Bedding Outlook - 2021 Vision

We all can agree no one saw this year coming. But with 2020 hindsight, what do bedding industry leaders envision for the coming year?

The past year was, in a word, unprecedented. 

At this point in 2019, who in the bedding industry thought that face masks and other personal protective equipment would become required workplace attire? Who imagined that travel to trade shows and visits to customers would screech to a halt, replaced by hours spent on Microsoft Teams and Zoom? (Honestly, how many people had heard of Zoom last December?) And who predicted that in the spring, much of the bedding industry would largely shut down — and, upon reopening, be met with overwhelming consumer demand for mattresses and sleep accessories? Or that worldwide supply chain disruptions would make it difficult to meet that demand?

Yet as we near the end of this exceptional year, the word “unprecedented” feels tired. So, as BedTimes reached out to industry leaders in our annual effort to seek their assessment of the past year and gather their predictions for the coming one, we asked this year’s panel to sum up 2020 in a word or phrase —anything other than “unprecedented.” 

Both Gerry Borreggine, president and chief executive officer of Therapedic International in Princeton, New Jersey, and Darren Marcangelo, managing director of Spinks in Leeds, England, suggested “surreal.” It certainly is evocative. BedTimes editors aren’t the only ones who’ve often felt like we’ve been living in a movie, and a horror movie at that.

“I would say these are crazy times,” says Elizabeth Dell’Accio, vice president of Blu Sleep, a maker of mattresses and sleep accessories based in Pompano Beach, Florida. “The pandemic is something we never imagined would have happened and that it would have lasted so long.”

Industry veteran Stuart Carlitz deems 2020 “the perfect storm.” “It’s the first time in the history of the bedding and furniture industries that we’ve had true pent-up demand, along with a shift where the American consumer found there was nowhere else to spend their disposable income except in their homes,” says Carlitz, president and CEO of Eclipse International in North Brunswick, New Jersey. “But for weeks and months, the entire supply to our industry was shut down, with no end in sight and no plan for what we were going to do on the other side of the shutdown. None of us would have guessed business would be so good after that. Then add the storms in the Gulf Coast that have caused rising raw material costs — the perfect storm.”

Picking up on Carlitz’s themes, Brent Limer, chief sales officer for Latexco U.S. LLC with offices in Lavonia, Georgia, and Phoenix, chose “uncertainty” and “volatility” as his two 2020 words.

“The year started full steam ahead and then hit a brick wall mid-March. In April, everyone thought the world would come crashing down, and now we’re scratching our heads as to why business is so strong,” Limer says. “Uncertainty and volatility could describe the pandemic itself, the business shifts and the industrywide shortages in raw materials.”

HSM Tim Witherell
Tim Witherell / Hickory Springs Bedding

Carlitz and Limer hit on an important point as they explain their summations: As challenging as this year has been, in many ways, 2020 has been surprisingly good for the bedding business. In fact, both Tim Witherell, vice president and general manager of Hickory Springs Bedding in Hickory, North Carolina, and Stephen Chen, president of Mlily USA in Knoxville, Tennessee, say this year is best characterized by the word “opportunity.”

“For me, 2020 will be the year that whiplashed us from confusion to clarity,” says Mark Kinsley, president and CEO of Englander, based in Chicago, who summed up the year with the word “clarity.” 

“Although it’s been confusing, the shakeout will be clarifying. The pandemic has fast-tracked trends that would have taken years to unfold — it’s clarified work-from-home policies, technology adoption, alternative supply chains, e-commerce, and refocusing on our communities and neighborhoods.”

Read on for more evaluations of the events and trends that shaped 2020 — and for forecasts of what might be ahead for the bedding industry in 2021.

1. This year’s pandemic caused companies to adjust their operations. What are the biggest changes your company has made and how have those affected your business?

“Covid-19 has forced us to be agile and nimble in our approach. We had to rip up our plan and restart. We embraced our innovative spirit, created a relief bed in only three days, donated 10,000 mattresses to NYC and then ramped up to service pent-up demand once the quarantine ended. We were able to accomplish amazing feats in a short period of time by focusing intensely on the task at hand and by utilizing tiger (specialized, cross-functional) teams. We are learning from this experience and are continuing to carry forward this mentality and apply it where possible.”

