Adjustable beds: All about that mattress base

Cool features, high style and custom options elevate popular adjustable foundations

Mantua adjustable bed
Dream machine The Contemporary is Mantua’s best-selling adjustable base model.

BY JULIE A. PALM

There’s real money under the mattress these days: Many mattress-industry manufacturers of adjustable bed bases report their sales are growing by double-digits annually.

Powering that growth is an ever-increasing number of high-tech features, improved styling that makes motorized bases for mattresses look more like bedroom furniture (and less like hospital beds), and customization that gives mattress shoppers the features they want most.

It helps that some mattress manufacturers with hefty marketing budgets are featuring adjustable foundations on TV and across their marketing campaigns—and that some retailers are putting adjustable bases under virtually every mattress in their stores.

“Five years ago, the adjustable bed was more of a novel thing. It wasn’t that long ago that there were maybe one or two on the sales floor and they were probably in the back,” says Jay Thompson, president of Leggett & Platt Adjustable Bed Group in Carthage, Missouri. “But it’s been a strong, growing category with double-digit gains for several years running.”

Transfer Master adjustable bed base
Meeting medical needs Transfer Master Products Inc.’s Supernal Sleep System adjustable bed includes features that are appropriate for sleepers with health problems.

Motorized adjustable bases—also called “motion” or “power” foundations—meet the needs of a wide cross-section of consumers. With their advent in the medical sector, they remain a good choice for consumers who have health problems, ranging from acid reflux and snoring to more serious disabilities such as paralysis. But the many features available on today’s bases—everything from USB ports, programmable remotes, massage, nightlights and more—make them attractive to people who use their bedroom not only for sleep but also for work and entertainment. With retail prices typically from $499 to $2,500*, they fit a variety of consumer budgets.

Adjustable bed bases sold in the United States
2012 2013 % change
Dollar value (FOB, in millions) $328.2 $402.9 22.8%
Units shipped 457,256 591,324 29.3%
Average unit price (Wholesale) $717.76 $681.35 -5.1%
Source: International Sleep Products Association 2013 Mattress Industry Report of Sales & Trends.
Note: Data are for adjustable foundations sold through mattress manufacturers and does not include adjustables sold directly to retailers. U.S. sales data for adjustable foundations are based on sales of these products regardless of whether they are manufactured in the United States or imported from other countries.

Here’s a look at some of the major trends in adjustable bases.

Adjustable bases that do more

There is an important segment of the mattress-buying public interested in high-end, high-tech sleep products, L&P’s Thompson says.

“These are people who want to reward themselves,” Thompson says. “They want all the bells and whistles on the car they buy—and on an adjustable base. This person wants to be able to retreat to the bedroom and enjoy the space while they are awake. They see themselves reading, watching TV and working in bed. These are luxury lifestyle consumers who are willing to pay a premium.”

Leggett & Platt Premier series
Command center Leggett & Platt’s Premier series of bases operate using tablets and Apple iOS and Android apps. Consumers can control the adjustable base and use the technology to manage bedroom lights and electronics.

To satisfy these consumers, L&P unveiled the Premier series at the winter Las Vegas Market. The bed base, which retails from about $2,500, comes in two styles—a one-piece unit and a two-piece, deck-on-deck construction, both with furniture-grade upholstery choices. Features include head and foot articulation, head tilt, wall-hugging technology, USB ports, sleep and nap timers, and dual wave and pulse massage. The bases operate using a tablet and come with Apple iOS and Android apps. Multiple programmable room “scenes,” or scenarios, allow consumers to adjust the base and other room elements—lights, fans, music, TV—based on their preferences to create “watch TV,” “read” or other scenes.

LOOK UNDER THE BED
BedTimes will examine trends in bed frames, flat foundations and manual adjustable bases in the January issue.

Consumers appreciate the FlexTop mattress design that Select Comfort offers to complement its FlexFit line of adjustable bases, says Pete Bils, vice president of sleep innovation and clinical research for the Minneapolis-based sleep products manufacturer and retailer.

