|This year, the International Sleep Products Association, which publishes Sleep Savvy, is celebrating its centennial. In researching ISPA’s first 100 years for an anniversary series in our sister publication BedTimes, we’ve found plenty that is of interest to mattress retailers. Here we share some news and trends from the period 1941 to 1965.|
The era of supersizing
Given the ubiquity of queen- and king-size mattresses today, it’s hard to imagine a time when they didn’t exist. But even into the 1940s, most Americans slept on twin or double beds. Midway through the decade, manufacturers began to offer larger mattresses, but they didn’t make much of an impact on the market until the 1950s.
A number of forces came together to create demand, among them the fact that Americans themselves were getting bigger. An October 1963 article in Bedding magazine reported that in 1900, only 4% of adult men in the United States were 6 feet or taller. By 1959, the number was 20%, and women were growing taller at similar rates. Then there was the post-war economic boom: Consumers were eager to outfit big houses in the sprawling suburbs with new furniture.
The bedding industry liked the idea of bigger bedding—which came with bigger price tags and created demand for new mattresses as people saw friends and family splurging for larger models. In 1962, the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers went all in to encourage consumers to upgrade, declaring Better Sleep Month “Measure Your Mattress Month” with a “Buy Bigger, Sleep Better!” tag line.
The campaign was—pardon the pun—an enormous success: In 1953, king-size bedding represented less than 1% of overall bedding sales in the United States, according to the Bedding article. By 1962, it accounted for 10% of sales.
Bedding does double duty
“To be fully prepared for hospitality emergencies, every home should be equipped with at least one modern studio couch or sofa bed. Then let that unexpected guest come when he may. You’ll be ready.” So preached one of many “bedding talks” written and distributed to radio stations by the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers during the early 1940s.
By the mid-1950s, manufacturers were putting as much emphasis on the styling of the dual-purpose products as functionality.
An intriguing idea
Here’s one that caught our eye from the June 1957 issue, headlined, “No Selling Permitted”: “When Glick Furniture Co., Columbus, O., remodeled its store and upgraded its bedding and other merchandise, they hit upon the idea of a ‘No Selling Permitted’ preview as a way to acquaint customers with the improvements. The no-sale preview, plugged in the store’s ads, was held on a recent Sunday afternoon and brought record traffic. ‘Families came from all over central Ohio to see what we had done,’ a store spokesman said, ‘and because there were no fancy giveaways, we attracted the kind of people who were just interest in our merchandise.’ ”
It was an interesting idea then—and it is today.
“People overlook the fact that the bedding salesman actually creates value in the merchandise he sells by giving the customer information about sleep equipment which enables him to get greater satisfaction, better rest, greater health and happiness. The old idea of making people buy is giving way to the more useful one of helping people buy, and this is directly the responsibility of the bedding salesman himself.”
—Bedding Merchandiser, September 1954