 — Scott Tinsley, vice president of sales for Atlanta-based mattress major Serta Simmons Bedding LLC and chair of the board of trustees of the International Sleep Products Association

“First and foremost for us was to take care of the health and safety of our employees. We made immediate changes to provide a safer work environment and continue to follow CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines so that we can continue to operate. This has helped our business because we have had only two cases of Covid in our company, both fully recovered and back at work.” 

— Brent Limer, chief sales officer
for Latexco U.S. LLC, a foam supplier with U.S. headquarters in Lavonia, Georgia, and Phoenix

“This pandemic has caused us to look inward regarding almost all things we do and to become more efficient. We’ve learned that there are many things we can live without moving forward, while still providing our dealers with a full complement of services.” 

— Gerry Borreggine, president and
chief executive officer of Therapedic International, a mattress licensing group based in Princeton, New Jersey

“As the pandemic hit Europe hard and various countries went into lockdown in March, we were very fortunate that we had a brave and dedicated workforce that were able to return to work to start supplying our customers after a short few weeks. Social distancing and wearing PPE have slowed us down with certain processes, such as loading vehicles, but our team has adapted to the new working protocol to ensure our team remains safe and well.” 

— Darren Marcangelo, managing director of Spinks, the components division of mattress manufacturer Harrison Spinks, which has headquarters in Leeds, England

“We have gotten used to having some employees work remotely. Keeping employees safe is always top of mind. Working remotely hasn’t hindered us, but it took some adjustment.”

— Elizabeth Dell’Accio, vice president of Blu Sleep, a maker of mattresses
and sleep accessories based in Pompano Beach, Florida

“As we all know, consumer buying habits and expectations are evolving. For a brand to be relevant today, consumers expect that the brand will have an integrated, omnichannel presence. One of our long-term initiatives is to optimize our powerful omnidistribution platform and be wherever consumers want to shop. Our execution on that initiative has positioned us well to meet their expectations.” 

— Scott Thompson, chair, CEO and president of bedding major Tempur Sealy
International Inc., which has headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky

“The biggest areas of change we made were pivoting to making PPE materials using existing manufacturing capabilities. We also made changes to how and where we had to source raw materials. Some of our domestic sources could not provide us with what we needed, so we had to quickly pivot to overseas vendors.” 

— Tim Witherell, vice president and general manager of Hickory Springs Bedding,
a components supplier headquartered in Hickory, North Carolina

“First, we wanted to ensure the health and safety of all of our employees, and we instituted all of the proper safety protocols in our headquarters, factory and warehouse operations. Next, we solidified our supply chain to assure we would continue with timely deliveries. While others in the industry have struggled, we have not. We have been laser-focused on our efforts to support retailers with much-needed product all while expediting our drop-ship process.”

— Stephen Chen, president of Mlily USA, a mattress and
pillow brand based in Knoxville, Tennessee

2. Like other sectors of the economy, the bedding industry has faced shortages, delivery delays and other supply chain disruptions because of the pandemic and natural disasters, including several Gulf Coast hurricanes. How is your company managing and addressing these disruptions?

“We were actually quick to pivot to other sources and have seen only small disruptions in service. We look at what we have in inventory and on order daily to make sure we have enough raw materials in our plants to meet our customers’ demands.” 

— Witherell, Hickory Springs

“As we are one of the most vertically integrated mattress manufacturers, we are able to control most of our raw material supplies. Nonwoven pricing has been our biggest issue, and we have been hit with a huge spike in prices, but thankfully we have not been let down by our suppliers.”                                                                  

 — Marcangelo, Spinks

“Our vertically integrated model insulates us from common supply chain disruptions. We make our own coils, pour our foam and sew our covers, all of which significantly diminishes supply chain issues. We are in the process of completing our new factory in Arizona with the goal of shortening delivery times to within 48 hours to get retailers and consumers products in an industry-leading time frame.”         

