BY BETH ENGLISH AND BARBARA T. NELLES
Today’s feature-filled pillows are a must-have for consumers and retailers alike. Here are some of the latest offerings and strategies for fluffing up sales
Never before have pillows had so much to offer consumers—and retailers. Pillow suppliers have been hard at work redesigning the simple bed pillow into something that fills out sales tickets, while solving myriad sleep and health problems.
If there’s room in your store, now is the time to build a thoughtful library of pillow offerings. Choose the price points and the features with the most appeal to your shoppers. In the world of better pillows, there is something for everyone. Your goal—every mattress customer walks out clutching a new, favorite pillow to keep her company as she awaits her mattress delivery. When shoppers find just the right pillow, it gets carried on trips, packed into suitcases and loved until it’s time to purchase a replacement, hopefully, at your store.
One of the biggest trends in bed pillows is the use of multiple fill components. For instance, a single pillow may contain a molded memory foam or latex element, shredded foam or latex, down and feathers, gel-
infused foam or poured gel, polyester fill (including more expensive down-alternative polyester fills), natural cotton or wool fiber, and more.
There is no shortage of molded memory foam and latex foam pillows in a range of silhouettes, and they are as popular as ever, but we also note a growing interest in shredded foam or latex, used either as a core fill or a “cover fill”—the pillow cover, much like a duvet, is filled and wraps around a different core material. These pillows typically have a traditional profile and, if the covers are zippered, the comfort can be adjusted by adding or removing fill.
Pillows with adjustable comfort are available in a range of constructions. One of the benefits to retailers is the ability to stock fewer SKUs.
This gives you more room to merchandise some of the more “exotic” molded foam and latex pillows on offer—and if you do, you’ll find that unusual shapes are becoming a big draw. For example, there are elongated molded pillows that better support “arm sleepers,” pillows with indentations for improved spinal alignment and “sleep-apnea” pillows that prevent sleepers from rolling onto their backs.
Yes, today’s pillows are better for you, pillow suppliers say, and they can solve problems. But, you also will notice that pillows are a lot prettier. The “upholstery” on this essential sleep accessory has taken a lesson from cut-and-sewn, high-end mattress covers. These attractive new looks are helping make the bed pillow less of a commodity and more of a coveted purchase.
Pillow fabrics may be plush, textural double knits, like those found on mattress panels, and seamed with contrasting piping. Many pillow covers use multiple fabrics; for instance, pillow gussets may be in a complementary fabric. The eye-catching covers on well-dressed pillows may zipper off for machine-washing, and when brought home, some never wear a pillowcase.
Retailers should unpackage a selection of attractive—and comfortable—pillows (with their washable covers) and place them throughout the store, so that consumers can test pillows along with mattresses. They may just fall in love with one of your pillows—in addition to purchasing a new bed.
Aside from looking good, pillow fabrics have been technically engineered by mattress-industry textile suppliers to offer a range of interesting—if not always scientifically proven—therapeutic benefits. Expect to find pillow fabrics that are temperature regulating, antibacterial/odor-resistant, energizing and more.
Finally, when selling this important sleep accessory, remember it’s not about pushing pillows to increase tickets—well, not completely. As many pillow suppliers say, the pillow is as integral to a good night’s sleep as the mattress. Don’t allow shoppers to compromise the comfort of that new bed set by using it with old, worn-out pillows.
Serta, headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, introduced its new line of iComfort pillows (pictured) at the 2014 Summer Las Vegas Market. By scaling the same technology from its mattresses into its pillows, the company helps make pillows a logical and easy extension of the mattress sale, says Kristi Morris, director of product licensing and manager of the sleep essentials program. Cool Action Dual Effects gel-infused memory foam—Serta’s “hero material”—is in four of the six pillows in the line. The iComfort EverFeel is a new model featuring the company’s EverFeel technology, which absorbs body heat but does not grow firm in cooler temperatures (even when tested in freezers).
The line also includes an all-latex pillow, the iComfort Renewal Refined, and its No. 1 seller, the 2-in-1 iComfort Scrunch pillow, which is filled with hundreds of Cool Action Dual Effects foam cushions that can be fluffed and bunched like a traditional down pillow while providing the support of gel-infused memory foam. Most work for all sleep positions; however, the iComfort Freestyle and iComfort Contour pillows are specially designed for back and side sleepers. Retail price points for the iComfort line run from $79 to $129.
Additionally, Serta offers the Sleep to Go DuoCore Dual Comfort pillow ($49 retail) that combines two comforts—firm support on one side with Cool Twist gel memory foam and the plusher Cool Comfort memory foam on the other.
