By Karl Kunkel
A potential weapon for mattress producers wanting more pizzazz on the retail floor may be as simple as colorful, decorative tape edge. Sure, it’s a small thing. But in a competitive environment, small things matter.
Many bedding manufacturers have been playing it safe, uniform—and thrifty—by sticking with white and off–white tapes. They coordinate well with most ticking designs and colors and they don’t cost much.
And in the past, mattress makers could argue that they couldn’t risk decorative tape, which might stand out if applied unevenly to the bed. But manufacturing equipment has improved, producing clean, straight tailoring on mattresses.
Tape suppliers say that investing in more colorful, interesting tape can give mattresses solid eye–appeal.
Recently, such tape has been used successfully on several mattress collections, especially those with tickings that break out of the shades–of–white box. Atlanta–based Simmons’ successful Beautyrest Black line features black–and–white tape as does the Millionaire collection by Lady Americana in Oklahoma City. Comfort Solutions in Willowbrook, Ill., has used a complementary tape for the Laura Ashley collection to offset the pastel tickings on some models.
CT Nassau Tape, a subsidiary of Continental Ticking Corp. of America based in Alamance, N.C., is one of the largest providers of tape to the industry. John Bauman, CT Nassau executive vice president, has been on a crusade to popularize color and design in tape. Inspiration came when he realized that every visible component on a mattress—ticking, handles, corner guards, labels—had been embellished in some way to attract consumers.
Everything, that is, except tape.
“The big change taking place today is that bedding manufacturers are showing an interest in specialty tapes—tapes with colors and designs and different looks,” Bauman says. “That’s probably the biggest thing going on right now.” The CT Nassau catalog once had a single page devoted to these specialty tapes. Today it has 12 pages.
Vincent Diaz, president of Atlantic Thread & Supply Co. in Baltimore, Md., has seen a similar trend in his business. While white tape still is “king,” he says he is getting more requests for “fancy” tapes.
“There seems to be interest in adding more sizzle to the appearance,” Diaz says. “People want more flair and contrast on the edge.”
To add to its array of solid pastels, Atlantic Thread & Supply introduced prints and multicolored tapes, including a floral screen print, earlier this year.
“If you can imagine the color and design, we can probably produce it,” Diaz says. “For clothing, ribbons and bows always add to fashion appeal. We’ve always thought that a little extra beauty, like an edge finishing, can add more interest to a mattress.”
At the 2008 ISPA EXPO in March, Bauman and design director Laura Allred presented a new program in which CT Nassau married some of its decorative tapes to its mattress fabrics. The idea was to encourage bedding manufacturers to buy them as a coordinated package.
“We’ve had tremendous success with that,” Bauman says.
Allred noted that decorative mattress tape can add to the custom look of a sleep set while keeping ticking SKUs to a minimum.
“Decorative tape can accent the tailoring and bring attention to details, such as gussets and pillow–tops,” she says. “The trend toward darker–color border fabrics continues to grow, and decorative mattress tapes serve to create a smooth visual transition from the border to the lighter panel fabric.”
But it can be difficult to persuade some mattress producers to make a change.
Despite offering several colored and decorative tapes, at Asheboro Elastics in Asheboro, N.C., 90% of sales remain the less expensive white and off–white tapes. Bo–Buck Mills in Chesterfield, S.C., reports a similar sales breakdown.
“Unfortunately, it’s a commodity item,” says Susan Lake, national sales manager for Asheboro Elastics’ home furnishings division. “Mattress tape is very price–conscious.” Still, Lake did work with recycled yarn to produce a “green” tape for beds being promoted as natural.
The biggest change in tape at Bo–Buck Mills has been the increase in requests for wider tape—as wide as 1 1/2 inches, up from 7/8 inches and 1 ¼ inches. Andrew Maner, Bo–Buck president, cited thicker mattresses as the reason for the expansion.
Woven tape always has been a bread–and–butter item for Bechik Products in Eagan, Minn. But in recent years, the company has been moving more into knit tapes, which now represent about 35% of its tape business. Bechik offers an array of colors in both types.
According to William Simon, Bechik president, the wovens have more limited patterns and don’t sew as well as knits. Several other tape companies report seeing orders for their knit tapes increasing, too.
“The knits are better for a clean look on pillow–tops,” Simon says. “They give a straighter edge.”
As mattress makers continue to look for ways to differentiate their product, Bauman and others urge them to consider trying new tape.
“What you spend to cosmetically improve a mattress with ticking is many dollars,” Bauman says. “But to cosmetically improve a mattress with tape is pennies.”
For an extensive list of suppliers of mattress tape and their contact information, consult the printed version of the BedTimes Supplies Guide, published in the December 2007 issue or check the online guide.