— Chen, Mlily

“We’ve leveraged our global network and sister operations in Europe to supplement supply. We have added shifts and overtime to support customers’ needs, and, where possible, we’ve substituted products. We’ve also worked with all our raw materials partners to assure we’re getting the best level of service we can.” 

— Limer, Latexco

“We have expanded our supply chain options to include new national and international companies. Our innovation and research teams have identified new raw materials and/or modifications to existing materials, as well as new processes to address capacity concerns and material shortages and to improve opportunities to deliver more products on-time and complete to our retailers and their customers.” 

— Tinsley, SSB

“We are scrambling to maintain a supply of raw materials, looking at all potential sources to fill our needs.” 

— Borreggine, Therapedic

“There were some disruptions in March and April when the shutdowns were happening. We’ve been fortunate to catch up on lost time during the summer months.” 

— Dell’Accio, Blu Sleep

“One bright note is that we’re starting to catch up. At one point after Labor Day, we had a 16,000-piece backlog, now we’re down to about 10,000 pieces (as of late October) and getting that down. Thank god I have many resources and friends in the business doing somersaults for us. One thing we’ve been doing if we have shortages from our suppliers is to substitute up in quality but still giving our customers mattresses with the same feel.” 

— Stuart Carlitz, president and CEO
of Eclipse International, a licensing group with headquarters in North Brunswick, New Jersey

3. The pandemic has accelerated consumers’ migration to e-commerce. How is your company responding to this transition? How are you helping retailers on this front?

“Tempur-Pedic was the original direct-to-consumer bedding company, and today we continue to expand both online and with high-end brick-and-mortar retail stores. The trend toward online purchases accelerated during the pandemic, and we believe that consumers will continue to lean into digital channels. Our direct channel web sales grew over 100% in the (last) quarter, while driving higher EBITDA margin in an already very profitable distribution channel. Our robust sales trends included over 200% growth on our compressed bedding offerings, which compared favorably with others in the industry.” 

— Thompson, Tempur Sealy

“We have been working with our customers to provide drop-ship options, as well as marketing information, to help them with their online sales.” 

— Dell’Accio, Blu Sleep

“A major part of our business is (producing the) Saatva (direct-to-consumer brand), and our Saatva business is up more than 100%. At the start of the pandemic, they doubled down on their ad spend and have kept our factories super busy. It’s a unique model because it’s not a boxed bed. It’s more comparable to a department store bed with white-glove delivery.” 

— Carlitz, Eclipse

“Since our founding, Mlily has embraced e-commerce and was an early adopter of the platform. That has served us well during the pandemic. Retailers are able to access our full line of goods through our portal, and we have been working with retailers to get them up to speed online. Lastly, our ability to drop ship directly to consumers from our five warehouses across the country allows our dealers to keep inventory levels lean.” 

— Chen, Mlily

“We identified e-commerce as a significant opportunity years ago, and based on 2020 trends, we have accelerated our plans to service the consumers who shop online. We hired Shelley Huff, former CEO of Hayneedle, to accelerate our digital efforts at SSB. We are transforming our approach to the marketplace and ready all of our new launches with omnichannel support to set our retailers up for success, whether transacting online or in-store.” 

— Tinsley, SSB

“We believe the e-commerce channel will have a viable future in the home furnishings industry. We are guiding our dealers to embrace this avenue as an opportunity to grow their businesses by emerging with a hybrid model that blends e-commerce with brick-and-mortar strategies.” 

— Borreggine, Therapedic

4. What are the biggest challenges or threats facing the bedding industry in 2021? How can they best be addressed?

“The pandemic remains a threat, especially if there are lockdowns in some parts of the world where we get supplies.” 

— Dell’Accio, Blu Sleep

“Inflation: Raw material pricing has increased dramatically recently. Also: the continuing challenge presented by low-priced imports. Manufacturers should seek to provide great mattress value with meaningful innovation and consumer benefits. We compete against a variety of other consumer durables for the consumers’ top-of-mind awareness. A focus on health benefits and improved quality of life is a key.” 

