 50%, but agreed that the average committed mattress retailer—one that properly displays the bases and trains its retail sales associates on the category—can reach attachment rates of 25% or even 30%. With bases typically retailing from $499 to $2,500, that’s a nice boost to the average ticket—without giving up additional space on the sales floor.
“It’s no longer a niche product,” says David Jaffe, president of Mantua Mfg. Co., a manufacturer of bed frames and Rize brand adjustables bases with headquarters in Walton Hills, Ohio. “Every level of retailer—major, mom-and-pop, furniture, rural, urban—is getting into the adjustable category. The retailers that focus on adjustable beds, understand the ability to upsell the category, and, most importantly, want to create a better customer experience are going to have loyal customers and a more profitable business.”
Motorized adjustable beds—also called “motion” or “power” foundations—meet the needs of a wide cross-section of consumers. With their advent in the medical sector, they remain a good choice for consumers of any age who have health problems ranging from acid reflux and snoring to more serious disabilities such as paralysis. But the many features available on today’s bases, which include everything from USB ports, programmable remotes, massage, nightlights and more, make them attractive to people who use their bedroom not only as a sleep sanctuary but also as a work and entertainment space. (Read more about product trends and features beginning on page 20.)
“Five years ago, the adjustable base was more of a novel thing,” says Jay Thompson, president of Leggett & Platt Adjustable Bed Group based in Carthage, Missouri. “It wasn’t that long ago that there were maybe one or two on the sales floor and they were probably in the back. But it’s been a strong, growing category with double-digit gains for several years running.”
How can you boost your success in the category? Adjustable manufacturers offer a wealth of ideas.
Show them off
“I spent most of my career in mattress retailing and learned that you’re not going to sell a king unless you show a king. It’s the same with adjustable beds: You’re not going to sell them unless you show them,” says Dan Baker, vice president of sales for St. Louis-based Glideaway, a bed frame and mattress producer that offers the Comfort Base brand of adjustable bases.
For Phil Sherman, a managing member of Natick, Massachusetts-based Customatic Adjustable Bedz, the idea of “showing adjustables” starts with retailers advertising them.
“You have to advertise that you carry them,” he says. “Don’t put them in a little box in the corner of the ad. You’re running a full-page ad with big pictures of mattresses. Put in a few big pictures of those mattresses on adjustable beds. And package the mattress and adjustable base together, with a single price. People will think, ‘I can afford that.’ ”
Although not every retailer will choose to do so because of cost or other considerations, it’s not unrealistic for some retailers to put an adjustable base under virtually every mattress model on the sales floor—particularly given the broad availability of adjustable-compatible mattresses.
“Our mantra is ‘under every mattress,’ ” Ergomotion’s Vera says. “We have a lot of retailers who’ve committed their stores to the category: They see how successful they can be.”
Ron Fredman, executive vice president of Glideaway, has seen similar success stories.
“We have a major top 100 retailer that put our base under everything on the floor and sales went through the roof,” Fredman says. “Another furniture store had unbelievable growth. It had a 700% increase (in adjustable sales) because we partnered to put bases under every mattress in its sleep shops. It shows that the merchandising works.”
The more mattresses on your floor that are supported by an adjustable base, the more likely customers are to see them as a standard part of a sleep system rather than an accessory, Vera says.
Universal placement also has the practical application of allowing shoppers to rest-test the entire bed set they plan to purchase. If you have only a couple of adjustable bases on the floor, you will be asking many shoppers to carefully select the right mattress and then imagine the feel of that mattress on the adjustable base. Many will be able to do so, but some won’t.
Even if you’re not going to spread adjustables across your sales floor, don’t relegate a lone model to a corner, which will make it an afterthought in the minds of both RSAs and shoppers, producers say.
If you floor only a few models, adjustable producers recommend placing them under your best-selling mattresses in strategic locations around the store.
“I think they should be right up front in the store with the head and foot of the bed up so that customers come right in and think, ‘Oh, that might help my back’ or ‘That would be great for reading in bed.’ It helps put them in the right mindset to consider an adjustable from the start,” Softide’s Jaspering says.
With all of their features and movement, adjustables can add a certain entertainment or “cool” factor to an otherwise static sales floor.
“If you have the space, you can put it on a platform at the front of the store and set it on ‘continuous motion,’ ” Mantua’s Jaffe says. “We have some retailers who’ve done that and it’s an exceptional way to show the base.”
Customatic’s Sherman also endorses the idea of the front-and-center platform.
“I’m working with two major retailers right now, building a platform with lights that will shine upward on the adjustable base, which will be in automatic demonstration mode with full articulation,” Sherman says. “So now, the consumer will walk into the mattress department and see the adjustable base moving. Doesn’t that set off some great ideas in the consumer’s mind? You’re creating an attraction at the center of the department.”
When it comes to point-of-purchase materials, adjustable manufacturers know they’re competing with mattress producers for limited space and shopper attention. Most offer basic signage, tags and brochures that retailers can incorporate into displays and provide to shoppers. QR codes, like those used by Mantua, can lead shoppers to more detailed information via their smartphones. The cover that Softide uses to hide the mechanics in the foot portion of the bed when it’s raised can be emblazoned with the logo of the retailer or another message. Transfer Master Products Inc. in Postville, Iowa, has created a video that can be used on retailer websites or in-store to educate consumers about its base’s features if the RSA is busy with another customer. Customatic suggests using a sash or foot protector that says: “Adjust your sleep the way you want” or a hangtag that prompts the shopper to “Ask what I can do!”
