BY JULIE A. PALM
Retailers that offer mattresses and sleep products for children and teens can grow sales and help families provide a comfortable nighttime sanctuary for their little ones.
Editor’s Note: Many products, including mattresses and other sleep products, that are intended for use by children (typically defined as those 12 and younger) are regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, as well as various regulatory bodies at the state and local level. Some raw materials used in children’s sleep products also are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Retailers selling youth bedding should check with their vendors to make sure the products they carry comply with applicable standards for children’s products. An attorney specializing in product safety law also can be a helpful resource for retailers.
Making the move into his or her first “big kid” bed is a huge day—or should we say night?—in any child’s life. As a mattress retailer, you can help make sure that child slumbers on a comfortable and supportive mattress—and that the parents understand how important it is for children to have quality bed sets and sleep accessories all the way through their teenage years.
Some mattress retailers have ceded the youth bedding business to competitors who specialize in children’s products, but any retailer—whether you’re a sleep shop, department store, furniture store or online seller—that makes a commitment to juvenile products can do a nice business in the category, bringing in new customers, building incremental business and raising the average ticket, according to manufacturers of youth bedding. (In this article, we’ll be talking about products made for children ages 3 and older, not items intended for infants or babies.)
“The youth market is very large. You can start to sell youth bedding without a lot of effort. You just need to create space on your sales floor,” says Camilla Kim, chief executive officer of Palmpring USA, a manufacturer of natural and organic bedding and its juvenile products spin off Three Happy Coconuts, both headquartered in Pasadena, California.
Furniture stores, in particular, have a good opportunity to launch or expand their juvenile bedding offerings, says Sean Bergman, chief marketing officer for PureCare, a sleep accessories producer based in Fairfield, New Jersey, that launched its PureCare Kids line last spring.
“So many furniture stores, especially, have invested a lot in their kids departments and do a good business in children’s bedroom furniture,” Bergman says. “There’s a huge opportunity there when parents come in to replace a child’s mattress to offer them other sleep essentials, as well.”
In some ways, retailing juvenile sleep products isn’t all that different from adult bedding, but there are some selling points that resonate most strongly with parents and savvy retail sales associates can use them as foundations for conversations with shoppers. First and foremost, todays’ parents want to create safer, healthier sleep environments for children, whether that means replacing an old bed set with a fresh, new one, reducing allergens or outfitting their kids’ rooms with natural and organic products. Parents also want quality bedding that will last and even adapt as their children grow. Lastly, they appreciate items that are tailored to their children’s needs and tastes—from comfort levels designed for smaller, lighter body frames to brightly colored mattress covers that make it fun to crawl into bed. If you offer those things, parents will pay a premium.
“It’s hard to sell a $99 pillow for child, but when you add value propositions—that it contributes to the wellness of the child and cleanliness of the sleep environment—the purchase becomes worth it to parents,” Bergman says.
Bob Naboicheck, president of Gold Bond Mattress Co., a fourth-generation mattress manufacturer with headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut, agrees. “There is a trend toward parents spending more money on children’s bedding, especially if you can show them that a product provides enhanced comfort and durability, uses more natural components or is American-made,” Naboicheck says. “If an RSA focuses on the needs of the child—reducing allergies, natural cushioning materials, etc.—that opens the door for parents to go beyond the $99 mattress.”
Health and wellness sells
As a second-generation mattress producer and mother herself, Kim wanted to create a line of children’s bedding that she felt comfortable tucking her daughters into each night. In June 2015, Three Happy Coconuts was born. “The brand was created due to the concerns of my two daughters’ health and a belief that they should not be at risk while sleeping, which is the most precious moment of their lives,” Kim says.
The Three Happy Coconuts line includes mattresses, pillows and toppers made of components that are hypoallergenic, anti-microbial or anti-bacterial, such organic cotton, wool, natural latex and coconut fiber (coir). The company’s best-selling product, Kim says, is the Heavenly Sandwich bed, a plush 9-inch mattress constructed with a layer of coir sandwiched between a 4-inch layer and a 2-inch layer of organic latex. The cover is made of organic cotton and wool. It has a suggested retail price of $2,299 in twin size. “The mattress is soft, comfortable but firm, and provides great support for the back,” Kim says. “This is one of the best products in the mattress industry for kids and young adults.”