— Tinsley, SSB

“We are currently seeing a huge shift in Europe by mattress manufacturers to more sustainable products as more pressure is being applied by governments for manufacturers to be responsible for the mattresses at the end of their life. Products such as our Micro and Flexecore lines are very easy to recycle at the end of life because they use no glue, which is a major contaminant when it comes to mattress recycling.” 

— Marcangelo, Spinks

“The biggest challenge our industry faces is the influx of low-end, poor-quality import goods that diminish the consumers’ impression of what high-quality sleep products actually are, and what they can deliver to the people who invest in them.” 

— Borreggine, Therapedic

“Policy and regulations both domestically and globally on petroleum and gas require constant evaluation in our business. The majority of our products rely on those resources, and any shortages would directly affect our supply chain.”                         

— Limer, Latexco

5. What has you most optimistic or excited about the business environment in the year ahead?

“We’re optimistic about the continuing growth and momentum. We know that it will level off at some point, but we predict 2021 to be a solid growth year overall.”         

— Limer, Latexco

“The domestic bedding industry is in the healthiest position I have seen, as it is now structured for sustained, profitable growth. The days of uneconomical retail store expansion is behind the industry. The number of retail doors has been rationalized, improving the average sales and profits per store. The days of significant unfair dumping of overseas products in the market is also behind the industry. We expect antidumping actions to reduce the number of mattresses coming in from overseas and benefit domestic manufacturers. The days of new startups focused on uneconomical land grabs has been mitigated and their strategy has moved to becoming profitable entities. At the same time, legacy retailers and manufacturers have become skilled in producing profitable internet sales. These dynamics, in addition to the worldwide consumer focus on our category, provides an attractive backdrop for our business.” 

Thompson, Tempur Sealy

“When the pandemic started, Englander had recently launched our new national line. During the shutdown, many of our dealers were allowing customers to roam around and shop alone in their stores. One of our retailers called me and said the Elation by Englander became their top-selling mattress — all from customers who weren’t being offered sales help (or sales pressure). This line works, and I’m excited about relaunching in 2021.” 

— Mark Kinsley, president and CEO
of Englander, a mattress licensing group based in Chicago

“I’m optimistic that our supply chain will improve and that we’ll be able to continue to hire and expand our capacity. I myself am planning a third factory of my own, and we’ve brought on new domestic producers in the last six months.” 

— Carlitz, Eclipse

“Hopefully, a vaccine will be in place in the next few months that will enable us all to start traveling again, which is something I have missed greatly for our business. There is nothing better than meeting up face-to-face with customers around the globe to help them develop the next generation of mattresses for their organization.”       

— Marcangelo, Spinks

“We’re bringing on new equipment for springs each month. We’re producing more spring units now than we have in decades. We’ve had more calls to help customers, and we’re doing our best to get customers product so they can service the end consumer. We do not see this slowing down anytime soon.” 

— Witherell, Hickory Springs

6. What is the biggest opportunity you see for the bedding industry in 2021? How will your company meet it?

“The biggest opportunity for the bedding industry is to connect sleep and wellness to the products we make. Due to the pandemic, health concerns are at an all-time high. We must position a proper-fitting mattress as the key to better sleep — and champion any science that shows sleep can have a positive impact on your immune system.” 

— Kinsley, Englander

“Today, the industry and specifically Tempur Sealy are squarely in the middle of people rethinking their priorities in life. One impact of Covid-19 has been people’s increased focus on their health and wellness, while simultaneously spending a greater amount of time at home. We believe that this focus on health, wellness and quality of life is going to remain a priority for consumers in the future and that our products will continue to resonate with those seeking quality sleep as part of their overall wellness plan.” 

— Thompson, Tempur Sealy

“We have an extraordinary story to tell consumers: Our products deliver the healthy benefits of a good night’s sleep, which will improve the lives of the people who invest in them.” 

