BY GARY JAMES
|* All prices are suggested retail for queen size unless otherwise noted.|
Often an overlooked or undersold element in a typical sleep system sale, bed frames and foundations are gaining more attention lately due to enhancements in construction, styling and functionality.
“I’m beginning to see many more conversations on sales floors about the role of the foundation,” says Dennis Rodgers, president of Forever Foundations in Irvine, California. “What once was considered a ‘giveaway’ brought up at the end of the sale has evolved into an important part of the sales conversation. There’s a growing understanding that if you don’t have the proper bed-frame support, the chances for eventual mattress failure are greatly increased.”
Years ago, the box spring was an integral part of most consumers’ sleep-system purchase decisions. But, over time, as mattress designs have changed and platform beds have gained in popularity, the support system’s role has been substantially diminished. Today, the retail salesperson rarely mentions it, according to Rodgers—“and its importance and function often go unmentioned.”
New opportunities, however, are emerging for frames and foundations. “We design our products to go with a foundation,” says Rolf Sannes, vice president of brand management for Atlanta-based Simmons Bedding Co. “We feel it’s important from a durability and performance aspect.”
More than ever, mattresses need a strong foundation to perform properly, and frame and foundation suppliers have responded by expanding the features available, creating a whole range of new step-up opportunities.
At Forever Foundations, frame offerings include a range of three-in-one solutions that combine bed support, foundation and storage into one unit. And at the summer Las Vegas Market, the company showcased two super-sturdy platform bases, Foundation Plus and Foundation Max Plus, which retail from $299 to $599. In testing, the Max Plus base supported a 2-ton John Deere tractor without collapsing.
“We offer ‘Confidence from the Foundation Up,’ ” says Rodgers, referring to the company’s tagline, especially in reference to its heavy-duty products. “Nobody would put cheap, retread tires on a luxury car. So why place a $2,500 to $5,000 bed on a $90 weak frame?”
Because some higher-end beds with sophisticated latex and gel components can weigh more, they often need a more substantial foundation. “Too often, a support system is designed not to match the mattress but rather to deliver a price point that is as low as possible,” Rodgers says. “But the consumer deserves to be shown a range of foundations across several price points so they have a choice of features and can pick what’s right for them.”
If retailers show only a few low-end frames, that opportunity is never presented.
“Some people might say $299 is too expensive for a foundation, but my answer would be ‘compared to what?’ ” Rodgers says. “A basic box spring and a steel frame runs about $300 but doesn’t deliver nearly the same level of features.”
To help retail sales associates convey the benefits of its line, the company offers a training program called Forever University. Available in print or online, the program provides resources and tools to educate RSAs about the role a foundation plays.
“The more trained and professional an RSA is, the more they understand why a quality sleep system needs a quality foundation,” Rodgers says. “They understand that the mattress, pillows and foundation all work together and that each element is important.”
A growing focus
In recent years, many retailers have changed the way they market frames and foundations, says Denny Boyd, president of Boyd Specialty Sleep in Maryland Heights, Missouri. Although it was once common to promote mattress/box spring sets, with a package price for both units, RSAs today typically present the foundation or frame as a separate element in the purchase decision. Ideally, they should present it as part of a coordinated sleep solution, with options for a variety of needs and budgets.
“The RSA will identify which mattress best matches the ergonomic needs of the consumer and then have a related discussion about pillows and frames,” Boyd says. “They’ll explain the range that’s available—everything from a basic frame to platforms, Euro bases and adjustables—so the consumer can determine which approach makes the most sense for the mattress they are buying.”
With this approach, the RSA doesn’t have to subtract the price of a box spring from an original quoted price, which can be confusing to the consumer, but rather treat the foundation as a separate—and important—part of the overall purchase.
“The consumer will choose the solution that’s right for them and, often, they’ll up-sell themselves because the additional features have a value,” Boyd says.
