Innerspring makers push back

BY BARBARA T. NELLES

Here’s a discouraging statistic: A recently published survey by Consumer Reports found that 40% of mattress shoppers experience buyer’s remorse. Innerspring suppliers BedTimes spoke with for its biennial report on spring trends believe they have the remedy to that.

New spring configurations and technology for everything from box spring to bed upholstery layers are improving the comfort, support and durability of today’s mattresses, suppliers tell us. Spring innovations even enhance temperature regulation and enable mattress adjustability.

HSM innerspring, microcoils and foam display
Perfect combo: HSM, based in Hickory, N.C., layers a sprung PowerBase box spring with its InnerACT innerspring core, specialty foams and multiple layers of Spinks Springs microcoils—which it now manufactures and markets in North America under the HSM brand.

No wonder interest in innerspring mattresses is springing back around the globe, as innerspring beds—especially those with microcoils—begin to grab some of the spotlight occupied by specialty sleep for more than a decade.

Traditional Bonnell units, as well as proprietary offset innersprings—such as Verticoil Edge from Carthage, Mo.-based Leggett & Platt Inc. and InnerACT from Hickory, N.C.-based HSM (formerly Hickory Springs Mfg. Co.)—may form the core of innerspring sales, but encased coils are a growing market. That’s a good thing, suppliers say, because with the right arrangement of traditional and wrapped coils—and, perhaps, a layer of foam—even the choosiest consumers
can find perfect comfort.

Global resurgence
You had to look no farther than the international furniture components fair Interzum Cologne May 13-16 in Cologne, Germany, to fully comprehend the ascendancy of pocket springs. They were prominently displayed in every innerspring showroom.

Even in Europe, where latex and foam have dominated the market for decades, innerspring bedding is experiencing a resurgence, suppliers told BedTimes. Springs’ newfound popularity is due partly to fallout from the debate over memory foam sleeping too warm and partly to improvements and innovations in springs.

At the Boyçelik showroom, new offerings included a 2,000-coil pocket spring core for high-end mattresses, and the company’s smallest microcoil with a 2-inch profile.

“In the past two to three years, we’ve seen steady growth in pocket springs in all of our markets,” says Mehmet Emin Deniz, customer representative for the Kayseri, Turkey-based company. “Once they were used only in high-end beds, but now customers are using lower coil-count springs in less expensive beds and higher coil counts in the high end.”

In the United States, L&P has invested heavily in promoting the benefits of innerspring mattresses. Its interactive Sleep-Geek site for retail sales associates puts an emphasis on education and the benefits of selling springs. In 2012, the company created the catchy rap video “Get Hybrid,” which promotes mattresses with both springs and foam as being cool, comfortable and hip. Recent L&P “SexySleep” consumer research gained considerable media attention, especially the finding that consumers prefer hybrid mattresses over all-foam beds—for bedroom activities that don’t involve sleep.

Spinks Posturflo microcoils for mattresses
Airy pockets: Leeds, England-based Spinks Springs’ Posturflo microcoils are wrapped in see-through mesh fabric to allow maximum airflow.

L&P’s fastest-growing category is its fabric-encased Comfort Core family, says Mark Quinn, L&P segment vice president of marketing. Comfort Core includes seven product lines each with a different technology. For instance, Combi-Zone combines different coil diameters in a single unit and Hi-Lo creates zoning with different coil heights.

“What’s clear now is that foam isn’t growing anymore in countries like Spain, Germany, Italy and France—what’s growing is pocket springs,” says Javier Subiñas, president of Industrias Subiñas, headquartered in Vizcaya, Spain. The company manufactures a full range of springs for bedding, from Bonnell and LFK units to pocket springs ranging in height from 3 inches to 8 inches.

The growth of microcoils is having a major impact on mattress construction, says Steaven Hodgson, sales director for Spinks Springs, a division of Leeds, England-based Harrison Spinks. “At Interzum, we noted that many of the larger manufacturers in countries that have typically favored foam are moving toward the use of comfort springs in their mid-range to high-end mattresses.”

Manufacturers are layering coils in new ways.

“They create all different combinations—it can be a multilayering of a spring core topped with multiple microcoils or a foam block with one, two or three layers of comfort coils on top,” Hodgson says.

Don’t count out coil counts
The popularity of microcoils and mini-microcoils makes touting coil counts relevant again, spring suppliers say. What consumer won’t be impressed by a bed with 3,000, 6,000 or 8,000 coils? Some premium and ultra-premium beds contain two, three, four and even five layers of innersprings, microcoils and mini-microcoils, pushing coil counts into the stratosphere.

L&P Comfort Core wrapped coils
Lots of choices: Leggett & Platt Inc., based in Carthage, Mo., offers seven encased-coil
collections in its Comfort Core family and has invested heavily in marketing and education programs to promote the sale of steel foundations and innerspring ‘hybrid’ bedding.

