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From CBD-infused linens to weighted blankets to antimicrobial mattress protectors, suppliers offer products that can soothe weary, anxious and value-conscious customers
As we head into the colder months of the year and the novel coronavirus pandemic continues, it is a good time for mattress retailers to promote top-of-bed items — from cozy, anxiety-reducing weighted blankets and CBD-infused linens to mattress encasements that keep a mattress clean and fresh.
Top-of-bed purchases may be easier for budget-conscious consumers to afford, lend themselves to online purchasing that’s increasingly popular among consumers who are sticking close to home and also make good holiday gifts. When consumers shop, whether in-store or online, they’ll find high-performance top-of-bed items that wick away moisture and help regulate temperatures, split sheets designed for adjustable bases, and other feature-laden products, all designed to improve their sleep, which, for many people, can be hard to come by these days.
We talked to several top-of-bed suppliers about trends in the category and also got their tips for merchandising and selling these sleep essentials.
Health and wellness
With the pandemic, health and wellness are top of mind for many consumers — whether that means buying products to keep their homes clean and sanitary or getting an immune-system boosting good night’s sleep. And makers of top-of-bed products are reacting to those concerns by emphasizing the benefits of their technologies.
“Our company is founded on wellness,” says Sarah Bergman, vice president of marketing and creative for c, a Phoenix-based maker of sleep accessories. “And now (during the pandemic), we’re seeing people more interested in wellness than ever.”
Originally a maker of mattress protectors and encasements, PureCare still offers a full line of those products, and encourages retailers to offer a series of step-up protectors that provide benefits beyond protecting a mattress from stains or tears. Its five-sided protectors feature the company’s OmniGuard lightweight performance fabric that doesn’t alter the feel of the mattress, as well as MiteTight seams that protect against allergens, dust mites, moisture, mold and mildew (starting at $99).
PureCare protectors featuring responsive fabrics include its recovery version, which incorporates Celliant fibers determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to temporarily increase blood flow at the site of application in healthy individuals, improve recovery time from physical activity and promote more restful sleep. FRiO, the company’s bestselling protector, has rapid-chill cooling fibers for a comfortable sleeping environment ($119). Other additions to the line include ReversaTemp, with cooling FRiO on one side and warming Heatstar insulating fibers on the other for all-season comfort ($159). The technologies and features available in PureCare’s mattress protectors also are available in the company’s pillow protectors ($25 to $35 in queen).
“Our responsive, technical textiles aren’t an application. The technology lives at the core of the fibers. It’s not going to wash out of a product,” Bergman says, noting that most of PureCare’s protectors can be washed and dried on hot settings for sanitization.
PureCare’s sheet collections are organized similarly to its protectors with core features such as Precision-Fit corners throughout the line and then functional performance characteristics added to provide clearly differentiated step-ups. The company’s cool-to-the-touch Tencel sheet set ($199) is a bestseller, Bergman says.
In January, PureCare unveiled its first 100% Supima cotton sheets as part of its premium Elements sheet line. At $299 for a queen set, the sheets, made of extra-long-staple cotton grown and harvested exclusively in the Southwest United States, represent the top end of the PureCare sheet line.
From high-end to value-priced
When it comes to sleep accessories, Logan, Utah-based Malouf strives to be a one-stop shop for bedding retailers, offering everything from adjustable bases to sheets to pillows.
“Several of our competitors might be great in protectors but don’t play in sheets or vice versa,” says Scott Carr, marketing director for Malouf. “But we play in every category, so consumers can pair a Malouf protector with a Malouf sheet set and a Malouf pillow.”
One of the company’s most successful recent top-of-bed launches has been its Anchor weighted blankets, Carr says. Many consumers find the heft of such blankets comforting and their use may improve sleep by lessening tossing and turning. Malouf’s version, with glass beads inside and washable outer covers, originally was available in queen and throw sizes in 12-pound, 15-pound and 20-pound weights. The company recently added a petite size in a 5-pound weight. A 12-pound queen-size Anchor blanket retails for $339. (Listed Malouf prices are from the company’s website; its retailers often sell items for less, Carr says.)
