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David Perry

Grimy mattresses big turnoff on retail floor

March 27, 2006

I was looking forward to my visit to the bedding department at a big-name retailer. This celebrated department store’s bedding department generally is better than many I’ve visited over the years.

But I received a dirty surprise when I entered the store’s bedding department the other day. Two high-end beds flanking the entrance into the department were decidedly grimy.

I saw the dirt of too-many shoes ground into the foot of the mattresses, which, true to the industry’s ongoing love affair with ivory, offwhite and eggshell hues, were sheathed in shades of white.

Those dirty beds were a turnoff. I stared at them in disbelief. How could a department store with such a sterling reputation put such a grimy foot forward?

I moved into the department and found several more dirty mattresses. If the purpose of white ticking is to suggest a clean sanctuary, then these beds were miserable failures. The white ticking did a splendid job of showcasing the dirt.

While I continue to feel that bedding producers should expand their color palette beyond white and its close cousins, I won’t further expound on those points here. But I do want to explore the ramifications of those dirty mattresses.

It wasn’t hard to see why the beds were grimy. There wasn’t a foot protector in sight. Maybe this retailer views those protectors as unsightly.

A leading bedding producer I checked in with on this topic said he doesn’t care for the looks of foot protectors, which he believes mar the overall appearance of the mattresses on the sales floor.

He offered this assessment of the problem I had encountered: The sales representatives for that store were not doing their jobs. They should be alerting the store’s management to the need to swap out floor samples.

Good sales associates, this executive said, use the floor samples as points of negotiation with consumers pressing for deals. That keeps the floor samples turning over on a regular basis, so they rarely would have time to become soiled.

If you think about it, the industry is putting more emphasis on pristine mattress panels. Labels are increasingly moving from the tops of the beds to the borders, leaving a nice, clean rectangle of plumped-up ticking to attract the customer’s eye.

Did I say a clean rectangle? Not at this department store. (I am withholding the name in the interests of not getting anyone fired.)

I dare say that some consumers wouldn’t want to lie down on those dirty rectangles. Slobs might feel right at home, but we shouldn’t be descending to their level, should we?  (to add public comments click on "Add your Comment" below, or to email Dave directly click here.)