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David Perry

ISPA Expo: Industry strives to sell better sleep

INDIANAPOLIS - The mattress industry has made progress in touting better sleep messages, but still has plenty of work to do.
That was one of the key points emerging from a seminar on The Importance of Selling Sleep that was held during the International Sleep Products Assn. Expo here recently.
Executives with retailers Select Comfort and Mattress Firm talked about ways their companies are emphasizing better sleep messages, while representatives of ISPA's Better Sleep Council unveiled a new "Stop Sleeping Around" campaign designed to emphasize the importance of getting enough sleep at home.
Cindy Williams, a BSC member and the new senior vice president of marketing at Comfort Solutions, moderated the panel and noted that lack of sleep is a problem for many Americans. For example, she said, a National Sleep Foundation poll found that 60% of adult drivers say they have driven while they were extremely tired.
Pete Bils, vice president of sleep innovation and clinical research at Minneapolis-based Select Comfort, reviewed a long list of problems resulting from lack of sleep, including increases in heart attacks and traffic accidents. And he said it's getting harder for Americans to get their sleep, with 62 million sleep aid prescriptions written last year and 10% to 20% of consumers saying they regularly use over-the-counter sleep aids.
Bils said that most Americans visiting their physicians are not asked about sleep issues, and said that there are no government guidelines on sleep.
Karrie Forbes, executive vice president of marketing and merchandising at Houston-based Mattress Firm, said her company tries to strike a balance between "sale, sale, sale" messages and other messages in its advertising. She noted that since the company began promoting its "Save money. Sleep happy" message in 2010, same-store traffic has picked up each quarter.
But she gave Mattress Firm a C-minus overall on its focus on selling sleep. "We're not there yet," she said.
Mattress Firm aims to provide a good shopping experience for its customers by working hard to pick the right retail sales associates and giving them extensive training, Forbes said. The RSAs don't ask the typical questions such as "What size of bed do you want?" but favor questions like "How are you sleeping?"
Bils said the entire mattress industry needs to work together to get better sleep messages out to consumers. And he stressed the importance of innovation, saying that innovation drives new car sales and can also drive new mattress sales, regardless of the nature of the bedding warranty.
On the topic of selling sleep accessories, Bils said it is vital for bedding retailers to sell add-on items, which increase retail productivity and can lead to mattress sales.
Williams commented that mattress retailers often treat sleep accessories as an afterthought. She said many consumers leave mattress stores to shop for linens elsewhere.
Also joining the discussion were Polly Wade and James Gough of Marcus Thomas, the Better Sleep Council's public relations firm. They talked about the BSC's new campaign to make the mattress "the hero" in the quest to get a better night of sleep. "Stop Sleeping Around" is the theme of that campaign, one designed to encourage consumers to spend more time with their mattresses to get the sleep they need.

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