“Our new FlexTop king mattress design combines adjustability while maintaining the feeling of togetherness for couples. The upper half of the mattress is independently adjustable while the lower half is continuous,” Bils says.

Select Comfort’s FlexFit line includes three models available in either Traditional design or Silhouette (with upholstered sideboards, footboards and optional headboards). A FlexFit 1 Traditional adjustable base retails for $1,199; a FlexFit 3 Silhouette is $2,899, according to the company’s website.

Some FlexFit bases feature Select Comfort’s Partner Snore technology, which lets a sleeper raise a partner’s head at the touch of a button.

Select Comfort Sleep Number adjustable bed
Very flexible Select Comfort’s customers can choose to top the company’s FlexFit adjustable bases, including the FlexFit 3 shown here, with its FlexTop mattress. The upper half of the mattress can be adjusted independently.

“Also trending is under-bed lighting and light control,” Bils says. “In our FlexFit 3 adjustable base, at the touch of a button you can turn on a soft light under the bed and control your nightstand lamps.”

HSM unveiled its Transitional Sleep System adjustables at the International Sleep Products Association’s EXPO in March. The company is marketing the beds only to bedding manufacturers, not retailers.

The entry-level model, called TS100, has head and foot articulation, as well as remote control with presets, and is lightweight compared with other entry-level models in the category. It retails for less than $1,000. The step-up TS200 is a deck-on-deck design with wall-hugging feature, under-bed lighting, wireless remote, dual massage, and a choice of fabrics and leg finishes. It retails for less than $2,000.

The adjustable mattress bases are assembled in the United States using domestic- and foreign-produced parts.

“We think producing in the United States is a big advantage for us,” says Todd Councilman, vice president of HSM Bedding Solutions. “One of the trends we’re seeing in the category is the demand for more just-in-time delivery. We build the adjustable beds in the Carolinas, but with distribution at all of our plants, we can meet 48-hour demand.”

A third model, with an upgraded electronics package, will be introduced in early 2015, providing HSM with a “good-better-best” assortment to offer customers.

Mantua Mfg. Co. specializes in “under the bed” products, such as metal frames, and entered the adjustable-base category with its Rize brand about four years ago. Its best-selling model is the Contemporary, which has been in the lineup for about 2 ½ years.

Glideaway adjustable bed remote control
In control The multifunction remote shown here controls Glideaway’s high-end Grand adjustable base.

“Every time we say, ‘We should update it,’ we hear from retailers, ‘Don’t change a thing,’ ” says David Jaffe, president of the company, which has headquarters in Walton Hills, Ohio. The five-segment adjustable bed base contains many of the features consumers want most: head and foot articulation, dual massage, head tilt, lounge feature, under-bed LED nightlights and backlit wireless remote with one-touch auto-flat and four positional presets. It retails for about $1,699.

Softide offers eight adjustable base models in retail prices starting at $899. Among some of the more atypical features the company touts are a single motor that controls both the head and foot articulation, a slider on a wireless remote that allows someone to control either side of the bed or both sides together, and a KD line of beds, which allows for a single king or queen size to be delivered in two pieces and easily assembled once in the bedroom, says Mike Jaspering, director of sales and marketing for the Los Angeles-based company. Softide is the U.S. adjustable brand of Jiaxing Shufude Electric Bed Co., in Jiaxing City, China. The Chinese company has produced adjustables for the U.S. and other markets for about a decade.

“In each bed, we’re trying to do something that someone hasn’t,” Jaspering says.

Glideaway introduced the adjustable Comfort Base brand at the Las Vegas Market in July. All Comfort Base models, which are manufactured in China with German-designed motors, are deck-on-deck design with upholstery-style fabrics.

“With adjustable beds, a lot of companies are selling an item,” says Dan Baker, vice president of sales for the St. Louis-based company. “We’re selling a full program to retailers, giving them a ‘good-better-best’ story that both the consumer and the retailer can understand. Each base has a quantifiable reason why you’d want to buy it.”

