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David Perry

Bedding sales associates give memory foam beds big push

September 18, 2013

We know that the specialty sleep segment has hit a bit of a slump lately as hybrids are gaining traction in the market.

But we certainly shouldn't be writing off the memory foam segment, as some memory foam lines remain robust performers in the market.

And memory foam beds have some strong proponents, according to a secret shopper study we commissioned earlier this year in the hyper-competitive Phoenix market.
We've talked about that study in some of our reporting and columns, but this week we zero in on a startling endorsement that the study gave to memory foam beds.

We asked our secret shoppers, all women between the ages of 30 and 50 (bedding's target customers, you will recall), to ask the retail sales associates what type of bed they would recommend for getting the best night of sleep, if price was no object. Yes, that "price is no object" point is a key qualifier, but we were stunned nonetheless by the findings.

Most of the RSAs (85%) did recommend a specific type of bed, and fully 88% of them recommended a memory foam bed. Just 6% of the RSAs recommended an innerspring bed, and another 6% recommended an airbed.

We had no idea that memory foam beds would demolish the competition. And we were surprised that latex beds, favored by a number of bedding veterans, would not receive any votes of support.

It is extremely significant that the RSAs are recommending memory foam beds, as they can exert tremendous influence over the mattress selection process.
Such overwhelming support for memory foam beds would seem to augur well for their success on the sales floor.

We do need to point out that price was no object for our secret shoppers and that memory foam beds often command retail prices of well over $1,000. We've noted before that there may be a "big game hunter" mentality when it comes to RSAs pushing memory foam beds; the high tickets those beds command make them a much more lucrative product for them to push.

But the RSAs clearly believe in the features and benefits of memory foam beds. All of the sales associates quizzed by our secret shoppers said that memory foam mattresses mold to the body and return to their original shape, and 70% said that memory foam beds offer consistent support and won't sag. Almost as many (65%) said memory foam beds are durable and will last twice as long as other beds. Those are some impressive benefits to cite.

The only knock on memory foam beds, according to our secret shopper study, is that they sleep hot. Yes, we hear that assertion a lot in the industry. And it's interesting that 20% of the retail sales associates repeated the sleeping hot charge.

Our secret shopper survey covered only one market. But we have to think those findings would be valid in other markets as well. RSAs appear to be solidly on the memory foam bandwagon.