Richmond, Virginia-based Carpenter Co.’s latest innovation is Serene Foam. The new material, while
not a memory foam, adjusts like visco-elastic and offers outstanding support, says Dan Schecter, senior vice president of sales and marketing. “It is our view this new technology is a game changer both from a comfort standpoint and cost-effective standpoint when compared to high-density memory foam,” he says. Carpenter also offers Beyond Down pillows (pictured), with a synthetic down fill that simulates a plush, self-adjusting downlike pillow.
Schecter notes that fabrics are the next big innovation for pillows. Carpenter offers pillow covers with phase-change materials to equalize the temperature, making sure the sleeper is never too hot and never too cold, he says. Another fabric, a far-infrared material, gives consumers a health boost by increasing the level of oxygen in the body. It has been used in the medical world for muscle recovery, he says, noting it works through pillowcases, protectors and pajamas. “This is the future of textiles,” Schecter says. “This is ‘Star Trek’ stuff.”
In Protect-A-Bed’s REM-Fit collection (Rest, Energize and Motivate), pillows fall under the vital component of Rest. Pillows in the three-level series have one thing in common—all are adjustable. The entry-level 200 series comes with a polyester fiber fill and adjustable comfort core. The polyester-based fiber exterior offers hot and cold heat transfer and moisture wicking. The 300 series is memory-foam based, with an inner core of 25 support clusters made of polyester fiber. Jared Bell, director of sales operations for Protect-A-Bed in Chicago, likens them to Koosh toys or fuzzy spiders. The support clusters can be removed so the sleeper can adjust the pillow to her preferred height and comfort level, he says. The 400 series steps it up with gel topping the memory foam. It, too, comes with removable support clusters. Both the 300 and 400 series are covered with Tencel fiber, which is hypoallergenic and offers bacterial protection, enhanced moisture wicking and improved thermo-regulation. Prices start at $99 top out at $159.
PureCare’s newest pillow line—PureCare One—came out of research conducted by a working mother and consumer who simply couldn’t find a pillow she liked, says Sarah Budensiek, director of marketing and creative lead for the Fairfield, New Jersey-based company. Tanya Hawkins created a pillow with three pieces, designed to give proper support to the neck and comfort for the head. Two supports made of memory foam, latex or gel-wrapped memory foam cradle the neck, while the center is comprised of an alternative down to prevent allergens that can come from traditional down. PureCare enhanced the design by offering both firm and soft supports in each pillow, she says. All six pillows in the line are treated with antibacterial silver and covered with a washable bamboo rayon/velour fabric. The pillow line ranges from $130 to $190.
Logan, Utah-based Malouf has a new line designed to expand its pillow profile. Three full-body pillows provide support for anyone, particularly pregnant women, who might want additional comfort at night. The wrap-around pillow comes in a C shape. It has a bamboo rayon cover and down-alternative fill. A second, the horseshoe pillow, is shaped like a U to support the back and stomach and offers the same cover and alternative down fill. The third, known as the Boomerang, is made with gel-infused memory foam to make it softer, cooler and more supportive, says Jake Neeley, marketing communications manager. Prices range from $89 to $115.
Two other innovations and trends in the pillow category Neeley notes are scents and cooling. Less than a year ago, Malouf introduced a memory-foam pillow infused with lavender, which he says has sold well. Cooling pillows are infused with gel and ventilated with small holes on the outside for the neck and larger holes for the head.
Tempur Sealy International
Consumer research conducted by Lexington, Kentucky-based Tempur Sealy International showed that more than 50% of consumers snooze in all three sleep positions throughout the night. When it developed its new Tempur Cloud collection, the company made each pillow appropriate for everyone—back, side and stomach sleepers all, says Kristen Olson-Turner, senior product manager of Tempur-Pedic pillows and accessories. The Tempur-Cloud Soft and Lofty, which retails for $99, is a traditional fill pillow with Tempur material and a bit of fiber and a washable cotton, quilted cover. The Tempur-Cloud Soft and Conforming pillow, made of molded Tempur material, supports the head and neck. Olson-Turner reveals she chose this one for her own personal pillow. “I have never gotten a better night’s sleep,” she says. It retails for $149. Tempur also offers the Cloud Dual Breeze Cooling, a dual-sided molded pillow with a Tempur-Breeze gel layer on both sides, for $199.