Customatic Adjustable Bedz
Fashion forward Customatic Adjustable Bedz pays a good deal of attention to how its bases look, elevating their appearance with upholstery fabrics and furniture-style legs, says managing member Phil Sherman.

The line opens with the Xplore, a head articulation-only model with wired remote. It starts around $799. The line steps up to the Navigate, which has full head and foot articulation and a programmable wireless remote with anti-snore and zero-gravity options. Navigate models retail from $999 to $1,299. At the top end is the Grand, which adds wall hugging, head tilt, four USB ports, timed LED nightlights, a flashlight feature on the remote and Sleep Enhancement vibration options. It retails from $1,499 to $1,699.

Better dressed

“The way the base looks has a lot of do with how the customer approaches the bed,” says Phil Sherman, a managing member of Natick, Massachusetts-based Customatic Adjustable Bedz. “We look to make a fashion statement with premium upholstery fabrics, furniture-style leg supports and unique frame designs that emulate a beautiful bedroom decor rather than a common hospital bed. These design changes are just part of what has helped advance the category.”

The company offers 14 adjustable bed designs, each with unique styling in looks from contemporary to transitional to traditional. Customatic’s newest offering is the Dreamstar. It has a deck-on-deck design with furniture styling, brushed steel legs and linen fabric; side-mounted AC power ports and Bluetooth connectivity; under-bed LED nightlights; zoned massage; and a wireless remote with one-touch auto-flat feature, three positional presets and more. It also includes the company’s new, patented Edge-to-Edge lumbar system that provides extra midbody support when needed. The Dreamstar has a suggested retail price of $1,999.

Mantua put an emphasis on appearance—along with high-tech features—when creating the latest Rize model, the Revolution. The deck-in-deck, foam-padded bed base comes with wood legs and is dressed in a tweed fabric. The electronics package includes USB ports on both sides and Bluetooth wireless capabilities for operating everything from entertainment systems to alarm clocks. The massage as well as head and foot adjustability are augmented by added lumbar support. It retails for just less than $2,000. Mantua plans a significant product rollout at the Las Vegas Market in January, Jaffe says.

Ergomotion adjustable bed
Fine furniture Ergomotion finds that many consumers prefer adjustable bases with furniture-like details, such as its Series 600 models.

About half of Ergomotion’s business is manufacturing bases directly for mattress manufacturers, but it also supplies retailers with Ergomotion-branded and private-label bases.

“Our furniture look is our best-seller, by far,” says Leo Vera, president and chief executive officer of the company, which is based in Santa Barbara, California. “We do several different ‘flavors’ of that.”

Ergomotion’s market research shows that nearly half of its consumers use their adjustable bases as a standalone piece of furniture without a traditional headboard and footboard.

“It attests to the high-quality aesthetic and the value proposition—it’s a much easier sell to the consumer when it can be a replacement for their bed frame,” Vera says. “The base stands on its own.”

Ergomotion has made adjustable bases since 2005 and got a huge boost to its business when Serta launched and heavily advertised the adjustable-friendly iComfort mattress line paired with Ergomotion-made bases, Vera says. Ergomotion has two bases in preproduction that will be introduced in Las Vegas in January. Retail prices for the bulk of Ergomotion bases fall in the $1,299 to $1,699 range, with a high end of $2,099.

Have it your way

“The category is changing quite a bit,” Ergomotion’s Vera says. “It used to be more the supplier or vendor saying, ‘Here’s what we’ve got to offer.’ Now we’re doing more R&D with our partners.”

Customatic has a similar philosophy.

“We want each retailer to be successful in their own way,” Sherman says. “We say, ‘We are Customatic: We’ll customize a program that’s right for you.’ ”

Customatic recently rolled out new fabric construction, color and design options available on select adjustable models that allow mattress retailers to customize offerings. New fabric textures and patterns include tweed, herringbone, microfiber, faux leather, mesh and circular knits available in a wide variety of colors.

HSM adjustable base
For manufacturers only HSM is marketing its new Transitional Sleep System adjustable beds to mattress makers, not retailers. The line includes the entry-level TS100 (shown here) and a step-up TS200. A third model will debut in January.

