The Covid-19 Intermission Is Not Over

I received an encouraging message a few minutes after I landed in Las Vegas to attend the Summer Las Vegas Market in August. “Intermission,” said the electronic banners in the bustling baggage claim concourse, “is over.” The implication was clear: It’s a good time to buy show tickets. 

Alas, that message was heavy on the hype and short on reality. Having spent three quiet days in Nevada’s city of lights and engaging in in-depth conversations with bedding industry leaders, it is all too clear that our Covid-19 intermission definitely is not over. In fact, it is stretching out much longer than we had hoped. And now there are questions about the all-important Winter Las Vegas Market in January, the bedding industry’s Super Bowl of product introductions. 

Call this a tale of two markets. The Las Vegas Market in April, pushed back by the pandemic from its normal January home, was a coming out party for the industry. Many bedding executives were making their first trips since the pandemic began last year. The moods in bedding showrooms were upbeat. This was a step toward normal, whatever the “new normal” might be, exhibitors said.

But that exuberance was largely gone by August, blasted away by a pandemic that has taken a turn for the worse lately. And now, sadly, no one quite knows what to expect for business this fall.

I heard some harsh assessments of the quiet August market, which was hurt by a wave of last-minute Covid-19 cancellations. “Abysmal,” one long-time bedding executive said, privately. “A ghost town,” said another, also privately. But, for the record, some exhibitors reported they had strong markets.

True, some top retailers were there and so were many top manufacturers and suppliers. As I made my rounds, I had plenty of time for lengthy conversations and I explored key issues in great detail. But quiet showrooms are not ideal for the exhibitors, despite the high-quality conversations that played out in them. Retailers drive the markets. Let’s not lose sight of that key fact. 

Supply chain problems continue to plague the bedding marketplace, a situation that won’t be resolved until the new year, some exhibitors told me. Bedding prices, driven by inflation, have been rising. Some executives now worry that higher prices could dampen consumers’ interest in new beds.

Optimism still is high that the Winter Las Vegas Market will be a strong one for the bedding industry — it always has been, after all — but some doubts now are creeping in. One executive told me the outlook for January now is “uncertain.” 

My take is that the industry is unsettled by a variety of factors, including the ongoing pandemic, supply chain woes, softening retail sales and light attendance at markets. These are trying times.

For all the challenges in the marketplace, there continue to be opportunities. One is that the industry needs to continue to shape the pandemic narrative by stressing the link between better sleep and better health. That message has never been more important, but it gets drowned out in sales touting free adjustable bed bases, king-size beds for the price of a queen and 60 months of no-interest payments.

Another opportunity is to take advantage of the growing luxury bedding market, which will raise retail tickets and consumer satisfaction. And the sleep accessories market continues to be vibrant. New accessories that I saw in Las Vegas included robes, CBD sprays, and CBD softgels and gummies.

Let’s all stay resilient. Better days are coming.

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