Blu Sleep Products
All of Blu Sleep Products’ pillows are created from visco-elastic memory foam with open cells, making the pillows breathable and cool to the touch, says President Alex Ciccolella. In its popular Nature collection, which retails from $79 to $179, the pillows are infused with natural essences, including aloe vera, orange and lavender, within the chemistry of the foam and covered with moisture-wicking, antibacterial Tencel. In its Ice Gel line (pictured), the pillow is created from foamed gel so that the entire pillow absorbs heat. With its ventilated structure, it allows heat to dissipate quickly, he says. Blu Sleep, headquartered in Pompano Beach, Florida, also treats the washable pillow covers with antimicrobial silver to keep the pillows fresh.
Vinemont, Alabama-based DreamFit produces three pillows to fit all sizes and shapes of sleepers. The DreamFit SmartShape pillow’s curved memory foam and fiber shape make it suitable for all sleep positions, says President Jeremy Wootten. The DreamFit Adjustable pillow (pictured) is designed to provide a balance of comfort and support with four independent inserts of different weights that can be added or removed for the sleeper’s comfort. A third pillow, the DreamFit SmartShape Adjustable, combines the best of both worlds. It maintains the arc of the SmartShape pillow but includes a fiber insert on top of the foam for more height or an added comfort layer. The 100% cotton covers for all pillows are washable. Prices range from $100 for the SmartShape to $150 for SmartShape Adjustable.
Soft-Tex ensures that consumers get a pillow just right for them with a measuring system in mattress and furniture stores. The Dream Smart system, designed by a physical therapist in Europe, looks at three measures involving the shoulders and neck. The result directs the consumer to a pillow that fits her, which she then can take around while trying out mattresses, says Jeff Chilton, senior vice president of sales and business development for the Waterford, New York-based company. With 400 SKUs, which are sold by stores such as Macy’s, Dillard’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond, Soft-Tex pillows come in a variety of foam and hybrid products. A forthcoming model will highlight microcoils surrounded by foam. Soft-Tex also offers pillows with gel on one or both sides and fiber on the other to provide a mix of comfort levels. Pillows retail for $29 to $99.
Fashion Bed Group
The Fashion Bed Group, a Leggett & Platt Company, based in Chicago, introduced the Aere pillow at the Winter Las Vegas Market in January. The dual-sided pillow combines the comfort of memory foam with the coolness of an infused gel layer, says Rob O’Neill, vice president of product development. Good for all sleep positions, the Aere supports the head and neck while its mesh cover is conducive for airflow. Suggested retail is $119.
Newly rebranded Talalay Global, formerly Latex International, offers the LatexDown pillow, filled with shredded Talalay latex. The pillow is a custom fit, says Ken Hinman, executive vice president of sales and marketing of the Shelton, Connecticut-based company. “You can hug it, put it under your neck, under your back—it conforms to your every need. It is truly a customizable pillow that will be yours and yours alone.” Suggested retail is $99 for queen and $129 for king.
Nine tips for bolstering pillow sales
Pillows fill a much-needed—and beloved—spot on any mattress. Plus, there’s something to be said about selling an item that provides so much comfort.
“People are very, very passionate about their pillow,” says Jake Neeley, marketing communications manager for Logan, Utah-based Malouf. “They want the perfect, iconic pillow.”
As your customers come into the store, keep these nine pillow-selling tips in mind:
1 Remember you’re promoting a total sleep experience. Pillows are a big piece of the consumers’ comfort. Using a suitable pillow while testing mattresses tends to make finding the right mattress much easier.
2 Set up the pillow discussion early in the mattress-buying process. This seems to be a universal tip from most manufacturers. Find a pillow that works well for your customers and have them take “their” pillow around when they test mattresses.
3 Ask questions and more questions. Learn about all aspects of their sleeping style and preferences. That’s the key to helping shoppers find something they love.
4 Talk about fit. If your head isn’t supported properly when lying down, it can cause pressure on your neck. Pillows with inserts or removable fills can adjust to the correct height for your customer.
5 Help shoppers get comfortable. Few people lie ramrod straight throughout the night, yet that’s how many people lie when testing mattresses. Encourage them to engage with the mattress and pillow in the way they normally would.
6 Swap out the pillow if it’s not working. After lying on a mattress or two, check in to see how the pillow feels. If it’s not comfortable, try a new one.
7 Tell customers they get what they pay for. The pillow and mattress work as a system. If you buy a $4,000 mattress and a $4 pillow, you essentially have a $4 mattress.
8 Don’t give pillows away. While some retailers throw in free pillows to close the sale, it’s a missed opportunity. Once people have walked around with a comfortable pillow and are excited about the mattress they’ve chosen, they’re more willing to spend the extra money for the complete sleep set.
9 Like Mattresses, Pillows have a lifespan. They should be replaced every six months to two years.