Other beds include the Vanilla Delight, an extra-plush mattress with a 6-inch organic latex core that retails for $1,899 in twin, and the Caterpillar, a two-sided mattress—firmer on one side and plusher on the other—designed for adjustable bases that retails for $2,999 in twin XL. The company also makes organic latex pillows for kids: Kim says her daughters love a contoured version called Delight ($80). In the next year, Three Happy Coconuts plans to expand its lineup with a daybed and play cushions.
Another child—in this case a first grandchild—led Barry Cik to found Naturepedic, a manufacturer of natural and organic sleep products based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Sent by his wife to buy a crib mattress and other items for the newest member of the family, Cik—who has worn a number of professional hats, including board certified environmental engineer, certified hazard materials manager and certified forensic engineer and who now is technical director of Naturepedic—couldn’t find a mattress that met his own demands for a natural, organic baby bed and set out to make his own.
Cik initially joked about creating a line of straw bedding because that seemed like the simplest, most natural material but eventually settled on organic cotton covers and fills, PLA fill made from non-GMO potatoes, steel innersprings, organic cotton-encased coils, and other organic and natural materials. The line started with crib mattresses, expanded to children’s bedding and now includes adult sleep products, as well.
The Naturepedic Kids line includes two firm opening models—the Quilted Organic Cotton Deluxe and the 2 in 1 Organic Cotton Ultra/Quilted—that are especially well-suited for toddlers and young children. They retail for $649 and $749 in twin sizes, respectively. At the upper end of its youth line is the Chorus bed, which retails for $1,199 in twin. Naturepedic’s newest youth mattress is designed for older children, 10 and up. At press time, it was unnamed but it has a plusher feel and will retail for $799 in twin. Naturepedic also offers pillows for children filled with organic cotton, PLA and kapok and covered in organic cotton. They are available in toddler and standard sizes with retails starting at $49. Although Naturepedic uses natural components such as latex and wool in some adult mattresses, it does not incorporate them into children’s products to create the most hypoallergenic mattresses it can. All of Naturepedic’s children’s mattresses meet the Global Organic Textile Standard.
PureCare emphasizes health and wellness across its adult product line and wanted to build upon those qualities and messages when it created and introduced its PureCare Kids line of pillows, pillowcases, and mattress and pillow protectors marketed for children ages 3 to 12. “It’s already become an explosive category for us,” Bergman says. “I knew there’d be interest from retailers, but I had no idea how much.”
All of PureCare’s youth pillows, which Bergman says have been the company’s best-selling products for juveniles thus far, include anti-microbial silver in the covers to help inhibit bacteria, mold and mildew that cause deterioration, stains and odors. Pillow covers and some pillow components are machine washable. PureCare Kids protectors have similar properties.
Gold Bond, which has produced youth bedding for about two decades, began introducing more natural components into its juvenile mattress line about five years ago, Naboicheck says. At the time, he said, he saw parents, including his own daughter, becoming more interested in the materials used in children’s bedding.
“Young parents today want something sustainable,” Naboicheck says. “They are feeding their children organic food and looking for natural products.” Gold Bond is updating its juvenile collection again and is still in the process of naming the group. The six-bed lineup uses CertiPUR-US-certified flexible polyurethane foams, 100% natural latex and copper-infused cotton fabrics to create beds with hypoallergenic, dust-mite resistant, moisture-resistant and anti-microbial properties.
Keeping children’s beds clean and sanitary is part of the health and wellness message parents appreciate. If you’re going to sell juvenile bedding, then protectors should be a key part of your program. They help to keep allergens and pests away from the child, while stopping spills and body fluids from seeping into mattresses and pillows, creating sanitary problems and shortening the life of the products. Mattress protectors in the PureCare Kids line retail for $85 in twin; pillow protectors are about $20. Both are machine washable in the hottest water settings. Naturepedic offers organic waterproof pads in regular and fitted versions ($99 and $109 in twin, respectively). They feature organic cotton flannel, muslin and jersey fabrics and use the company’s patented DrySleep technology to keep liquids from passing through while still allowing the fabrics to breathe.
Built to last—and to adjust
One thing that can make parents understandably reluctant to spend more on children’s products is the knowledge that their kids may quickly wear them out or outgrow them. Bedding manufacturers take this into consideration, offering items that are designed to last or transition along with the child.
