HIGH POINT — Once considered throughout the home furnishings and mattress industry as challenging customers, the interior design trade is gaining some significant traction among some mattress manufacturers that now see the segment as a growing opportunity.
While the channel hasn’t stolen the hearts and minds of all bedding producers, others in the category see potential in catering to those that make their living catering to a higher-end consumer.
And, while the more traditional retail channel where consumers buy mattresses isn’t going away anytime soon, there are chinks in the armor that has some concerned.
Earlier this year, investment firm UBS is predicting between 40,000 and 50,0000 retail stores in the U.S. will close over the next five years. The company’s forecast says retail sales will grow 4%, in line with the 2002 to 2020 average, and it predicts that e-commerce will grow from 18% of total retail sales in 2021 to 25% of overall sales by 2026.
Specific to home furnishings, the UBS forecast says the sector will lose 7% of its retail store base by 2026. While not a massive percentage, it could be a ding to the marketplace that will cause ripples and leave manufacturers looking to fill the void with other channels, such as the interior design market.
Shifman Mattress Co. staked its claim in the interior design channel last year when it showcased a soft introduction of its first mattress collection offered exclusively to designer showrooms across the country at the fall High Point Market.
Bill Hammer, president of Shifman, acknowledged that targeting the channel was a departure from the 128-year-old, family-owned manufacturer’s approach to the bedding business. The Shifman team plotted out its strategy over a three-year period when the channel became too big to ignore.
The Inspired collection by Shifman Mattress Co. has been designed specifically for the interior design trade and is being sold through designer showrooms.
“It took us a while to figure out how to do it properly, and we wanted to protect our retailers,” Hammer said, adding that the strategy of working with design showrooms that serve interior designers made the most sense for the company.
“Not everyone looking for a new mattress shops at a retail store,” he said. “We’re a luxury brand that caters to a huge market, and many of those consumers rely on their designers for recommendations on products. This is an extension of our brand and not a cannibalization of it.”
While still in the early stages, Hammer said the program is growing with the right partners.
“We have carefully handpicked partners with similar values: those that believe in offering quality products to their customers,” he said. “If it takes longer to build the business with the right people, we’re here to stay. It’s like cultivating a family.”
Paramount Sleep Co. also sees growth opportunities in the designer business, and Richard Diamonstein, managing director, said the design world loves the look of the company’s products.
Working in conjunction with the High Point Design Center has opened up new opportunities as well as its partnership with Jamestown, N.C.-based Furnitureland South.
Designed with environmentally friendly materials like cotton, silk, wool and cashmere, Paramount Sleep Co.’s Nature’s Spa collection is designed to provide temperature regulation and support.
The company offers to-the-trade pricing and sees the consumer that works with a designer as a great fit for Paramount’s upper-end selection. Paramount’s High Point showroom is in close proximity to the design center and allows the company to showcase its depth of products when designers are in town.
“If someone is paying a designer to come in and buy for them, they want luxury goods, and we can provide it,” Diamonstein said, adding that the company’s white-glove, in-home delivery service adds another level to the program that appeals to the design community.
The company is selling its story and the luxury component of its products to designers, said Steve Maddox, Paramount’s director of sales.
“The business has been successful, and we will continue to grow that avenue of our business,” he said. “It’s a supplemental business that is an offshoot of retail. We’re still getting our product out there and into the consumer’s home, ultimately delivering quality sleep.”
The new Harmony collection from Eurolux Living is one of the company’s products that appeal to discerning consumers that work through interior designers.
Eurolux Living, the Spanish sleep company formerly known as Best Rest, works closely with a number of interior designers that work on single-family residences as well as hotel projects, and Juan Claudio Gonzalez, president of the company, said that segment of the business continues to grow.
“Interior designers fall in love with our products,” he said. “High-end consumers can work with anyone they want, too, and we’re reaping the rewards. The channel will continue to grow for us, as we offer the luxury consumer something different from the other players in the market.”
A newcomer to the interior designer business, Kingsdown made its push into the segment during the most recent High Point Market through its partnership with StyleRow, a trade-only platform where designers can source products.
The company also rolled out an exclusive partnership with Dallas-based designer Kristi Hopper as an ambassador to pitch the brand to the design community.
Kingsdown came out at High Point Market with a partnership with a designer brand ambassador and with a presence on StyleRow, the online buying platform for designers shopping for product.
“The interior design community has long been under-served in the bedding category, and until now, no high-value, national manufacturer has taken the initiative to intentionally support and educate the community and drive brand affinity,” said Frank Hood, president and CEO of Kingsdown. “With five manufacturing plants across the U.S., we can effectively service and support them.”
Through its partnership with and selling on StyleRow, the company said it wants to make it easier for designers to purchase Kingsdown products for clients.
The new Stearns & Foster lineup of mattress is getting a boost from the company’s Design Council of interior design influencers.
Tempur Sealy International’s Stearns & Foster brand created its Design Council in 2020 to connect with its target consumer. By tapping into the expertise of partner designer influencers who create and share the mattress brand in social media posts, the company has been able to capture the attention of its desired consumers.
Year one was a success, and the company has continued the strategy. This year’s council, which runs through the first quarter of 2023, will support the rollout of the new Stearns & Foster offering and includes Corey Damen Jenkins, the well-known New York-based designer best known for his use of bright colors and layered patterns.
In addition to posting Stearns & Foster mattresses on Instagram to drive traffic to the brand’s website, design council members are committed to conducting media interviews that include mentions of the brand.
The Dolce Vita line from Magniflex offers the companies Dual Core technology and fashion-forward styling.
At its Miami showroom, Magniflex offers designers access to its U.S. lineup where it offers to the trade pricing of 30% off manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing. Billy Curtright, national sales manager for the Italian manufacturer, said its key markets like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas and Las Vegas give the company the ability to target designers and close large projects.
“There’s no reason we can’t attack that segment more and spend more time and resources on the channel,” he said, adding that as retail continues to shrink, companies will need to diversify and look at other channels.
I’m Sheila Long O’Mara, executive editor at Furniture Today. Throughout my 25-year career in the home furnishings industry, I have been an editor with a number of industry publications and spent a brief stint with a public relations agency where I worked with some of the industry’s leading bedding brands. I rejoined Furniture Today in December 2020 with a focus on bedding and sleep products. It’s a homecoming for me, as I was a writer and editor with Furniture Today from 1994 until 2002. I’m happy to be back and look forward to telling the important stories impacting bedding retailers and manufacturers.
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