BY BETH ENGLISH
Purposeful power bases play many roles in today’s bedroom—from utilitarian medical device to high-tech tool to elegant design statement.
A lot of products claim to offer something for everyone. In the case of adjustable or power bases, it’s truer today than ever before. The adjustable base, which has been around for decades, began as a way to provide comfort to those in hospitals or other medical settings. Today, lifestyle adjustable bases range from attractive, high-end furniture looks with built-in Bluetooth to simple head-up bases that provide comfort to those who have medical needs such as sore backs, acid reflux or breathing problems. Most agree these bases offer a real service to people who want a comfortable night’s sleep.
The once-exclusive adjustable base has experienced a boom in recent years. According to the ISPA 2015 Mattress Industry report, the number of motion bases sold by U.S. mattress manufacturers grew from 320,723 in 2011 to 966,041 in 2015, a 24.3% increase. (This number does not include bases imported directly by retailers.)
Phil Sherman, co-principal of Customatic Adjustable Bedz headquartered in Natick, Massachusetts, attributes this growth to some of the bigger manufacturers deciding to focus on building adjustable bases that worked better in the home, as well as the rise in popularity of foam and latex mattresses. Those lend themselves to adjustability, he says, although many innerspring mattresses also can be made adjustable-friendly.
Many agree that placing the foundations on the retail floor (they don’t take up any extra space, after all) and retail sales associates’ growing comfort with the product also are making a difference. Consumer awareness is growing, says Jay Thompson, president of Carthage, Missouri-based Leggett & Platt Adjustable Bed Group.
Recent research by the Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, bears this out. According to the research, 9% of consumers own an adjustable base and 33% say they are familiar with it and would consider purchasing one.
However, more can be done.
“I do believe the attachment rate is still a single-digit number, percentage-wise,” Thompson says. “I believe it can grow.”
Johnny Griggs, chief operating officer of Goleta, California-based Ergomotion/Softide from Jiaxing Shufude Electric Bed Co. Ltd., also looks forward to more growth. “We’ve seen such a huge change. It’s certainly the fastest growing category in the bedding industry, I’m sure,” he says. That’s good news for all adjustable base manufacturers.
Lisa Tan, chief marketing officer for Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based Reverie/Ascion LLC, agrees. “There really is something for every consumer out there that involves power,” she says. “I envision a world in the not-so-distant future where the traditional flat foundation really will have seen its heyday.”
The ‘wow’ factor
The last few years have seen dramatic changes in the number and types of features offered with the bases. “There has been a real explosion of innovation,” Sherman says. “It’s a more functional piece for today’s lifestyle.”
The most basic models offer head-up adjustability with a wired remote. After you move beyond the basics, the number of options is astounding. Bases can offer underbed lighting, USB ports for charging electronic devices, massage, position presets, app controllers, Bluetooth speaker systems and lumbar support, among other features.
For example, Reverie’s more than a dozen offerings top out with the 9T adjustable base. Retailing for $1,999, the base comes with preset positions for zero gravity (a position that simulates weightlessness by creating a cradle position that elevates a person’s feet slightly above her heart) and anti-snore and two other programmable positions. It also features lumbar support, app-enabled comfort settings and routines that can run automatically, underbed lighting, wireless charging pad, Bluetooth Smart remote, massage and ProGrip technology to eliminate the retainer bar.
Such a variety of offerings isn’t unusual.
L&P also offers a broad product line that addresses customization, Thompson says. “People are intrigued by different things. You have to be flexible.”
However, the most popular features in addition to the head and foot adjustability are the USB ports and underbed lighting, several say. And while the primary purchasers seem to be baby boomers, younger consumers are making their needs known.
“I think the younger people are definitely wanting the gadgets,” Thompson says. “They do like the apps. They like to be able to control the bed with their phone. They like the USB charging. A lot of beds have A/C power now so you can just plug into them. All those things they use in bed—their phone, their laptop—they like the little comforts of being able to plug things in.”
Changing appearances and technology
In addition to all the new things motion bases can do, the bases also have had a significant makeover in the past few years.
“Aesthetically, these bases used to look different,” Thompson says. “They used to look really institutional with the quilted cover and the silver retention bar and the wired remotes.”
