This year, the International Sleep Products Association, which publishes Sleep Savvy, is celebrating its 100th anniversary
The research team poring over old documents for a series of articles in our sister publication BedTimes has come across a trove of trivia and trends about mattress retailing that we know you’ll enjoy, too. Like the stories we ran in the March issue of Sleep Savvy, the following are some fascinating items from the period 1915 to 1940.
Sending a powerful PR message
In the 1920s, consumers found themselves with more discretionary income than ever before, and leaders of the National Bedding Manufacturers Association (predecessor to the International Sleep Products Association) wanted some of that money spent on bedding.
As a first step, they were determined to the elevate sleep products in the eyes of the American public. “Until mattresses and the mattress industry are advertised and kept constantly before the consumer’s eye,” they argued in the January 1924 issue of The National Bedding Manufacturer magazine, “there is no question but that the bedding industry will lag far behind other industries which are striving so strongly and consistently for the consumer’s dollar. And it’s group advertising, or no advertising.”
To this end they employed two marketing strategies. In 1926, members adopted the association’s first national advertising slogan, “Invest in Rest,” which remained in use until the 1970s.
And in 1929, the association sponsored its first National Better Bedding Week, encouraging retailers and manufacturers to work together on the extensive advertising program. Today, this promotion has expanded into May Is Better Sleep Month, sponsored by the Better Sleep Council.
‘Are you asleep on the pillow business?’
That question isn’t out of place in the pages of Sleep Savvy today—and it wasn’t out of place in December 1931 when the editors of The Bedding Manufacturer magazine asked it in a headline. (The industry magazine, which launched in 1917, later became BedTimes. In its early days, the publication covered both manufacturing and retailing trends.)
The pillow article focused on a handful of New York retailers, including Macy’s, B. Altman, Lord & Taylor and Stern Bros., which displayed to their full advantage the attractive pillows being offered by manufacturers—and they profited handsomely because of it.
Pillows priced less than $3—and particularly the $1 and $1.95 price points—were the biggest sellers at the New York stores, although editors did spy a Moroccan leather pillow at Macy’s priced at $19.74. Pillows of the time, even those for the “boudoir,” were decorative and typically sold in the drapery, art and gift departments.
The editors praised the retailers’ innovative and creative displays, including tidy three-tiered square stands at Lord & Taylor and specially built cabinets at Stern Bros.
“Instead of the former table or two of pillows, there are now to be seen great banks of them in every store, the most spectacular display of which is the great pyramid at Macy’s, about 7 feet high and 20 feet long, formed of pillows of every description and price—nothing but pillows.”
The takeaway from the two-page article: “When properly handled, the pillow offers a good profit opportunity.”