Spring producers re-exert their core strengths

Julie A. Palm

Julie Palm, editor in chief

For most of the 20th century, if you slept on a bed in the United States, at its core was an innerspring unit. Sure, waterbeds had their heyday, but springs ruled.

That began to change as the century closed, when a certain “T” brand introduced its memory foam mattresses through an unprecedented direct-to-consumer blitz of print and television advertising. As sleepers embraced the foam—and as that foam embraced those sleepers—other companies rolled out their own beds with visco-elastic and polyurethane foams at their centers.

And for the past dozen years or so, much of the big news at major components shows such as ISPA EXPO has been found in the displays of foamers, who have introduced myriad formulations of everything from visco to polyurethane to latex to, most recently, gel foams.

The popularity of foam eventually prompted the International Sleep Products Association to start breaking out “specialty sleep” as its own category in statistical reports about industry sales.

Spring producers haven’t rested, regularly rolling out improvements to their products, and innerspring beds have remained the dominant mattress type in the United States. But, frankly, innersprings simply haven’t had quite the same sizzle as their softer competitor components.

Not content to have foam hog the spotlight, innerspring suppliers aren’t lying down—bringing real innovation to mattress manufacturers. As this month’s cover story on innersprings shows, new sizes and configurations mean springs can be used from upholstery layers to the box springs, providing comfort, support and durability. Coils as tiny as 1 inch tall and as large as 8 inches or even 12 inches are being combined in unique ways. Traditional Bonnell-type units still are big sellers, but fabric-encased coils are enjoying large gains. Industry insiders in Europe report springs are advancing there, as well.

Some of the most interesting—and comfortable—mattresses on the market today are combining springs and foams in creative ways. Such hybrid constructions bring the best of both components to consumers.

With improvements in spring technology and the creativity of mattress manufacturers, consumers have real choices—not just between the good ol’ pillow-top innerspring over there and the all-foam construction here.

And that’s exciting for the industry. Consumers increasingly demand choice and customization. If they can’t actually design the product themselves, they want to feel like the product was designed just for them.


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