The Specialty Sleep Association (SSA) wants our membership’s opinions as we pursue various policies and programs. Our active SSA Board of Directors has voted specifically to reach out to our retailer and manufacturing members to get your opinions on various topics. One of those topics is the BEDFAX® Verified Contents Label Program for Mattresses. We launched our BEDFAX volunteer labeling program with a fanfare of enthusiasm expecting a high participation rate from the industry in what we thought would be a powerful consumer-focused sales tool for mattress sales. We found however, that initial enthusiasm did not in fact translate into high participation. With this in mind, we created a five-question survey on BEDFAX and sent it out to our extensive list of SSA Showroom Attendees …a total of 3128 recipients including retail owners, retail buyers, manufacturers and suppliers. Our plan was to get a broad-based response from as many SSA showroom attendees as we could get.
Distribution and response rate: Out of a total of 3128 e-mailed surveys, the SSA heard from 197 respondents (a rate of 6%). While that is an average response rate, the number was so large that we received some valuable although diverse information from those who replied. Out of the 197 respondents 110 only answered the very first question, while 87 completed the entire five-question survey. The vast majority of respondents (167 or 85%) were retailers, while a much smaller percentage (30 or 15%) were manufacturers and suppliers to the mattress industry.
The findings were very informative, if somewhat contradictory. Let us explain.
The first question was simply: Do your customers ever ask you or your retailers, “What is this mattress made of?” An overwhelming 81.31% of respondents replied YES. Only 18.69% said that consumers do not inquire about the contents of mattress. So on the surface that should put the debate over that question to bed...or so you’d think. It more or less confirms that contents are an issue, and those consumer-focused advocates who want a complete contents label are not wrong in their assumptions that consumer DO care about “what’s inside” ...at least that is what 81% of our survey says.
The second question is where things began to get a bit contradictory or slightly confusing. The SSA asked “Do YOU have mattresses for which you would find this kind of contents verification helpful for the RSA or consumer? Again 81.61% of the people answering all the questions said “YES.” But the 18% who said “NO” had strong opinions. One said, “We believe that the information supplied is adequate.” Another said, ‘”Nothing really tells what is in our mattresses.” A third, said, “ Virtually no one cares.” And another said that such a system would expose, “the really junky foam and coat hanger wire scam the major brands market.” While a minority, the negatives were loud and clear in their opinions.
Our third question was, “Do you think a clearer contents label would affect the sale of mattresses to any degree? (Would it be helpful?) While the answer was still a strong “YES” at 74% favorable, the 26% of NO’s still were strong in their opinions. On the favorable side one theme that evolved out of this research and was repeated several times: ”This would be very helpful, especially when it comes to ‘natural’ content. This is applicable to environmental concerns.” On the other hand several respondents stated that consumers do not read the label or that too much information can be a bad thing for selling. One retailer said that the information already provided was adequate, and another stressed that “comfort is the main determinant.” The one trend that did seem to emerge from this question was that the BEDFAX labeling program could lend itself to “environmental” or “natural” sales. There is a parallel with health, safety and wellness customers with consumers concerned about truth in labeling.
The next question focused on details of the label program itself, more or less guidance and details on how such a labeling program would work effectively. This question deserves a separate report or write-up itself, as the SSA plans and executes the details of the BEDFAX® Program.
Our final question was a critique. We asked our members and attendees what their biggest reservation or concern was about the BEDFAX® Verified Mattress Contents Label Program. “Could it be a negative?” Only 36% answered that this could be a negative, while 63 % answered, “No, it was not a negative.” In fact a few expressed support such as “I’m not sure I have any objections” or “I love the idea.” Some were neutral or mildly concerned expressing ideas such as, ”Not every customer cares or understands” or they expressed concern that an open system could actually benefit competitors. However the 36 % negatives (1/3rd of the respondents) really did give us a lot to think about. Answers varied from: “Offers too much honesty.” “Customers may shy away from mattresses with high petroleum-based foam content” or “there has to be methodology to prevent manufacturers from cheating with their claims.” One respondent worried that too much information could create confusion and complicate the sale, another was concerned about too many labels and another said he/she did not have enough information to answer.
Stepping back, there are several overall conclusions at this point. I think we can safely conclude that if the BEDFAX program is to succeed, it has to be consumer-driven. When consumers ask for better/clearer/more trustworthy contents labels on mattresses that they buy, (as they enjoy on other goods), then we will see retailers asking their manufacturers to provide them. Without this push, the industry alone has too many reservations and concerns to get involved. Finally, and probably most importantly, there really does seem to be a correlation between environmental or health, wellness and safety marketing claims and a successful contents label program.
We welcome any further thoughts, opinions or feedback you may have.