Industry takes another step toward a return to more normal business conditions, producers say
Mattress exhibitors found plenty of things to like at the recent High Point Market in North Carolina, where the industry took another step forward in its return to more normal business conditions.
Masks were off, retailers were happy to be holding face-to-face meetings, and optimism about the economy was on the upswing at the market, which shifted from its normal April schedule to June 5-9 to give the industry more time to shake off the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bedding exhibitors generally were pleased with their market showings, although some reported traffic levels that fluctuated throughout the market and were sometimes light. As usual, some retailers were calling on showrooms before the official Saturday start date.
Ashley Furniture Industries, the Arcadia, Wisconsin-based home furnishings manufacturer who is a major High Point exhibitor, enjoyed a robust market, said Brad Rogers, senior vice president of the bedding division.
“This was a fantastic market for us,” said Rogers, who noted that Ashley’s market got off to a strong start on Friday. “There was a lot of enthusiasm. We showed new products, because to remain relevant you need to show new products. Retailers were excited to see new things and were ordering.”
According to Rogers, retailers were happy to be at the market. “This is a relationship business,” he said. “I saw hugs, hearty handshakes and pats on the back. Retailers were glad to be out.”
Bedding demand currently exceeds capacity at Ashley, a situation the company is moving rapidly to address, according to Rogers. “We should be in very good shape in the middle of the fourth quarter,” he said. “At the first of the year we will hit the ground running very hard.”
Magniflex USA Ltd., showing with Copeland Furniture, was thrilled with its market, said Billy Curtright, national sales manager for the Italian mattress manufacturer with U.S. headquarters in Miami.
“I would use the word ‘dynamite,’ ” he said. “I haven’t used that word in a long time. Our business is so strong now. There is pent-up demand. We are in-stock and having product available is helping us a lot.”
Added Silvia Galasso, vice president of operations for Magniflex, “I have never seen this much excitement. Retailers are so positive. They are happy to be out and about.” She described Magniflex’s market as “a tremendous success.”
Many of the conversations at market centered on supply chain issues, which continue to impact the mattress and home furnishings industries.
“It is a tale of two cities,” said Richard Fleck, president of Paramount Sleep Co., a mattress maker based in Norfolk, Virginia. “It is the best of times and the worst of times.”
Retailers love the strong demand for bedding products and the revenues they are generating, he said, but supply chain challenges are taking their toll. “They are spending 40% to 50% of their time on logistics and management, and that is just crushing them,” Fleck said. “They can’t work on strategy. They are just working on their day-to-day business.”
Eclipse International, a North Brunswick, New Jersey-based mattress manufacturer and licensing group, got off to an early start at market, seeing retailers two days before the market’s official opening day, reported Steve Karns, regional vice president.
“Retail is in a reset mode,” he said. “If you can be an asset to them, you win.”
Karns sees the market moving toward better beds and says Eclipse is contributing to that trend with its new high-end Millbrook line, with beds made in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Eugene Alletto, chief executive officer of Bedgear, a bedding and sleep accessories supplier based in Farmingdale, New York, sees an opportunity for his company to connect with designers.
“The mood of High Point for the limited number of people here is that the designers far outweigh retail buyers here,” he said. “I wonder if these designers could become stewards of better sleep. I also wonder what we can do to attract designers to our industry. That’s something I’m going to focus on.”
Retail buyers shopping High Point showrooms were focusing on delivery schedules, Alletto said, and Bedgear is ready to service its retailers with shipments within 48 hours and with about 96% of its line in stock, he said.
Paul Kahl, vice president of sales for AW Industries, a Landover, Maryland-based bedding producer and distributor, said his company did well by switching foam beds to hybrid designs, a move it made with new latex hybrids in the Sleepwell and Silentnight lines.
“I was cautiously optimistic about the show,” Kahl said. “It has exceeded my expectations.”
He said his market was characterized by “quality, not quantity” in terms of retailers, and said the timing of the June show, which came on the heels of the big Memorial Day sales period, did not lend itself to changes on retail floors. “Who is putting new beds on their floors the week after Memorial Day?” Kahl asked.
Gerry Borreggine, chief executive officer of Princeton, New Jersey-based Therapedic International, a licensing group, said the plethora of markets in High Point, including premarket events, the two regular markets, and the First Tuesday events, levels out attendance at the regular markets.
He noted that the recent premarket in High Point attracted more major retailers, while the June market attracted more independent retailers and designers. “It’s hard to judge these events individually,” he said. “You almost need to look at them on a seasonal basis.”