To help RSAs bring its frame options to the attention of consumers, Leggett & Platt offers a three-tier, in-store display module with signage. The module showcases a good-better-best selection of miniframes, at a height that a consumer easily can inspect so that product features can be demonstrated.
“Frames can be merchandised just as effectively as bedding,” says John Case, president of L&P’s Consumer Products Group based in Whittier, California. “But to be successful it takes a commitment to the category on the part of store owners and RSAs. With our point-of-purchase materials and other support, we provide effective tools for helping consumers better understand the benefits and strengths of our frames, rails and other support systems.”
Case acknowledges that despite manufacturers’ best efforts to spotlight the category, there’s still a “lingering mindset” that frames are something to be given away or sold cheaply. The category also has a tendency to be relegated to a back corner of the store. “Our goal is to bring it back out in the open so that consumers can be shown a range of choices. When that happens, there’s a good opportunity for the RSA to sell a step-up frame and make a better margin. When a consumer is spending $1,500 to $2,000 on a bed, they don’t mind spending more on a frame or foundation if it provides better support.”
One of L&P’s best-sellers is the Prestige frame. Priced at $149 to $199 retail, it features a unique tubular design specially engineered for today’s heavier premium mattresses.
“This frame has nine points of contact with the floor and oversized glides that are ultra-strong and impact-resistant,” Case says. “It’s a step-up product, but it’s better suited to the size and weight of today’s bedding.”
In early 2015, L&P plans to make some significant introductions to its frame offerings aimed at reinvigorating the category. “What will drive the category forward most is product innovation,” Case says. “We need to provide compelling features that get both salespeople and consumers excited.”
A new sense of style
Seeking to inject more style into the category, Hollywood Bed Frame Co. recently added a new line of designer bed frames in tubular steel called EnVision. Priced at $129 to $169 retail for
queen and king sizes, EnVision features a powder-coated Palladium Silver finish. The nine-legged frame also boasts a unique wedge-lock-leg design, side inserts to hold the box spring in place and longer 75-inch side rails for added support.
“Most frames on the market are cocoa brown,” says Jon Mullinax, vice president of sales and marketing for the Commerce, California, company. “EnVision’s silver tone stands out, creating a chic, contemporary look that doesn’t require a bed skirt or dust ruffle.”
With its enhanced styling and features, EnVision offers retailers the opportunity to up-sell their clientele and increase sales, Mullinax adds.
In May, Hollywood Bed also started production of its new E3 steel frame. Priced to retail from $99 to $129, this one-size-fits-all model packs in a compact box for easy transport, making it appealing to Internet and cash-and-carry customers. It uses a proprietary Lev-R-Lock design that assembles without tools and is tested to hold up to 2,000 pounds.
The E3 is the only bed-frame package that meets the requirements of the International Safe Transit Association’s 3A test protocol, Mullinax says.
“Everything is in one box, which can be easily loaded into a small car or shipped by UPS right to your home,” he says.
The frame already has become Hollywood’s No. 2 model in production volume. The company has licensing agreements with both Serta and Simmons, and it also offers it own Hollywood Bed version.
“It’s generating a lot of sales for retailers like Costco, but we also expect sleep specialists to do well with it,” Mullinax says. “To help drive sales, we’ve designed the box as a colorful point-of-sale item, with all of the key features listed on the sides.”
Hollywood also offers a point-of-sale display rack that holds eight units, with one box positioned horizontally so that all of the features can be easily read.
“We want bed frames to become a profit center for the retailer, and, to achieve that, the category has to be merchandised so that consumers see what’s available,” Mullinax says. “If a retailer only offers a $49 model, that’s what the consumer is going to buy. But that may not be the best frame for their needs. The customer should be given the opportunity to buy the best product they can afford.”
Consumers regularly pay $129 and $159 for pillows, Mullinax points out. “They’re willing to make that investment because they see more value in those pillows than a cheaper model would provide. Frames are no different—a premium model has clear advantages that certain customers will value.”