Today, deck-on-deck constructions—a two-piece, upholstered construction—provide a stylish furniture look that appeals to a whole new consumer, says Brent Polunsky, bedding support sales manager for W. Silver Products headquartered in El Paso, Texas. “It’s designed to be the centerpiece of your master bedroom,” he says.
Many manufacturers have discovered ways to remove the retainer bar, which is one more step away from the institutional look.
Reverie, L&P and St. Louis-based Glideaway have added adjustable height legs. On many models they now come standard.
Griggs predicts that over the next two years the industry will see a bigger push toward technology and sleep science. “Those of us in the bedding industry have fought for years to get the consumer to understand that a good mattress can help you sleep better. And we’ve achieved that,” he says. “Now with other products—adjustables being one—people are looking for more health (benefits). People are more health conscious. I think that’s going to be a big focus in the next 18-24 months.”
Reverie is looking toward using technology for health benefits, as well. Its Bluetooth-enabled bases allow consumers to pair their smartphones with their beds, much the way people pair smartphones with their cars. As consumers adjust the base, it gives the remote a precise readout of where they are in the articulation process, Tan says. The app also provides consumers the ability to create “comfort routines” and set a “raise-you-awake” alarm.
“Your bed is no longer static—our current technology can actually provide upgrades down the road as needed,” Tan says. “It’s two-way communication.”
The reason for the technology isn’t so much the “wow” factor, she says. “We want to make sure whatever we’re doing with our technology is improving your habits and improving the quality of your sleep.”
For your health
While these bases can do an amazing number of things, they were initially designed to make life easier for those with medical needs.
Aaron Goldsmith, president of Postville, Iowa-based Transfer Master Products Inc., keeps that uppermost in mind.
“We want to meet the needs of baby boomers—not just passively, but proactively,” he says. “One out of five people in the U.S. has a disability and is looking for some kind of relief.”
In addition to offering bases that raise and lower the head and feet, Transfer Master produces Supernal Hi-Low, which lowers and rises for those who have difficulty getting in and out of bed.
Goldsmith likes to keep things simple. “We have the least amount of buttons in the industry,” he says.
He believes adding apps to smartphones to control the base is counterintuitive, given that many experts recommend leaving smartphones and other blue-light emitting devices out of the bedroom because they have the potential to disrupt sleep.
“We have simple controls so consumers can have more wholesome sleep,” he says.
That doesn’t mean the company hasn’t evolved through the years. Goldsmith says Transfer Master has made thoughtful changes. Some models feature a wireless remote, even though Goldsmith was initially reluctant to do so in case someone with a disability dropped the remote and had difficulty getting out of bed to retrieve it. And now consumers can resync the hand control by unplugging and plugging the base and pressing two buttons instead of having to crawl underneath the bed and press a button. “We don’t want to create a hurdle,” he says.
For those looking ahead to days when they might have more medical needs, concealed guardrail brackets can be added under the ticking so that it’s available when the time comes.
At the 2016 Summer Las Vegas Market, Customatic debuted the Independence, a twin XL base that can take a person from a prone position into a seated position and can then tip forward to help a person stand. Suggested retail is $1,699.
Sherman says the company is most interested in building beds for the baby boomer market. “Instead of saying, ‘Let’s focus on the millennials, on the younger guy’, we’re saying, ‘Let’s go back for that baby boomer market again, with more home-friendly and more designer-friendly bases to solve a need—the freedom to have mobility without a caregiver.”
At Glideaway, the emphasis is on solution-based products.
“We’re in a sedentary society,” says Dan Baker, executive vice president of sales North America. “We can’t change that, but we can bring products to the marketplace that are going to help that person sleep better whatever their lifestyles are.”
In addition to the traditional head up and foot up models, Glideaway offers two additional models, the Elevation ($2,300) and Ascend ($1,699), which address the needs of side and stomach sleepers, Baker says. The entire base, and not just the head, inclines to help sleepers who have acid reflux or other issues.
The price is right
Perhaps the biggest change in the past few years is a shift to more affordable bases. Each person interviewed mentioned the array of price points as a major trend in the category.