“The weighted blankets have been a No. 1 selling item for two years,” he says. “And especially at a time like now when people are experiencing a lot of anxiety, they are a nice item to have on hand.”
Bestsellers at the top end of Malouf’s top-of-bed line include its rayon from bamboo sheet set, now available in split-queen and split-king versions ($207), and its Five 5ided IceTech mattress protector with cooling fabric ($279).
But “since COVID, we have noticed a shift toward customers looking for value-centric sleep solutions and as a result are expanding our Weekender promotional line of bedding,” Carr says.
New to that line is a Weekender Cooling mattress protector, which features an “instant cooling effect,” as well as practical polyurethane to shield beds from spills and accidents ($89). Malouf also has added the reversible Weekender Sherpa blanket with a silky fleece side and cozy “Sherpa” side. It comes in both queen and throw size ($29 for queen).
Products that perform
Not surprising for a company founded by two former athletes, SHEEX focuses on performance fabrics. The company, headquartered in Marlton, New Jersey, began as a sheet company but now offers a variety of sleep accessories, including pillows, mattress pads and toppers, as well as sleepwear. It recently introduced a mattress line.
“Now we’re in every layer of the bedding system, so that everything works together for temperature regulation and better quality sleep,” says Susan Walvius, who co-founded the company with Michelle Marciniak to make sheets with the same moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating properties they enjoyed in athletic wear when both were coaching Division 1 basketball.
The company’s Original Performance line remains its bestselling sheet set ($250). “It’s a problem solver that’s very unique,” Walvius says. “It’s super soft, with a tight circular knit that still allows for superior airflow. It breathes about seven times better than a typical woven, and has a good stretch for thicker mattresses or adjustable bases. It’s a true performance product.” The company’s sheet line also includes Arctic Aire-Max, combining CoolX technology with Tencel’s silky, cooling Lyocell fiber, and SHEEX is adding Midnight Label, a new sheet line created in conjunction with Brrr°, using that company’s Triple Chill Effect technology. The sheets, SHEEX’s first to feature nylon, not only cool but also create a smooth, super-soft feel that reduces friction, especially with sleepers’ hair.
“Everything for us is about a good night’s sleep and Midnight Label offers both cooling and a beauty effect,” says Brian Hoke, who joined the company as chief merchandising officer in the spring. A set retails for about $300.
Also new is the company’s Performance Studio-Tech bedding set, a European-style bundle with duvet cover, fitted sheet, two pillowcases and two pillow shams, but no top sheet ($299).
For these anxiety-inducing times, SHEEX offers the Calm + Cool blanket in a 15-pound weight with a removable, washable brushed-texture fabric cover ($299). “This deep-touch pressure is scientifically proven to stimulate the release of serotonin and melatonin, reducing stress and encouraging relaxation and comfort,” according to the company.
Meeting consumers’ demands
Soft-Tex International rolled out several new sleep products collections last spring that tap into a number of consumer trends, including interest in wellness and beauty, CBD oil and cooling, says Taylor Jones, Soft-Tex vice president of marketing. The company, based in Waterford, New York, manufactures its own brands (such as SensorPedic, BioPedic and SensorGel), holds licenses from several companies (such as Restonic and Therapedic) and also creates private-label programs.
Soft-Tex’s Nature’s Technology collection is designed to keep sleeping environments fresh and clean. The company added a natural linseed oil derivative for its antimicrobial properties, as well as a microencapsulated probiotic to eliminate allergens like pet dander.
Its new Aqua+ collection features skin-improving microencapsulated hyaluronic acid, an ingredient usually used in beauty products. The technology is available in pillows, mattress pads and mattress protectors and also as a gift set with a travel pillow and eye mask that retails for $25.
For consumers interested in the relaxation and sleep-inducing properties of CBD oil, Soft-Tex has extended its line of CBD-infused accessories following the launch of a pillow in 2019. Recently added were a protector ($99) and sheet set made with a cotton-hemp blend fabric and microencapsulated CBD oil ($199).
