Stiff competition prompts mattress shops to innovate

From swanky store interiors to an app that helps one choose a pillow, bedding brands are pulling out all the stops to woo customers

The posh entrance at the Simmons Gallery in Capitol Piazza leads to an array of stylish bedrooms, set up for different customers: the bedroom for newlyweds is decorated with plush toy bears in wedding garb; the children's room has a bunk bed and soft toys; and a bachelorette's version has pink wallpaper and a vanity counter.

Kick off your shoes and take a nap on any bed in the mattress shop or pick out matching artwork adorning the walls. You can even buy a set of Bang & Olufsen speakers or try home fragrances.

At Tempur Sleep Sanctuary in Nassim Road - the 1,500 sq ft mattress and pillow manufacturer's flagship store - shoppers can open an app on a tablet. Answer a series of questions about your sleeping positions and habits and the app will figure out which pillow suits you best.

Upping the ante, luxury bedding company Sealy Posturepedic recently gave its 2,880 sq ft Sealy Sleep Palace outlet in Tanglin Place a makeover, with new marble flooring, sculptures and an interior decked out in the brand's signature black-and-gold scheme. It is a departure from its previous Victorian look, which had a faux fireplace.

Gone are the days of shops displaying mattresses lined up in no-frills spaces, where customers make a haphazard guess of what they might like or awkwardly test out beds.


Simmons Flagship Gallery (above) at Capitol Piazza; Tempur Sleep Sanctuary in Nassim Road; and the BodyScan machine at The Bear Knows. PHOTO: DON CHI

Now, bedding brands are pulling out the stops to woo customers, in the face of increasingly discerning shoppers and competition from new brands that want a piece of the pie.

Ms Michelle Anne Ng, marketing manager at Simmons (South-east Asia), calls it a "crowded marketplace".

She says: "The mattress industry is facing heavy discounting and competition from department stores and mega stores with gifts- with-purchase. The competition is real."

NEW PLAYERS, NEW OFFERINGS

Even as big players muscle in with spiffier stores, they have to contend with a new trend: a rising number of furniture stores making their own mattresses for sale.

In August last year, HipVan, a lifestyle retailer that sells furniture and home accessories, threw its hat into the ring with three mattress designs, made in a factory in Shenzhen, China.

HipVan decided to put extra- thick pocket springs into its mattresses - for firmer support. Prices range from $390 for a single-sized Sleep model mattress to $1,450 for a king-sized Levitate model mattress.

Since the launch of its mattress line, HipVan has sold more than 1,000 mattresses, which can be returned within 100 days. However, Mr Danny Tan, HipVan's founder, says no one has made a return yet.

  • What's new

  • COCO-MAT 4-LAYER BED

    If you are into being green, this Greek brand uses only natural materials from renewable sources such as coco fibre, natural rubber, seaweed and horsehair.

    Coco-Mat, which has its own factory, has a four-layer bed that combines four of its mattresses to create the ultimate sleep stack. It includes a goose down topper.

    The brand will make a comeback here next month. It was here in 2014 and left a year later, and is now sold at HomesToLife.

    Price: From $6,000 for a queen-sized mattress and up to $40,000 for a complete bed system

    Where: HomesToLife Dream Sphere, Level 4, 65 Mohamed Sultan Road

    BODYSCAN CUSTOMISED SLEEP SYSTEM

     Before you hop into bed at ergonomic home furnishing specialist The Bear Knows, customers get a free 3D full-body scan, which analyses a person's body shape and size.

    Coupled with the scan results and information about their sleeping patterns, buyers will be recommended a mattress type and pillow setting.

    The highly customised bed is meant to provide precise support for the user's head, neck and back, and the right level of tension for the shoulders and hips, so that he is properly relaxed.

    King- and queen-sized mattresses can also be custom-built, such that each half of the mattress caters to each sleeping partner's needs. All products are made in Germany.

    Price: From $3,060 for a set that includes a mattress, suspension slats and a pillow

    Where: The Bear Knows, 04-05/06 The Centrepoint, 176 Orchard Road

    SIMMONS BEAUTYREST LADIES DESIRE

    This 146-year-old brand that was started in America has designed a bed just for women last year. The mattress surface is infused with Silk Proteins, which the company claims will aid cell regeneration and enhance hair health.

    Also worked into the mattress is MoistureSkin - gel infused into the fabric - which has vitamin E that is said to moisturise skin. The mattress comes in two sizes.

    Price: $5,399 for the queen-sized bed and $6,299 for the king-sized bed

    Where: Simmons Gallery, various locations including Flagship Gallery, 02-25 Capitol Piazza, 13 Stamford Road

Meanwhile, Comfort Design, which sells furniture from chairs to dining tables, put out Baton Sleep, a mattress line made with non-toxic foam, priced between $390 for a single-sized mattress and $890 for a king-sized mattress. Baton Sleep mattresses can be returned up to 30 days after sale.

Free returns on a big-ticket item is a bold guarantee to make. However, Ms Grace Shen, marketing director of Comfort Design, says: "As best as showrooms try to simulate a bedroom, we know that a short trial will not accurately represent our home and sleeping patterns.

"We strongly believe in allowing customers to try the mattresses in the comfort of their home before they conclude if the mattress is right for them."

Both brands say they jumped into the fray to cut out the middle men - distributors and retailers. They also wanted to offer customers cheaper options.