“In the U.K., where sprung beds have always been the most popular, people expect higher coil counts to mean a more expensive bed,” Hodgson says.

Subiñas agrees that the trend in Europe is to talk coil counts—and the higher the count, the more expensive the bed.

“At a minimum, in a queen size you’ll have 650 coils, but that can go up to 2,000 or more if you use microcoils,” he says. “Some of our ultra-premium mattress customers may put a Bonnell unit in the base, a pocket unit in the mattress and microcoils in the topper. There’s a lot of wire in there.”

A Spinks Springs customer has designed a bed with 18,000 springs, Hodgson says. The bed has a coil core and six layers of microcoils and mini-microcoils, which Spinks calls “comfort coils.”

Taller, now smaller
Many recent line extensions among spring makers exhibiting at Interzum were both taller and smaller spring units. For mattress cores, they have pushed the limit on coil height to accommodate thicker mattresses. Meanwhile, microcoils continue to shrink in height and diameter and are designed to be layered in the bed’s upholstery.

HSM offers the patented ProACT offset coil unit for moderate and promotional bedding. Introduced two years ago, ProACT recently grew an inch taller. The 6-inch and now 7-inch units feature HSM’s patented InChex technology, in which adjacent coils turn in opposite directions to reduce partner disturbance and provide a balanced sleep surface.

“ProACT has seen exponential growth in sales since its launch two years ago,” says Rick Anthony, director of sales for HSM Bedding Solutions. “We’ve been very pleased with the velocity and acceptance of the entire product line and continue to invest in it.”

Starsprings S-Surface pocket springs
All smoothed out: With Starsprings’ flat-topped S-Surface encased coils, you get a perfectly smooth sleep surface devoid of peaks and valleys caused by excess pocket fabric.

Especially in the United States, microcoils are touted as a solution to body impressions in the thickly upholstered, one-sided mattresses that dominate the market.

“Bringing coil technology to the sleeping surface, especially when coils are integrated with the proper foam grades, can create an excellent and durable sleeping experience,” Anthony says.

E&R-Hickory, an HSM innerspring joint venture, and Spinks Springs recently launched a separate joint venture called HS2 to manufacture the complete line of Spinks Springs in the United States. HSM has imported and distributed a Spinks microcoil line since 2011. HS2 will have exclusive rights to distribute Spinks Springs’ Posturfil and Posturflo coils throughout North America.

The springs will be sold under the HSM brand, and the new venture will be “in full production by October,” Anthony says. “Manufacturing in the United States will give us the ability to reduce the cost and make the springs applicable to a wider range of bedding products.”

Anthony also sees the use of microcoils as part of a U.S. trend back to lower-profile beds.

“The bedding industry swings like a pendulum. We went all the way to 8-inch and 12-inch tall coils, now we’re swinging back to lower profiles,” he says. “Manufacturers can create superior comfort by integrating a perfect combination of springs and foam and at the same time ship more units per truck.”

Speaking of smaller profiles, spring supplier Agro International GmbH & Co. KG added the Punktoflaex 2000s Mini, the Bad Essen, Germany-based company’s smallest microcoil unit to date. Introduced at Interzum, the tiny barrel-shaped springs are 1 inch wide and 2.4 inches tall.

HSM recently launched a 1-inch tall mini-microcoil unit to the U.S. market. A queen-size sheet has 3,000 coils. Previously, the highest coil count available in queen was 2,000.

Boycelik's Mehmet Emin Deniz at the company's Interzum showroom
Popular pocket springs: Sales of encased coils and microcoils are growing globally, says Mehmet Emin Deniz of Boyçelik, who holds the Kayseri, Turkey-based company’s newest and smallest microcoil.

“Microcoils create a supportive, flexible, pressure-relieving effect,” Hodgson says. “They cradle your body—you don’t want to put a thick, heavy piece of foam over that. Our company has a background of using these springs in our own products, so we give help and advice to companies on how to use them.”

Starsprings, which offers a complete line of tall and small springs, has addressed a problem sometimes associated with pocket springs— peaks and valleys on a bed’s sleep surface caused by excess pocket fabric. It launched S-Surface, a flat-topped, wrapped-coil unit that has no surplus fabric to poke up into the mattress panel. S-Surface is designed to keep “the mattress panel flat and smooth forever,” the Herrljunga, Sweden-based company says.

Climate talk

The “climate debate” rages on in the mattress industry—and has pulled in spring suppliers, too.

At Interzum, Agro reduced its contribution to global warming by introducing Punktoflaex 1000s Green. The 5-inch  to 6-inch tall pocket spring collection for mattress cores has multizoned, columnar springs wrapped in a biodegradable and compostable fabric made with polyactide or PLA fiber, which is derived from plant-based materials such as corn starch. The adhesive used to join the pockets is a bio-based hot melt, the company says.

