Development in beds has presaged a golden age, argues Nick Williams, sales manager of Sweet Dreams
We often lose sight of how much beds have developed over the last few years. It’s easy to think in terms of filling: memory foam, latex and most recently, gel, yet there have been other important changes to beds. These might be less headline-grabby, a little more basic even, but they have had at least as significant an effect on the Sweet Dreams range and sales as the trends towards foam fillings. I’m talking about two elements: springs, and covers.
Taking springs first. Since the early days – and we’re rapidly approaching our 30th anniversary – Sweet Dreams has always covered all bases on springs. Bonnells, yes of course, including the firm 12.5 gauge springs used in our Ortho collection, and pocket springs – the definition of luxury in the mid market until very recently. We innovated our exclusive Sleepzone® spring which put Sweet Dreams on the map: most especially when used with the strapline ‘No disturbing your partner…unless you want to.’ Those springs have evolved but still offer twice as many as in a bonnell unit, and our Sleepzone® collection – currently comprising eight models – is a popular choice.
However, what I’m really talking about are our innovations of the past three years. First, we introduced our Pocket Air collection in 2013. Billed as ‘the lighter than air sleep sensation’ we unashamedly targeted the aspirational market, quite brave for a manufacturer known for mid market value beds, and showcased a new spring system with alternate shortened pocket springs. There are two pluses to this: the air between the shortened springs makes for a special ‘give’ once the sleeper lies down, with a pleasant yielding sensation even while offering plenty of support; and, with two shortened springs in the place of every other one, the spring count is especially high. These days, impressive spring count is what consumers are looking for – rightly or wrongly – and providing a high number is a way of attracting strong sales.
Our Pocket Air range has two levels; the c.3000 and the c.4000 spring count. Both perform extremely well, and at the Bed Show last month we relaunched the entire range with eight new models, focusing on contemporary fabric covers and special fillings both within the mattress and to the covers. The new beds are also offered with a choice of colour to the bases, which was very well received, and the same colour choice to damask borders where applicable.
Last year we launched our first collection of encapsulated springs with our Enchanted® collection. While we certainly can’t lay claim to innovation there, except perhaps in putting them in removable, washable covers, it further demonstrates my point about the evolution of springs; there is a much wider choice now than simply between bonnell, ortho and pocket spring.
The Royal Pillowtop collection we also launched in 2015. Again it targets the luxury market, and while the springs aren’t perhaps so revolutionary as with Pocket Air, the mini pocket spring system we incorporated in the pillowtops in the original four models – Sovereign 6000, Empress 5000, Princess 4000 and Duke 3000 – put the collection firmly on the map. The system again brought up the spring count, even as high as 6,000 on the Sovereign, and confers a magnificent amount of support, coupled with the extra softness associated with a pillowtop. This year we added to the range, focusing on box-style pillowtops and foam or latex fillings rather than springs, but the original four beds with the sprung pillowtops remain in the collection and are big favourites.
I began by saying there were two changes to beds that had happened very quietly over the last few years. Spring systems are one, and mattress covers are the other. It used to be that covers were damask and that was that. Then we saw the introduction of luxury knits, which remain very popular, and feature as much on Sweet Dreams beds as the more traditional damask, but in the last few years we’ve launched all kinds of intrinsic additions to the cover fabric – aloe vera, bamboo, No Stress® carbon threads, CoolMax®, even copper. Recently a new generation of natural fillings has found its way into our mattress covers: wool, cashmere, cotton, linen and silk; and for 2016, other components: luxury viscose and supersoft Tencel®. Many of these are evident in the Pocket Air collection especially. All have their own features and confer their own benefits, and bring their own devotees. Yet it’s extraordinary in what variety and in what numbers these cover components have filtered through our range; around 35% of our Sweet Dreams branded retail mattresses now sport some interesting extra to the fabric cover, and where we create mattresses for own branding the percentage is even higher. No doubt other manufacturers can tell a similar story.
So what’s the reason for the proliferation in cover constituents, and the development of new spring systems? In my opinion, it comes down to distinguishing beds in what is a healthy, profitable and undeniably growing market. While it doesn’t seem like long ago the concern was that taking the price down was the only way a low to mid market manufacturer could steal a march over another, now we’re seeing the relentless pushing of bed specifications up towards the aspirational, luxury end of the market. The search for added value is the driving force behind bed design – at least for now. A downturn in the economy might see a reversal of that trend, but in 2016 Sweet Dreams, like most other British manufacturers, is enjoying a golden age of variety, innovation and exploration as we pursue the holy grail of better sleep.