Their prices are significantly lower that those offered by established brands such as Simmons, Sealy Posturepedic, King Koil and Tempur, where prices can go into thousands of dollars - with some bed systems chalking up a five-figure bill.

For these new entrants, it is about making their stores a one- stop shop.

In the middle of next month, multi-label retailer HomesToLife, which has a four-storey flagship store in Mohamed Sultan Road, will open Dream Sphereon its top level - a 11,000 sq ft floor dedicated to a full range of beds, mattresses, pillows and other complementary products.

It has also launched its in-house brand, Kokunn, which allows shoppers to customise the two halves of king-sized mattresses with varying firmness. The mattresses come in different sizes and shoppers are given disposable slippers so they can hop onto the beds to test them in an "experiential zone". Kokunn mattresses are priced between $1,999 for a single mattress and $6,399 for a standard king-sized mattress.

The retailer is also bringing back high-end Greek brand Coco-Mat, which is known for eco-friendly mattresses that do not have metal springs. Prices start at $6,000 for a queen-sized mattress and can go up to $40,000 for a complete bed system.

Mr Phua Bo Wen, HomesToLife's senior manager of retail excellence, says as a new player, the store faces strong competition from established brands. "When it comes to mattresses, customers tend to be loyal and stick with the brand they have. So we're going in with different products that add value to a home, instead of offering something that's already on the market."

NEW BREED OF CUSTOMERS

While new entrants are not intimidating the big boys just yet, savvy shoppers are keeping them on their toes.

Mr Lee Chee Yan, director and general manager for Asia at Sealy Asia, says: "They tend to do a lot of research online and gather information from various shops and brands before making a decision.

"Consumers are now more discerning and are no longer buying a product based on a huge discount alone."

Indeed, all the big brands The Straits Times spoke to say customers are more willing to fork out more money for a good bed.

King Koil's chief operating officer Jenny Koh says two decades ago, people would pay about $1,000 for a mattress, but budgets have since doubled.

She adds: "They are more conscious of their choice because they realise they spend a lot of time on a mattress. It's no longer just a bed to lie on. They want added features such as anti-dust mite, temperature-regulating fabrics and aloe vera infused into the fabrics. Even the aesthetic matters - from the piping to the fabric used."

Ms Sarah Lim, a senior lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic Business School, says a nice showroom and better products will entice customers - especially with the economy heading for a slowdown.

"When you improve a store's ambience and how things are displayed, especially for home furnishings, it changes people's perception and makes the perceived value increase."

Indeed, there are many new products on the market.

For example, Simmons has a Beautyrest Ladies Desire mattress infused with Silk Protein and "MoistureSkin", which the brand claims has vitamin E properties meant to protect the skin. A queen-sized mattress costs $5,399, while a king-sized one costs $6,299.

However, Dr Leow Leong Chai, a consultant at the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine at Singapore General Hospital, says there is no scientific evidence that these products "make any difference to sleep duration or quality.

"They are likely to be marketing tactics. It is more important to use pillows and mattresses that are comfortable and within your budget".


How to care for mattresses

AIR IT REGULARLY

Mattresses should be aired to allow for ventilation each time its sheets or covers are changed. This helps get rid of moisture that comes from body perspiration, says Ms Janet Soh, country manager of Tempur Singapore. Moisture can cause a mattress to get mouldy. And if the bed's occupant is prone to perspiring, a mattress and pillow protector will help the products stay dry and clean for longer. Opt for water-resistant protectors.

FLIP, ROTATE, REPEAT

Those who have two-sided mattresses - a reversible one that can be used on either side - should flip and rotate them three months after buying them and every six months thereafter.

This should not be done for non-flip mattresses, which can be used only on one side, as they are built with a thicker foam padding on the base for support. Rotate such mattresses in a circular manner.

Flipping, says Ms Michelle Anne Ng, marketing manager of Simmons (South-east Asia), helps to "relieve the compression" on upholstered materials such as foam - which many mattresses are made of. Sleeping in the same position on a mattress without flipping it can cause it to become uneven.

To flip a mattress properly, turn it such that it lies horizontally across the bed frame, hanging over the sides. Then, raise the mattress on its length and lay it down gently. Make sure it is securely placed on the bed frame. Each time you flip your mattress, make sure you turn it vertically as well, so that its head and bottom alternate.

CHOOSE YOUR BASE CAREFULLY

This is important because it could damage your mattress or cause discomfort. If you have one with springs, opt for a full-platform base. Springs can sag into the gaps of a slatted base, damaging the mattress, says Mr Cheong Hon Loon, a supervisor at lifestyle brand HomesToLife.

If you have a foam mattress, choose a slatted base as you need the space for the mattress to "breathe", he says. Foam mattresses are dense and tend to trap body heat, so the gaps will allow the heat to dissipate. Mattresses that retain heat might be uncomfortable for some, causing them to be restless or perspire in their sleep.

DO NOT JUMP ON THE BED

Mr Lee Chee Yan, director and general manager for Asia at Sealy Asia, says home owners should not "abuse" the mattresses. "By (that), I'm referring to jumping, bending or leaving sharp objects on their mattresses. Jumping on a mattress will damage the coils inside. Also, the comfort layers may wear and tear at a faster rate."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2016, with the headline 'Selling a good night's sleep'. Print Edition | Subscribe