Easy assembly, shipping
Also introducing a new shippable base at the summer Las Vegas Market was Salem Sleep Systems Inc., headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The new Port-A-Foundation features a wooden slat foundation easily assembled without tools using a patent-pending interlocking system. Available in twin through king sizes, the foundation ships in a single compact box, lowering freight charges and reducing warehouse space.
This new base has been a hit with online retailers looking for a compact foundation that can be shipped directly to consumers by UPS or FedEx along with their mattress orders, says President Larry Craver. “And we’ve gotten a lot of interest from mattress manufacturers and sleep shops, too. They like the fact that this foundation is so easy to transport.”
To accommodate heavier specialty mattresses, Salem Sleep developed a Euro-type version of the Port-A-Foundation in black spruce with 16 slats spaced 2.5 inches apart.
“It provides more stability for heavier mattresses while also remaining flexible, making it a good match for latex,” Craver says. It retails for $279. The company also is developing a less expensive version using hardwood.
At the fall High Point Market, Oct. 18-23 in High Point, North Carolina, Salem Sleep introduced a new metal Euro-slat foundation that is shippable. The company also is developing decorative side panels that snap onto the sides of its foundations as an accessory.
Targeting the young
Seeing an emerging market among Millennials, Boyd Specialty Sleep introduced a new metal platform bed package this summer that includes headboard, footboard and side rails shipped as one flat-packed unit. Priced at $199 to $299, it features five contemporary designs.
“Millennials today don’t need or want a box spring,” Denny Boyd says. “Most of the box springs today are just bulky wooden boxes with fabric and they don’t add any significant value to the purchase. Younger consumers want something that is mobile so that they can move it easily. We’re offering a complete bed solution in a box that assembles in five to 10 minutes with no tools, and it doesn’t cost much more than a box spring and a basic metal frame.”
Another successful Boyd product that can be shipped is its EuroBase platform bed frame, introduced in 2013, which also takes the place of a box spring or foundation. Constructed with a European-style slat system, the EuroBase provides a spring-like feel. Adjustable “sleeves” allow users to customize the level of support from firm to plush. Optional rollaway storage drawers are available.
“This system provides the response that traditional box springs used to provide,” Boyd says. “When you sit or lie down, the frame absorbs the movement and flexes, giving the mattress additional life.”
To make it easier for retailers to sell its products, Boyd has introduced a new direct-ship service in which it fulfills orders directly from its warehouses in Los Angeles and St. Louis to consumers in three to four days. The program includes all its bases and mattresses.
“The retailer doesn’t have to stock any of our products, which saves them money on warehousing and delivery,” Boyd says.
A personal touch
Walton, Ohio-based Mantua Mfg.’s new Express Yourself frame, introduced at the summer Las Vegas Market, adds a new dimension to the basic metal frame by allowing consumers the ability to personalize. Options include a choice of wood or stainless steel legs and a 16-color assortment of side-rail valances in wood grain and fabric looks as well as contemporary and traditional styles.
The frame-valance combo retails for $149, and valances also are available separately for $59 a pair if consumers decide they want to change colors later.
“Retailers are really excited about this,” says David Jaffe, president. “Express Yourself gives retailers a chance to make more profit with each frame sale, and it also creates an opportunity for them to sell more valances in the future.”
In addition, Express Yourself offers retailers an inexpensive way to jazz up floor displays and build brand identity, Jaffe says. “Each valance can be printed on, so retailers have the ability to add a logo or a message. Some retailers have talked about using green valances on all their organic mattresses, or changing their displays to pink valances during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”
The program allows bed frames to become more of a design element, Jaffe says. “Bed frames have never been a sexy product. Most people buy them and then cover them up as quickly as possible with a dust ruffle. With Express Yourself, the frame is part of the room design.”