Consumer interest in temperature-regulating products hasn’t cooled, and Soft-Tex has unveiled a collection of cooling top-of-bed accessories using Reactex technology. “Reactex is pressure sensitive and moves heat away from you,” Jones says. “It starts cooling in as little as eight seconds and cools for up to eight hours and then self-recharges so it’s ready by the time you go to sleep again.” A mattress protector featuring Reactex retails for about $199 in queen.
Cadence Keen Innovations, which operates as CKI Solutions, has long had a diversified product lineup and marketing strategy. “We’re not a one-trick pony,” says Steven Gordon, president of the company, which has headquarters in West Palm Beach, Florida.
When it comes to its product lineup, “everything CKI makes is a solution to a problem,” Gordon says. That includes the company’s top-of-bed offerings. CKI’s Regency Cloud mattress topper originally was developed to alleviate bed sores in hospitals but now can be used by consumers to extend the life of a mattress or make a more comfortable night’s sleep ($125). The topper has a polyester cluster fiber fill that won’t lose loft or migrate inside the cover, Gordon says. An Eco Cloud version uses the same fill but features a knit top with rayon from bamboo for added softness ($175). Both toppers are washable.
Gordon sees potential for some of CKI’s products, such as its Sleep Defender pillow encasement, to increase in popularity in the consumer market because of growing concerns about maintaining a sanitary home. “If a pillow is new, nothing will penetrate the encasement to get into the pillow, and if you use it on an older pillow, nothing will escape it to get to the sleeper,” Gordon says. The company also is one of the few that offers encasements for sleeper sofa mattresses.
Going forward, Gordon believes “people are going to be more conscious about their health.” “This pandemic is a sobering experience, and people are going to look at how they live their lives,” he says. “Part of that will be recognizing the importance of quality sleep for their health. I think when we come out of this, business will boom and people will be looking for products that give them a good night’s sleep.”
8 Top-of-Bed Tips and Takeaways for Retailers
A mix of tried-and-true and fresh tactics can boost sales during challenging times
If you’re hoping to boost sales of top-of-bed products, here are eight proven tactics to try.
1. Introduce top-of-bed products early
This is perennial advice for a reason. You can’t sell products you don’t promote, and introducing these items early in the sales conversation keeps them from seeming to customers like a forced “add-on” sale.
Be sure to display top-of-bed items in key locations throughout the store — near the front door, next to your best-selling bed sets and close to the sales desk.
Train retail sales associates to use conversational cues to talk about these products. For instance, if shoppers mention allergies, RSAs can note how mattress and pillow encasements can help reduce allergens in the sleep environment. If shoppers mention that anxiety is keeping them up at night, RSAs can highlight the benefits of linens infused with CBD oil or talk about weighted blankets.
When selling online, use pop-ups, “customers also bought” recommendations and other tools to remind shoppers about top-of-bed items that can enhance their mattress purchase. Promote these products on your homepage and in social media.
2. Show off the products
More perennial advice: Don’t hide top-of-bed products in the back of the store and expect shoppers to flock to them. Create a variety of enticing displays. For instance, try dressing a floor model (or two) in sheets, blanket and duvet to clearly demonstrate to shoppers that you offer those products. Such a display also makes your showroom more welcoming and inviting.
“I think one of the best merchandising tips is to set up a fully dressed bed so that consumers can see what you are showing,” says Scott Carr, marketing director for Malouf, a bedding, sleep accessories and furniture supplier based in Logan, Utah. “You can promote it: ‘You can take all this home today for $599,’ (or whatever the set price might be). It’s an easy way for consumers to picture the items in their home.”
Susan Walvius, co-founder of SHEEX, in Marlton, New Jersey, notes that “in several stores, our sheets are on the bed. It shows customers how easy they fit. They can touch and feel them. And retailers can launder them regularly, giving customers a sense of comfort that they are lying on a clean surface.”