Most of the climate news involving innersprings, however, is of a different nature.

Subinas pocketed coils
Sprung in Spain: Subiñas in Vizcaya, Spain, offers mattress makers a complete line of pocket springs and traditional spring units—including this zoned core—as well as assembled foam-encased cores.

Suppliers are fond of touting the temperature advantages of springs versus all-foam bedding and seek to capitalize on the coolness of springs in their marketing efforts. Many suppliers told BedTimes that innerspring mattresses enjoy greater market share in warmer climes such as in southern Europe and the Middle East because they sleep cooler by promoting better airflow through a mattress.

Spinks Springs addressed mattress ventilation by introducing Posturflo and earned an Interzum Award for its efforts. The encased Posturflo microcoils are wrapped in a see-through mesh fabric that allows maximum air circulation.

According to L&P’s Quinn, his company was “one of the first to talk about airflow and sleeping cool. Our research at Kansas State University found that innersprings sleep up to 28% cooler than all-foam products—but you can put a comfort layer of foam on top of that and get incredible comfort and a cooler sleeping surface at the same time.”

The L&P research and development center, “one of the largest in the world, is committed to finding new comfort and support technologies,” Quinn says. “It’s currently at work on microcoil innovations, as well as temperature regulation products.”

Subiñas says he’s hearing some customers tell a “better airflow” story simply by “stacking springs, say, two 6-inch units layered with foam or another fill in between, and they market the construction as having better ventilation.”

A word about foundations

Suppliers BedTimes spoke with for this story say they’re seeing another important trend for spring producers—a return to steel foundations. The all-wood base has gained ground, most agree, but more manufacturers are looking at steel again. Like wood, most steel foundations are designed not to flex, but to provide a rigid platform for the mattress. Fully sprung foundations still are paired with high-end innerspring mattresses.

Agro recyclable Punktoflaex 1000s pocket springs
Recyclable: Punktoflaex 1000s Green encased coils from Agro International GmbH & Co. KG in Bad Essen, Germany, are wrapped in biodegradable fabric.

“We are seeing a slow but steady migration back to steel foundations like our PowerStack and PowerBase,” HSM’s Anthony says. “There are various reasons—wood has been out there long enough so that manufacturers are seeing how it squeaks, cracks and dries out, and are returning to welded, high-carbon steel.”

L&P has created the Steel-Strong.com website to educate retailers and the public on the benefits of foundations made with steel.

“If you believe RSAs’ opinions are important and that they influence store sales, then you should know that a Sleep-Geek.com survey found that 80% of RSAs associate all-wood foundations with low-end bedding, and 77% associate steel with better bedding,” Quinn says.

Starsprings offers new take on adjustable bases

Starsprings S-Matic adjustable pocket spring foundation
New take: The S-Matic adjustable base from Starsprings, which has headquarters in Herrljunga, Sweden, allows sleepers to change their bed’s comfort level.

Starsprings, which has headquarters in Herrljunga, Sweden, launched an unusual sprung base at Interzum Cologne May 13-16 in Cologne, Germany. The S-Matic Adjustable Series has a five-zoned pocket spring core that offers consumers the ability to adjust the hip and shoulder areas. There are three S-Matic versions—fully automatic, electronic adjustment using a remote control and manual adjustment with a hand crank.

For best results, the mattress must be placed directly over the exposed coils in the bed base. Bands across the hip and shoulder zones firm or soften the base coils to subtly adjust mattress comfort.

“The S-Matic was very well-received at Interzum—we wrote orders all over the globe,” says Johan Dahlin, Starsprings sales and marketing manager. “We developed S-Matic as a result of our market research with producers and consumers. Producers were looking for a way to reduce their huge product assortment and increase consumer satisfaction. A bed base with pocket springs that allows you to adjust the level of firmness of the mattress is our solution to both problems.”

Supreme Springs adds distribution centers

Supreme Springs N.J. warehouse
Nationwid: Boyçelik innersprings are ready for shipment at Supreme Springs’ warehouse in New Jersey

Supreme Springs, a 3-year-old innerspring importer with two distribution centers in New Jersey and Texas, is adding two more in California and Florida. The New York-based company is the exclusive U.S distributor for Boyçelik and several other Turkish spring manufacturers.

“We ship nationally,” says owner Isaac Jemal. “We’re seeing increased interest in pocket springs for better bedding, with Bonnell units, continuous coil and other traditional springs remaining the largest part of our business.”

The company drop ships a complete line of innerspring products by container load to customers and accommodates smaller orders through its distribution centers.

SPRING SUPPLIERS

To find more information about the innerspring suppliers interviewed in this story and to find other companies that provide innersprings to mattress manufacturers, check the online BedTimes Supplies Guide or the December print BedTimes.