“They’re much more affordable than they used to be,” Thompson says. “You just about couldn’t ever get one for under $1,000. It seems like the sweet spot was in the mid-thousands so $1,500 was more a normal. There’s still a fair bit of velocity in that price point, but really, there’s been a lot more growth south of that in the past few years. It’s not uncommon at all today to see one at $899 or with some more basic features even well below that.”
One way to grow the category is to make adjustable bases more available to more people.
“Price points have moved down to capture a new consumer,” Polunsky of W. Silver says. “We’ve developed a base for less money. On the upper end, we’ve added more features. Everybody is doing more in the master bedroom.”
Others have solved a problem.
Both Customatic and Glideaway have created a single adjustable foundation for a king-size bed. Previously, consumers had to buy two twin adjustable bases for their king mattress. One base means lower cost.
Some models are cost-effective solutions designed for consumers who want the benefits of an adjustable base but need an entry-level price point. Glideaway introduced the entry-level Ecoflex base, which retails between $399 and $599. It’s a simple steel frame with a wider leg. It comes in a four-color shippable box.
Others also are creating lighter bases that are suitable for shipping. Customatic offers Easy Flex, which retails for about $699, and at the 2017 Winter Las Vegas Market debuted Stratocaster, a more fashionable base loaded with features, which is expected to retail between $799 and $999, Sherman says. At the same market, Transfer Master introduced the online-friendly Supernal Snap & Sleep, a base that comes in two shippable boxes, weighing less than 100 pounds each.
“When we look at how the landscape has changed, being able to deliver power bases to the segment of the population who prefer to shop online is important,” Tan says.
She also notes that there has been a shift toward cross-generational purchasers. Not only do these foundations appeal to baby boomers, but millennials and Gen Xers also are looking to put them in their bedrooms.
“We’re seeing a wider uptake of desire for adjustability,” she says. “I think having more price points and product offerings bolster that, but I also think the way we’ve been marketing the product and the reach we’ve achieved as an industry have shifted who thinks a power base is right for them.”
Whether it’s about improving sleep or getting comfortable to watch TV or read, an adjustable base allows you to do all those things, Polunsky says. “It enhances your sleep. It enhances your enjoyment of the master bedroom.”
Baker with Glideaway agrees, saying the master bedroom has become “the second family room, but ultimately, it’s about getting the best rest possible.
“This category will change people’s lives,” Baker says.
Adjusting to Selling Adjustables
Customers may come into your store thinking they only want a mattress. But you can raise your sales by showing them something that might not be on their radar but will make a difference in how well they sleep at night—a motion base.
First and foremost, retailers need to floor them—and preferably a few different models—so potential customers can experience them.
Second, make it part of your selling presentation. “If you don’t show it, you don’t sell it,” says Lisa Tan, chief marketing officer for Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based Reverie/Ascion LLC. Johnny Griggs, chief operating officer of Goleta, California-based Ergomotion/Softide from Jiaxing Shufude Electric Bed Co. Ltd., agrees. “Show it to every single person who comes in to buy a bed. Many are still not aware of it,” he says.
Third, talk about adjustable bases early. “You don’t want to wait too late to bring it up,” says Jay Thompson, president of Carthage, Missouri-based Leggett & Platt Adjustable Bed Group. “It’s very powerful if done properly.”
The biggest factor in selling the base is getting people on one. Both Phil Sherman, co-principal of Customatic Adjustable Bedz headquartered in Natick, Massachusetts, and Dan Baker, executive vice president of sales for North America for St. Louis-based Glideaway, recommend having consumers lie flat, take a deep breath and then elevate their head and legs. Have them take another deep breath and then bring them flat again.
“People don’t realize what they’re missing until they try it,” Baker says.
Then you can talk about some of the extra features, such as underbed lighting or USB ports. “You sell the sizzle,” Sherman says. “It’s adding butter to the steak.”
Thompson recommends pricing a mattress and a base as a set. Not only does that make it easier for consumers, but it also helps them make the connection that they are purchasing a sleep system.
Above all, enjoy the process.
“An adjustable base is a product you can get excited about,” Griggs says. “Just show it. Have fun.”