SHEEX also offers a display unit featuring a video and pillowcases that can be placed on a nightstand between beds. “Customers can watch the video and then feel the different fabrics. It’s a nice presentation,” she says.
Sarah Bergman, vice president of marketing and creative for PureCare, a Phoenix-based maker of sleep accessories, notes that PureCare works with retailers to create attention-grabbing top-of-bed displays.
“We have a great basic display that sets up in seconds and has signage that allows you to change things up depending on the products you are showing,” she says. “More recently, we’ve been focused on taking retailers to the next level in their stores: ‘Let’s create a huge splash and show consumers this is where they should come to get their sleep essentials.’ It’s about creating an undeniable presence that can act as a sales guide for RSAs to use to walk customers through the product or it can be a ‘silent salesperson’ that customers can browse on their own.”
When selling online, highlight top-of-bed items on your homepage, perhaps as part of your promotional rotation and put them in their best light on product pages. Your vendors can help you by providing photography and product descriptions. “We provide all the digital assets retailers need to get them up and running — videos, images, copy — everything they need,” Bergman says.
3. Make bundles for buyers
This is one of the most effective ways to sell sleep accessories. By grouping together items like sheets and protectors for a single price, you emphasize the importance of these items in creating a complete sleep ensemble — and you give customers a good value.
“We have had a lot of retailers working with us to create bundles,” Carr says. “And we see improved attachment rates when they bundle items together.” Pro tip: Create accessories bundles to sell with mattresses that echo the beds’ features, such as cooling accessories for mattresses designed for cool sleep.
4. Encourage customers to touch
In the past, Sleep Savvy has encouraged retailers to invest in displays that feature fabric swatches, minibuns and other elements that allow shoppers to touch and feel products, and we still think it’s one of the best ways to sell shoppers on the cool-to-the touch feel of a sheet or the softness of a blanket.
“It’s all about surprise and delight,” says Taylor Jones, vice president of marketing for Soft-Tex in Waterford, New Jersey. “Consumers want to have an experience. It’s all about being hands-on. It’s why they want to go to the store.”
In the age of COVID-19, just make sure to have plenty of hand sanitizer available. Place bottles at the front door and near touchable accessories displays and ask shoppers to use them.
5. Emphasize value
Many households have lost income during the pandemic and ensuing economic downturn, and even those who haven’t may be worried about what their own financial future holds. This is a good time to expand your selection of lower-priced but high-value sheets, protectors and other linens so that shoppers know they are getting the best products they can afford.
If you offer a good-better-best array (and you should!), you may want to add an opening value product for those budget-conscious consumers. As always, make sure the step-ups have clearly differentiated features that you can easily explain.
6. Focus on hygiene
Consumers hyper-focused on their health and germs want products that will keep their homes, including their bedrooms, clean, fresh and safe. Promote mattress and pillow protectors and encasements, many of which offer antimicrobial properties and protection against allergens and dust mites. But be careful that neither you nor your vendors make unsubstantiated claims about virus-fighting properties of products.
7. Take advantage of drop shipping
Many top-of-bed makers, including PureCare and SHEEX, offer drop shipping, allowing retailers to offer a greater selection while maintaining less inventory — and getting purchases to consumers within a few days. (One caveat: With the pandemic sometimes slowing shipping times, stay in close touch with vendors so that you don’t promise customers delivery windows that suppliers can’t meet.)
8. Keep it simple
It can be tempting to create unusual names for private-label bedding lines to distinguish your products from competitors. Yet, especially when promoting products online, it’s best to stick with product names and descriptions that consumers easily can understand. As an example, Jones points to aromatherapy products. “It’s better to sell using well-known aromatherapy scents like lavender rather than coming up with your own name that people might not understand,” he says. “Selling bedding is a tactile experience and communicating that value online is hard. Retailers need to make products understandable for consumers.”
Julie A. Palm is chief wordsmith at Palm Ink LLC in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She has 25 years of experience as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines and as a publications director. She is a past editor in chief of both Sleep Savvy and BedTimes magazines. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.