A key part of POP is the actual price tag. Some adjustable producers recommend that retailers price beds as two types of sets—mattress with traditional box spring and mattress with adjustable base.
“If you price everything that way, then there isn’t as much sticker shock for the consumer,” Sherman says.
Glideaway’s Baker adds: “Merchandising and pricing mattresses and adjustables together gives people a complete system.”
Talk the talk
As when selling other parts of a complete sleep system, such as pillows or protectors, introducing adjustables early in the sales process is important. Wait too long and the sales pitch can come off like you’re pushing an unnecessary add-on.
Another key is introducing the category to each and every customer. Don’t try to guess who might be a good fit for an adjustable based on the shopper’s age, health, gender or perceived income.
“Everyone who walks into your showroom is a candidate for an adjustable base,” Jaffe says. “They may or may not end up buying, but they are a candidate.”
RSAs can use the same standard qualifying questions they use to assess mattress fit to determine how a shopper might benefit from an adjustable:
- Do you have any health problems? (Back pain? Acid reflux? Poor circulation? Mobility restrictions?)
- Do you or your sleeping partner snore?
- Do you spend a lot of time reading, working or watching TV in bed?
“Ask very practical questions,” says Aaron Goldsmith, president of Transfer Master, a producer of adjustables for the medical and retail markets. “You don’t have to know all the mechanics of the body and you don’t have to be an expert in medicine to know if someone might benefit from an adjustable. Just have common sense.”
Let the adjustable bed do the selling
When selling this category, the single-most successful strategy is demonstrating the product to consumers.
Many manufacturers recommend RSAs start customers lying flat on an adjustable base, in large part so they can get a good feel first for the mattress they are rest-testing.
“The sales story to the customer starts with the mattress,” Ergomotion’s Vera says. “They need to be comfortable on the mattress first.”
After that, a demonstration of adjustable features flows naturally.
“Simply say, ‘I’d like to do this 60-second demo to show you how to find your best sleep position,’ ” L&P’s Thompson says. “It’s a quick, concise way to help customers get the feel of the adjustable and see its features.”
Mantua’s Jaffe says he’s seen RSAs have success with a script that goes something like this: “Now instead of putting a pile of pillows behind your back to read or watch TV, wouldn’t it be nice to tilt the head? Now, wouldn’t it feel good to put the feet down?’ It’s fun to see the transformation in people’s eyes. After the demonstration, they just ‘get it.’ ”
An important tip: At least initially, the RSA should maintain control of the remote. You want to be able to demonstrate the features in a logical order. After you’ve done the full demo, you can turn the remote over to the customer to demonstrate its ease of use. O
OVERCOMING OBJECTIONS TO BUYING ADJUSTABLE BASES
Encourage your retail sales associates to brainstorm and role play to discover the best ways to overcome any customer objections they may encounter:
- Price: One countering idea is to price all beds two ways—“mattress plus flat foundation” and “mattress plus adjustable foundation.” Another is to compare the price of the adjustable base with other frequently purchased electronics, such as tablet computers and high-definition TVs.
- Lack of awareness: Some shoppers have never considered an adjustable base. They may not even be aware that such bases are offered outside a medical setting. Prominent displays in your store and informational videos can augment RSA presentations in explaining features and benefits.
- Perceived lack of need: Customers may associate adjustable beds with hospitals or illness and think, “I’m young and healthy. I don’t need that.” Focusing on lifestyle-enhancing features is a good counter to this objection.
- Fear of mechanical failures: Many adjustable-bed producers have agreements with service reps around the country who will go to consumers’ homes to replace parts or make repairs.
Open-flame standards and adjustable beds: What you need to know
Retailers should remember that the federal open-flame standard, 16 CFR Part 1633, has applications to adjustable bases.
Under Part 1633, mattress manufacturers can produce mattresses intended to be used with a specific foundation (adjustable or flat), or used without a foundation, or used either with or without a foundation. The mattress manufacturer (or importer) must test the mattress in the way it is intended to be sold (with and/or without foundation) and label the mattress indicating how it should be sold. An adjustable base that is covered with fabric or other resilient material is considered to be a foundation, for the purposes of 1633.
Retailers are prohibited from selling mattresses that fail to meet the 1633 standard. Specifically, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission “can take action against a retailer who mixes and matches mattresses and foundations that fail to meet the requirements of 16 CFR 1633,” according to an FAQ posted by the CPSC Office of Compliance on the CPSC.gov website.
When asked specifically who is responsible for testing bed sets when a mattress is made by one manufacturer and a “mechanical base” is produced by another manufacturer and the two pieces “come together at the retail establishment and not before,” the CPSC Office of Compliance staff gives this answer in the FAQ: “If the mattress is manufactured to be sold with a specific type of mechanical foundation, the mattress manufacturer should qualify the prototype mattress set, label the mattress appropriately and maintain the records for the set, including maintaining the record of the components supplied for the foundation. There is no prohibition, however, against the foundation manufacturer completing the qualification tests for the mattress set.”
Sleep Savvy spoke with some adjustable base manufacturers specifically about this issue. They indicated that they test their adjustable base designs with a range of mattress designs from mattress manufacturers and also provide testing before launching any major program with a mattress manufacturer or any private-label program with a retailer. They do this testing either independently or in conjunction with mattress manufacturers.
The International Sleep Products Association recommends mattress retailers consult with legal counsel and the manufacturers of the mattresses and adjustable bases that they sell as sets to determine if they have been tested and labeled appropriately.
Julie A. Palm is a writer and editor based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.