St. Louis-based Glideaway Sleep Products introduced its first line of youth mattresses seven years ago, seeing an opening in the marketplace for a more value-priced line of viscoelastic bedding for kids, says Dan Baker, executive vice president of sales. Glideaway’s eight-model Jubilee line features 7-inch mattresses made with CertiPUR-US-certified foam and dressed in brightly colored velour covers. They are paired with pillows that are filled with shredded memory foam and covered in matching fabrics. The beds have suggested retail prices from $249 to $299 in twin.
Parents, Baker says, are familiar with the support and comfort benefits of sleeping on memory foam and see the value in purchasing a similar sleep surface for their children. “Jubilee’s memory foam gives kids the firm support their bodies need during their biggest growth stages, especially between ages 3 to 9,” he says.
Last year, the company added mesh to the mattress border to improve breathability. “Cool, comfortable sleep is important whether you’re an adult or a child,” Baker says. The company plans to incorporate gel throughout the line in 2017.
Gold Bond’s newly revamped line of juvenile products is designed with premium components—including durable spring units—that are designed to last, while still providing the appropriate comfort level for little bodies. Its opening model, with a suggested retail price of $199, is a 6-inch mattress available in firm or super-plush versions. Step-up models in 8-inch profiles include latex, open-cell viscoelastics and gel-infused memory foams. The top model, priced at $399, has microcoils in the panel layer. Parents like the idea, Naboicheck says, of their children sleeping on the same high-quality, made-to-last bedding components used in adult mattress sets.
One of Naturepedic’s best-selling youth beds is a model with quilted organic cotton fabric on one side and waterproof organic cotton on the other. It’s ideal for children who are ready to move from the crib to a “big kid” bed but aren’t potty-trained. “You can start the child out on the waterproof side and then flip it as they get older. It serves a very useful purpose,” Cik says.
The PureCare Kids Rise & Shine pillow has removable inserts made of memory foam or latex, making it easy to adjust the height, comfort and support of the pillow as children age and grow. The company’s PureCare Kids One pillow fills a memory foam shell with a blend of Identically Down fill and memory foam “puffs,” giving kids a soft, squishy place to rest their heads. If they want a firmer feel, they can flip the pillow over and sleep on the side featuring PureCare’s Silhouette Support, a solid memory foam core.
“A 3-year-old will need a thinner, lower profile pillow,” Bergman says. “But as the child grows up, they may need more loft and more neck support. Our pillows will grow along with the child.” The pillows have suggested retail prices from $49 to $59.
Keep it fun
We’re talking about selling kids products—it’s OK to have a little fun with them, and manufacturers certainly are.
Baker attributes the success of Glideaway’s youth bedding, in large part, to the colorful and patterned mattress covers that have always distinguished the line. He recommends furniture and department stores ditch the comforters and other linens they often use to cover children’s mattresses.
“If you put these brightly colored mattresses by themselves on bedroom sets, kids—and their parents—gravitate toward them,” Baker says. “You can draw them toward higher priced bedroom sets and brighten up your entire bedding department.” Glideaway’s best-selling youth bed is dressed in a hot pink cover. Other colors include a brilliant blue, rich purple and bright green. Glideaway has a fanciful take on a zebra pattern with pink and black stripes and recently updated its camouflage cover with a bolder deep woods design.
When Gold Bond set out to update its line of youth beds, it chose bright tape edges in hues of purple, green and pink to add a bit of whimsy. PureCare created kid-friendly packaging for its youth line. Line drawings of clouds, rocket ships and other fun images are meant to be colored by kids and used for other art projects.
Retailers can add a sense of fun to their juvenile bedding section or department by creating a small play area. Stock it with toys, games and books—might we recommend “Goodnight Moon”? A video monitor can stream movies or cartoons. At the end of the shopping excursion, send children home with a small treat—with parents’ permission, of course. Parents who purchase a bed set might get a cute nightlight for their preschool-age kids or, for teens, maybe a sleep mask.
Julie A. Palm is chief wordsmith at Palm Ink LLC in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She has 25 years of experience as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines and as a publications director. She is a past editor in chief of both Sleep Savvy and BedTimes magazines. She can be reached at email@example.com.
