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David Perry

Innerspring category posts impressive fourth quarter

February 18, 2013

The innerspring category is quietly staging a comeback. The year-end report from the International Sleep Products Assn. documents a strong fourth quarter for innerspring bedding.

According to that report, innerspring mattress units and dollars both outperformed specialty mattress units and dollars. And, significantly, the average unit price for innerspring mattresses posted a healthy increase, while the average unit price for specialty mattresses actually plunged.

Leggett & Platt executive Karl Glassman called attention to this strong innerspring performance in recent comments to analysts - and also provided a thoughtful critique of the accuracy of the monthly ISPA reports. Glassman said it had been "quite some time" since the innerspring segment turned in such a performance.

The fourth-quarter numbers look like this: Innerspring mattress units were up 5.9%, compared with a 4.3% increase for specialty mattress units. The dollar value of innerspring mattress shipments was up a healthy 12.7%, while it declined by 1.1% for specialty mattresses. And the average unit price for innerspring mattresses was up 6.5%, while it dropped 5.1% for specialty mattresses.

The dollar and average unit price differences are striking, reflecting big gains by innerspring lines in the fourth quarter.

For the year, though, the specialty segment dramatically outperformed the innerspring segment in units and dollars. Innerspring mattress units grew 4.6% for the year, while specialty mattress units jumped 24.7%.

Innerspring mattress dollars jumped 10.3% for the year, while they grew 20.6% for specialty mattresses.

But innersprings did achieve a notable victory for the year: The average unit price of innerspring mattresses jumped 5.5%, while it declined 3.3% for specialty mattresses, according to ISPA's December Bedding Barometer report, which presents a preliminary look at the year's performance.

Those results seem to bear out the thought that lower-priced specialty beds are pulling down the average unit price in the category, an unwelcome development for retailers who have come to rely on the premium dollars generated by the specialty segment.

In his comments, Glassman said Leggett's Comfort Core product line of encased coils is showing solid growth. L&P has done a good job of touting that line to the trade.

As we've noted in past columns, there is growing talk about hybrids, a term that L&P has done a good job of promoting. Hybrids combine springs and foam and are steadily gaining traction in the industry.

Will the innerspring comeback continue this year?

Industry leaders told us last year they believe the specialty segment still has years of major growth ahead. But, somehow, the innerspring segment blunted that momentum in the fourth quarter last year.

This is a battle well worth watching in 2013.