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Specialty sleep category soars while innerspring units drop

There are two very different worlds in the mattress industry. One is a world of soaring unit and dollar growth and lofty selling prices. The other is a world of declining unit growth, slight dollar growth and far more modest selling prices.
In which world would you rather do business?
This is not just a hypothetical question. It is a question that confronts mattress producers and retailers every day.
The first world we described is the world of specialty sleep. The growth rates there are eye-popping. Last year, unit shipments of specialty mattresses jumped 24.3% and the dollar value of those shipments increased 29.5%. The average unit price of specialty mattresses rose 4.2% last year, to $559.23.
The second world, as you probably surmised, is the world of innerspring bedding. Innerspring mattress units declined 1.9% last year, while the dollar value of innerspring mattresses rose a modest 2.6%. The average unit price of an innerspring mattress last year was up 4.7% to $210.47, just over a third of the specialty mattress price.
All of those figures are from the 2011 Report of Sales and Trends just issued by the International Sleep Products Assn.
It's true that innerspring bedding still dominates on sales floors around the country. But specialty sleep continues to gain share rapidly. Last year, specialty sleep's mattress unit share jumped to 13.8%, up from 11.2% the previous year, and its dollar share jumped to 29.4%, up from 25.2% the previous year.
Similar gains are expected in the years to come, bedding observers say.
Retailers love the high selling prices of specialty sleep beds and the high satisfaction levels that come with those products. The sale of just one specialty sleep set can provide three times the sales dollars of one innerspring sleep set. Of course, the specialty sleep beds generally sell at higher prices and not all consumers can afford them.
The growth story being written by the specialty sleep segment is well known. But I was surprised with ISPA's report on innerspring's performance last year. That 1.9% unit decline means that segment suffered a recession last year. And since the innerspring category accounts for about 70% of the total dollar value of shipments and about 86% of total units, that recession was broadly felt. I didn't realize that the heart of the industry was in a recession in 2011.
The only thing preventing the industry as a whole from heading south in units was the stellar performance of specialty sleep. Its 24.3% mattress unit gain was enough to lift the entire industry into positive territory - barely - with a 0.2% unit gain.
Thank goodness for specialty sleep.

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