More children’s bedding selling tips for retailers and RSAs
- Make youth bedding part of every conversation. Don’t limit potential sales by discussing youth bedding only with shoppers who specifically ask for it. Find ways to work the products into conversations with a variety of consumers. To avoid awkward assumptions, you can phrase your question in a general way, “Do you have any children in your home or children that you regularly buy for?” You can then follow up by asking if the child has any allergies, is sleeping on an old or hand-me-down bed set, etc. Never ask, “Do you have kids?”
- Court the grandparents. Grandparents love to shop for grandkids, and parents appreciate them buying both useful and pricier items. You can build business by marketing to this demographic. (Heck, Barry Cik of Naturepedic started an entire company to create the kind of bedding he thought his grandchild needed.)
- Go for fulls. Just as you’ll sell more adjustable bases if you show them, you can shift shoppers from twin to full size beds just by displaying and discussing them more, says Dan Baker, executive vice president of sales for Glideaway in St. Louis. Baker points to a large furniture retailer based in the Midwest who sells a 50-50 split of twins and fulls. Full-size mattresses give children a bit more room to grow and, relatively speaking, don’t cost significantly more than a twin, Baker adds.
- Corner the gift market. Pillows, linens and protectors make great gift items and can boost sales during times that are traditionally slower for retailers, namely the winter holiday season. Again, think grandparents, but also godparents, aunts, uncles and everyone else looking for a practical gift to buy children and help out financially overburdened parents.
- Invest in POP. “Retailers need to educate their customers while their customers are in their store. Showing and displaying information, such as banners, alongside the actual products will help them, as well,” says Camilla Kim, chief executive officer of Palmpring USA and Three Happy Coconuts, both based in Pasadena, California. The need for attractive, informative point-of-purchase information is particularly important when you’re adding or expanding your youth bedding offerings.
- Build back-to-school sales. Late summer already is a nice time for mattress sales, especially in college towns. But you can remind parents that in addition to schools supplies and new outfits, a new bed set will get their kids off to a good start for the new school year. Highlight information about the importance of a quality mattress and adequate sleep to alertness during the school day.
Being young is exhausting: Kids require lots of sleep
When talking about the importance of investing in a quality sleep set, retail sales associates often remind shoppers of the amount of time we spend in bed each day. Adults who sleep the seven to eight hours a night recommended for optimal health and wellness spend about one-third of their lives in bed—meaning they use their mattress set far more than any other product in their home. Given that, spending a bit more to get the most comfortable, supportive mattress can make a lot of sense.
When talking to parents, especially those who may have walked into your store ready to buy the least expensive juvenile mattress available, RSAs can—and should—remind them how much more sleep children require than adults.
For instance, physicians and sleep experts recommend toddlers get 12 hours of sleep a night, which means those little tykes spend about half their young lives in bed.
Preschoolers need slightly less or about 10½ to 11½ hours a night. Children 6 and older, including teenagers—who often are loathe to sleep when they could be Instagramming the night away—generally function well with a solid nine to 10 hours of sleep. That’s lot of time in bed.
Talking about children’s sleep needs should be part of every conversation RSAs have with parents about new bedding for their kids, but you can reiterate the message with simple point-of-purchase materials. A chart showing how much sleep children need at each age can be a powerful reminder. Add it to each youth bed or hang a poster in your juvenile bedding department. And don’t forget to include the information on your website and in social media messages.
‘My own bed’: A child’s room is no place for an old mattress
Hand-me-down jeans and t-shirts are fine for most kids—though they may not relish the idea of wearing their big sister’s or big brother’s old outfits. Hand-me-down bed sets, however, are not a good idea.
“If a mattress is no longer comfortable for you, it’s not good enough for someone else—especially your child,” advises the Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association. “As kids grow, they need supportive and comfortable bedding, as well.”
And, at the risk of belaboring the point, this is another reason Sleep Savvy encourages retailers to carry at least a modest selection of youth bedding. If you’re selling a new sleep set to shoppers who mention that they won’t need you to pick up the old set and take it away for recycling because they plan move it into a child’s room, that’s an opening to discuss the need for all members of the household—no matter their age—to have a comfortable, supportive mattress that’s right for their body type and sleep needs.