In the first of a series of exclusive columns James Wilson, aka The Sleep Geek, asks why, as an industry, we are not building a more trusting relationship with the consumer.

James greyscale

Within the Mattress Industry there is often much hand wringing over why we cannot convince the consumers of the UK to take their sleep Products more seriously, to spend more on their sleep surfaces and change the mattresses they sleep on more often. I will be working with cabinet Maker exploring how we address these issues and how we, as an industry, build a longer lasting and more trusting relationship with the Great British public. I want to start a dialogue on how we ensure the end consumer gets the right product for them.

For me, this is what it comes down to: we have an issue of trust with those we sell our products to. A good start to achieving this would be to share with the consumer what is in our products.

List of Ingredients

Why, when labelling products, do we not provide a list of ingredients of what the mattress is made from? We sell products that look the same to the untrained eye - whether it is a £50 or a £5,000 mattress - so the end consumer cannot be sure what they are buying. 

Knowing what is in the mattress and the quality of the raw materials, means Retail sales professionals would be able to make links between what is in the mattress and what health claims are being made, and retail customers would be able to differentiate between products more easily, meaning their buying decision can be based on fact rather than the marketing sizzle that is often deployed on the sales floor. 

In the recent Cabinet Maker investigation, one of the findings was that there were mattresses that did not have the spring count that was claimed. To anyone in the industry this was not a surprise and it isn’t just manufacturers who use springs that do this. I had many occasions when I was retailing sleep products when it was clear a manufacturer was using a lesser density foam (due to the number of service issues) but there was no way it could be proven. A list of ingredients would mean unscrupulous manufacturers would quickly be found out.

All Encompassing

A list of ingredients would not just focus on the raw materials. The chemicals we use are also important to many consumers. I have tried numerous times to find out for clients what actual chemical has been used to meet the fire regulations (I am told there are over 700 that can be used). The manufacturers have asked their cover suppliers and they claim that they don’t know. 

Consumers are now investigating the products they buy for themselves and many of them have health conditions that are affected by what their mattress is made from. If you have a condition such as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) you need a mattress that is totally chemical free. Yet I see products advertised as being chemical free or organic that I know are not.

“AN INGREDIENTS LIST WILL ALLOW THE CONSUMER TO SEE WHAT IS IN THE MATTRESS, IF IT WILL AFFECT ANY HEALTH CONDITIONS THEY HAVE AND ALLOW THEM TO BUY THE PRODUCT WITH CONFIDENCE”

Often the manufacturer buys a raw material and takes the supplier’s word that it is chemical free. Then the retailer takes the manufacturer’s word that it is free of chemicals. Then the consumer takes the retailer’s word on it and ends up with a severe reaction. So where is the policing? An ingredients list will allow the consumer to see what is in the mattress, if it will affect any health conditions they have and allow them to buy the product with confidence.

 As a sleep environment expert I work with companies over many different sectors. When I talk to clients in other industries they are amazed at the lack of information we give about what our products are made from. When you compare it to a healthcare company supplying vitamins and supplements, the difference is amazing. They must disclose what is in their products and so they should, as they are health products. The mattress industry should have to do the same to ensure the consumer is getting what they have paid for. But where do we turn in order to make this happen?

I don’t think it should be particularly expensive to implement. Manufacturers should already know what is going into their products. All it would take is one extra label with a list of what is in the mattress. For example, what is the core (pocket, open sprung, memory foam, latex)? What are the fillings? What is the cover made from? What chemicals are used to meet fire regulations? Easy really.

My argument is simple. Listing the ingredients and contents of a mattress will help consumers make better buying decisions. It will ensure that they buy a product that is compatible with any health condition they have, which prevents them from having a reaction to the product and it allows the industry to make clearer and stronger health claims about their products. All this will lead to more confident sales conversations, stronger consumer confidence and ultimately larger order values and less dissatisfied customers, which is what we all want isn’t it? You may be thinking “no thanks we are happy with the way things are,” and that’s fine, but the end consumer is changing. As Millennials and the generations after them become the majority of the market, people buying our products will expect so much more. They will scrutinise the claims we make about our products in far more detail and will expect, as they do in the food they eat, to know what the raw ingredients of their mattresses are. 

My articles are about starting a conversation in the industry and I would love to hear any feedback on this. 

www.thesleepgeek.co.uk