HSM’s TS200 model allows for customization by a mattress manufacturer or later by mattress retailers and consumers. It comes with a choice of fabrics and leg finishes, and “has a patent-pending design that allows late-stage customization at home or at retail,” says Rick Anthony, director of sales for HSM Bedding Solutions. For instance, each of the four fascia boards on the lower deck of the base can be swapped to change the fabric.

Softide also is making available to retailers add-on items that allow them to customize its bases for customers at the time of sale. One is a Wi-Fi receiver, which is the size of a thumb drive. It can be inserted into the control box, allowing consumers to control the bed via iPhone or iPad. Other add-ons include a safety sensor to protect children and pets from getting caught in the bed’s mechanisms by disabling the bed for 15 seconds if anything comes in contact with the top of the bed panel as well as a protective, clip-on foot covering that hides the mechanism when the foot of the bed is raised.

“Those items are available in all of our wireless-remote adjustable beds,” Jaspering says. “It keeps the cost down for consumers who don’t need them but is a nice add-on for the retailer to offer for consumers who do want them.”


Medical market for adjustable beds still matters

Many of the features of the newest adjustable bases appeal to consumers who are less concerned about health issues and more interested in customizing their beds for work and relaxation. But Transfer Master Products Inc. in Postville, Iowa, is committed to meeting the growing needs of consumers who seek adjustable beds largely to help with medical and age-related problems.

The company has produced adjustable hospital beds and pressure-relief mattresses since 1993. It now offers the Supernal Sleep System with styling and marketing to make it more attractive to consumers who need a hospital-style bed but don’t like the look.

The Supernal has many of the features of other high-end adjustable beds: head and foot adjustability, head tilt, wall-hugging technology and an illuminated wireless remote. It also has features that make it appropriate for people with more serious medical conditions. Those include an optional guard rail for safety and a Supernal Hi-Low model that can be lowered and raised for people who use wheelchairs or have other mobility limitations. The base comes with a mattress made either of the company’s therapeutic, polyurethane progressive foam core or a memory foam core. The Supernal Recliner retails for about $2,500 (base and mattress in twin size). The Supernal Hi-Low retails for about $4,000 (base and mattress in queen size).

“Millions of Americans have some sort of disability—arthritis, rheumatism, multiple sclerosis, back issues, swelling in their legs—that keeps them from getting a good night’s sleep,” says Aaron Goldsmith, president of Transfer Master. “We’ve designed a medically therapeutic mattress that’s super-comfortable and super-stylish.”


Federal flammability standards apply to adjustable bases, too

It’s important for manufacturers of both adjustable bases and mattresses to remember that the federal open-flame standard, 16 CFR Part 1633, has applications to adjustable bases.

Under Part 1633, mattress manufacturers can produce mattresses intended to be used with a specific foundation (adjustable or flat), or used without a foundation, or used either with or without a foundation. The mattress manufacturer (or importer) must test the mattress in the way it is intended to be sold (with and/or without foundation) and label the mattress indicating how it should be sold. An adjustable base that is covered with fabric or other resilient material is considered to be a foundation, for the purposes of 1633.

When asked specifically who is responsible for testing bed sets when a mattress is made by one manufacturer and a “mechanical base” is produced by another manufacturer, and the two pieces “come together at the retail establishment and not before,” the CPSC Office of Compliance staff gives this answer in a FAQ posted on the CPSC.gov website: “If the mattress is manufactured to be sold with a specific type of mechanical foundation, the mattress manufacturer should qualify the prototype mattress set, label the mattress appropriately and maintain the records for the set, including maintaining the record of the components supplied for the foundation. There is no prohibition, however, against the foundation manufacturer completing the qualification tests for the mattress set.”

BedTimes spoke with some adjustable base manufacturers specifically about this issue. They indicated that they test their adjustable base designs with a range of mattress designs from mattress manufacturers and provide testing before launching any major program with a mattress manufacturer or any private-label program with a retailer. They do this testing either independently or in conjunction with mattress manufacturers.