Express Yourself taps into consumers’ desire for customized products, he adds. “From iPhone cases to fast food toppings, today’s consumers like having a wide range of choices.”
Mantua’s current best-selling model is its Sealy Posturepedic series. According to Jaffe, the retail frame’s extra length and strength provide more stability and support than conventional bed frames and eliminate tipping when a person is seated at the foot of the bed.
“The patented level-design construction provides proper alignment and support for the box spring, reducing stress and the potential for noise,” Jaffe says.
To be successful with the bed-frame category, Jaffe recommends that retailers carry a good-better-best assortment. Mantua’s standard frame line starts at $39 and tops out at $99 for its Sealy model.
“If a retailer only offers a basic, low-end model, they’re missing an opportunity,” he says. “And they’re also selling their consumers short, because if they’re buying a higher-end frame, they need a quality frame to support it properly. Most consumers would gladly spend $40 or $60 more to ensure that they are supporting their investments.”
When approaching the consumer, Jaffe recommends RSAs ask a few quick questions to determine which model might be right. “If they’re buying a queen set, they’ll need center support. And if they have wood floors, they may need glides rather than rollers. Consumers often think any frame will fill the bill, but that’s not the case.”
Fashion plus function
In 2012, Knickerbocker Bed Frame Co. helped bring bed support systems out of the shadows with the introduction of its emBrace system. Available in four colors, emBrace features high-strength steel wrapped in a plastic resin. The use of color adds a fashion element that had been missing in the category, says Joe Hunt, vice president of sales and marketing of the Carlstadt, New Jersey-based company.
“EmBrace provides consumers with a stylish frame that fits in with their other furnishings, and it also enhances the look of the bedding department,” he says.
Priced at $300 to $400 retail, emBrace can be used free standing or with a headboard. The product has no exposed steel or sharp edges, and the polymer coating offers a soft look that is different from most traditional bed frames.
“Anyone can put emBrace together in a matter of minutes, and it’s easy to move from room to room,” Hunt says.
By extending toward the foot of the bed, the emBrace offers complete “seat-edge support,” he says.
Stability is a particularly important issue with today’s heavier, one-sided and specialty mattresses, he adds. “Our steel is nonyielding, which helps the mattress last longer and reduces any movement that would otherwise occur when two people are on the bed.”
Tips for framing the sale
- Mention sleep support early. Pointing out that a frame or foundation is an integral part of any sleep system purchase right from the start sets the stage for a more detailed discussion of features and price ranges later. Waiting until the end to bring it up risks losing the sale because the consumer may resent being sold one more item.
- Ask for details. What do consumers currently sleep on? Do they have a headboard-footboard combination they want to continue using? Do they need extra support?
- Offer a range of good-better-best models. If no heavier-duty or higher-quality frames are on the floor, consumers won’t know what step-up features are available and they’ll simply go with what’s cheapest.
- Bring the product to life. Position a few frame models so that they can be easily examined on the sales floor, or have a minidisplay module on hand that demonstrates key features.
- Don’t view frames as an afterthought. Treat the category as a profit center in its own right by encouraging retail sales associates to take the time to explain key features and benefits.
- Be sensitive to special needs. Larger consumers need frames and foundations that are capable of supporting their extra weight, plus the heavier weight of the mattresses they’re buying.
- Consider add-on features. Storage is a highly desired element in today’s homes, and frames with built-in drawers or easily accessible under-bed cavities are in growing demand.
|More happening under the bed|
|This article looks at trends in bed frames and flat foundations. To read about adjustable power bases, check the October cover story of Sleep Savvy. For more about selling to heavier consumers, see “A Heavy Issue” in the July/August 2014 issue.|
Gary James is a freelance writer who spent more than 20 years with Furniture/Today, serving as case goods editor and special projects editor, directing the editorial content of numerous supplements, sections and features. He also has served as managing editor for a variety of other business publications. He can be reached at email@example.com.