— Borreggine, Therapedic

“Consumers spent more time in the home during 2020 than they ever have before and are looking to upgrade many areas of their residence. Mattresses are certainly seeing a benefit from this focus. Now more than ever, people understand how a good night’s sleep can improve their health. We plan to bring on more equipment in 2021 to meet the increased demand.” 

— Witherell, Hickory Springs

“Clearly the greatest opportunity in 2021 is that virtually everyone is selling today via e-commerce, and consumers are happy to shop and receive deliveries this way. This is a permanent game changer for our industry and since Mlily was an early adopter in this space, we expect to benefit from this change.” — Chen, Mlily

“Private label is the future for brick-and-mortar retailers. It’s too easy for consumers to cross-shop if they’re looking at a brand they can buy anywhere. Retailers have to have an exclusive product that’s not cross-shoppable. You’ve got to have a product that’s a lot of ‘steak’ and also a lot of ‘sizzle,’ and I think we’re the best at it in the USA.”   

 — Carlitz, Eclipse

“Nesting is one of the biggest opportunities in 2021 as more consumers shift entertainment spending into home remodeling. Mattresses are benefiting from that. SSB is ready to gain more than its fair share of this opportunity with launches of new Serta Perfect Sleeper and Beautyrest Harmony lines. They are packed with value and offer differentiated innovation.” 

— Tinsley, SSB

How’d You Sleep Last Night?

Given that BedTimes is the business journal for the sleep products industry, we often finish our annual questionnaire asking the panel of industry leaders what they are doing to get a good night’s sleep in the face of the current year’s challenges. 

In 2020, there have been countless new reasons to toss and turn, but our respondents are relying on the same solid sleep habits the industry recommends to consumers: eat well, exercise (Serta Simmons Bedding LLC’s Scott Tinsley is outpacing a lot of us when it comes to exercise), reduce stress, follow a bedtime routine — and sleep on a comfortable, supportive, high-quality mattress. 

What are you doing to get a good night’s sleep?

“I have been trying to exercise more and lose some weight. This has certainly helped me to get a good night’s sleep.” 

— Darren Marcangelo, managing director of Spinks, the components division of mattress manufacturer Harrison Spinks, which has headquarters in Leeds, England

“We’re always excited about our product selection and working on new ones. We’re thinking ahead and staying positive.” 

— Elizabeth Dell’Accio, vice president of Blu Sleep, a maker of mattresses and sleep accessories based in Pompano Beach, Florida

“It’s been a tough year, and my heart goes out to those who’ve experienced pain and suffering. While there’s plenty to keep me up at night, I try and focus on the positives and stay committed to getting good rest. For me, the basics apply — plenty of exercise, eat healthy, and develop a consistent bedtime routine. And, of course, I sleep on the world’s best mattress for my body, an Echelon Plush by Englander.” 

— Mark Kinsley, president and chief executive officer of Englander, a mattress licensing group based in Chicago

“It might seem simple to say, but routines, diet and exercise all help with avoiding sleepless nights. I’m trying to focus on a set time to get into bed and waking up each morning. Exercising has been a challenge with the gym closures, but being able to get outdoors this fall has proven beneficial.” 

— Tim Witherell, vice president and general manager of Hickory Springs Bedding,
a components supplier headquartered in Hickory, North Carolina

“I am a firm believer in sleep routines. I follow a set bedtime, and an hour before, I shut down the electronics and read. My phone isn’t in my bedroom, and it’s turned to silent overnight. In addition to the nighttime routine, I try to focus on a healthy lifestyle by eating the right things and exercising daily.” 

— Stephen Chen, president of Mlily USA, a mattress and pillow brand based in Knoxville, Tennessee

“A change in my exercise plans during Covid has been ‘sleep positive.’ I have been participating in ‘social distancing’ bicycling events throughout the spring, summer and fall seasons. I have just finished riding 2,500 miles and am on my way to 4,000 by the end of March 2021!” 

— Scott Tinsley, vice president of sales for Atlanta-based mattress major Serta Simmons Bedding LLC and chair of the board of trustees for the International Sleep Products Association

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