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Bedding shipments hit slump but growth prospects remain

David Perry Executive editorDavid Perry Executive editor
A not-so-funny thing happened to the mattress industry since those positive vibes swept through Las Vegas mattress showrooms in late January. Business has gone south. No, this is not an April Fool's joke.
     We heard many reports of lousy business in February, and the International Sleep Products Assn. confirmed them with its just-issued February Bedding Barometer report. That report, which presents a snapshot of the performance of some of the largest bedding producers, showed a 7.4% unit decline in February and a 6.7% decline in the wholesale value of bedding shipments that month. Ouch!
     Adding insult to injury, ISPA also released a three month moving average for bedding business in the period from December through February: Units were off 4.5% in those three months, and the dollar value of wholesale shipments was down 4.2%.
     What happened to the growth year that so many of us are expecting in 2013? Some are blaming our woes on a broken Congress. Others say it is just that crazy business rollercoaster.
     A look back at ISPA's monthly sales reports last year shows that the industry took a sharp turn downward in December, when units decreased by 5.9% and dollars dropped 6.4%. Last November, by contrast, units were up 10.9% and dollars were up 11.3%.
     In January the industry's performance was essentially flat, against strong comparisons. And then we saw the turn downward again in February.
     Leggett & Platt's Karl Glassman noted in comments earlier this year that it makes more sense to look at the ISPA data from a quarterly perspective rather than a monthly one. ISPA's Statistics Committee apparently agrees, as ISPA just introduced the moving three-month average to its monthly reports. We like the addition of that three-month moving average and feel it is a useful yardstick. It's a shame that the first of those averages shows the industry in minus territory.
     We are still optimistic about business prospects this year. More national advertising from bedding producers is in the pipeline. Numerous new bedding lines, backed by strong marketing programs, will hit retail floors shortly. The economy is getting stronger. Those are all positive developments.
     But, and there is no way to sugarcoat this, we are mired in a bedding sales slump at the moment, for some reason. Let's hope it is short lived. We believe unit and dollar growth is in the cards for this year.

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