Mattress industry war

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Welcome to the wonderful industry of beds and mattresses. An industry that up until recent years has been controlled by three major brands: Sealy, Serta and Simmons. It was an industry ripe with sleazy sales and marketing tactics that turned off consumers, even though they kept buying their products in large numbers. It is also an industry where the competitors are very cut-throat and are constantly looking for an edge over their rivals.

However, in the last few years, new entrants led by Tempur-Pedic and Select Comfort have begun to change the industry in favour of the consumer. Gone are the days when consumers could not really compare prices due to various tactics and in came a tide of more direct selling to consumers and price transparency. This made the three major mattress brands compete even more aggressively with one another.

This brings us to a war brewing between two of the large mattress brands in North America: Sealy and Simmons. As reported by the New York Times (click here to read it), Simmons is claiming that Sealy is using its technology that most of us know from the famous bowling ball and bowling pins on a mattress commercial. That has been a well known technology that Simmons has been using for many decades. It is also a technology that Sealy has been competing against and it appears that they are now using it in their mattresses. There is no violation of patents here so this is not a legal battle (at least not yet). This is a classic marketing/business battle.

Sealy is feeling pressure to stay number one in the industry with up and coming brands looking to steal the spot light. They feel that if they use the Simmons technology in some of their products they will have a more complete product line-up which may help them compete against new and smaller companies. It will be interesting to see if this strategy will work because it is not without risk.

As Simmons has already begun doing, bad publicity may be coming Sealy’s way. Simmons is painting a picture of Sealy as capitulating to a better mattress technology and that they are not good enough to come up with something of their own. Simmons is also saying that the mattresses Sealy has been selling until now are inferior to the Simmons product. This message may resonate with customers and if it does then this strategy will have backfired on Sealy. The next twelve months will be interesting in this industry. Particular attention should be paid to revenues from the five competitors I mentioned.