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Byline: Karl Kunkel

HIGH POINT, N.C.-Adjustable beds have become the latest way to liven up the bedroom -- and retailer cash registers. No longer targeted solely to the geriatric demographic, adjustable beds with their new technology, stylish designs, ease of use and reasonable prices have attracted the attention of people whose changing lifestyles demand versatile workstations, home entertainment areas and some R&R time.

Michael Nermon, president of retailer Ergo Customized Comfort in Irvine, Calif., credits styling, consumer health concerns and the plasma television screen as key reasons for the spike in consumer interest.

"Sales in the adjustable bed category have increased significantly, in step with the rest of our products," Nermon said. "One big boon to this category is the plasma screen. You can put a pretty decent-sized plasma screen on the bedroom wall, and you don't necessarily need an armoire with a built-in enclosure for a TV. Consumers realize the bedroom can be one of the most comfortable rooms in the house."

Nermon's store, which carries Kingsdown, Dunlopillo, Sleep Matters and Sterling Sleep Products, also receives doctor referrals by patients that have medical problems and sleep disorders. Adjustable beds are one course of action, according to Nermon.

"Acid reflux is probably the number-one reason," he said. "[An adjustable bed] will elevate your head."

Dr. Robert Clark, a sleep disorder specialist at the Columbus Community Health Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Columbus, Ohio, started his own specialty bedding store after experiencing frustrations on where to send clients for bed sources. Powell Sleep Solutions Co. in Powell, a Columbus suburb, opened four years ago and today Clark stocks a variety of sleep-oriented products, including adjustable beds from Restonic and New Dawn, a locally made viscoelastic mattress.

"Adjustable beds are just absolutely wonderful, when you look at the number of people who could benefit, who have limited mobility or have to have their lower extremities elevated," Clark said. "About 90 percent of our patients have sleep apnea and quit breathing repeatedly in their sleep. Elevation can be very beneficial."

Clark, who has had a knee replaced and now uses an adjustable bed himself, added, "I wouldn't buy a regular bed again, personally."

Adjustable beds have also become an effective way for a retailer to double profits without doubling floor space. An adjustable bed foundation adds at least $1,000 to the retail ticket for the sleep set, according to several bedding manufacturers. And that foundation can be placed on the showroom floor and used as a display model with a normal mattress. Whether a consumer decides to go with just a stationary bed or an adjustable model, he can decide by testing that one sample bed.

Simmons Co.'s LivingRight adjustable bed foundation, on the market less than a year, was designed for those consumers wanting to ease into the program, according to Tim Oakhill, vice president of international licensing. Since the LivingRight foundation can be used with a number of LivingRight-compatible mattress models that bend at the hip and feet, a retailer can promote the possibility of an add-on sale of the foundation, even years after the mattress is purchased.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for a retailer to improve his average unit sell price and make this an add-on sale," Oakhill said. "The opportunity for the adjustable bed is to target a much younger demographic, which is what we've done with LivingRight. The market opportunity is really for those that are reading, watching TV or working on their computer. They use the bed almost as a lounging environment."

Tempur-Pedic International has been offering adjustable beds for about six years, with all of the bells and whistles, such as a head-and-foot massage unit, vibration feature and wall-hugger function that keeps the user near the nightstand.

"As the head comes up, the bed moves back with you," said David Fogg, president of retail at Tempur-Pedic. "It's a big feature for people. This is really a lifestyle sale. You can put your feet up above your head so it improves your circulation and puts no pressure on your body. It enhances the sale of our mattresses, because our mattress works very well on an adjustable bed, since it is flexible material and conforms perfectly. You don't have any gaps."

Fogg noted that the age of his adjustable bed customers have lowered considerably. "Over half are less than 65," he said.

Some of that interest can be attributed to the styling and re-engineering.

Bill Louis, president of Spring Air Midwest, said that Lifestyles in Motion, a program for adjustable beds he and Janet Cruz, his manager of specialty bedding, developed two years ago, specifically targets Spring Air non-innerspring adjustable beds to what people need today -- and those needs include style and function.

Louis said he has experienced a steady climb in adjustable bed sales since launching the program.

Restonic Mattress Co., noticing a change in lifestyles, caught the adjustable bed wave four years ago when it launched its Adjustable Comfort Collection. Restonic offers its selections with three specific mattress constructions: innerspring, latex and viscoelastic.

"The biggest change is that in the past, there was a stigma, since it was only for older clientele," said Donna Amatulli Favia, vice president of marketing services for Restonic. "Now, we are attracting people that are healthy and have active lifestyles. More retailers are flooring it."

Numerous retail segments have taken on the adjustable bed category. A Simmons LivingRight adjustable bed has even found its way onto the floor of the new Broyhill Home Collections store that just opened in Blowing Rock, N.C. That sleep set and other mattresses were displayed on headboards and frames with a Broyhill bedroom collection. Other than the presence of a remote-control switch, the adjustable bed was identical to the other models.

While adjustable bedding has been on a roll, some industry watchers feel it could stagnate. Ergo's Nermon has concerns that components supplier Leggett & Platt, having bought up most of its competition, won't have as much of an incentive to innovate. And if every retailer carries adjustable beds with identical features, the only lure a retailer can use is to lower the price.

But Europe has an abundance of products that could work their way into this market. New to the adjustable bed market is a Ergo-Pedic Inc., a California company that makes a memory foam bed on a European adjustable bed foundation. The foundation features a wooden slat system that can be adjusted for firmness using lumbar lever slides. Another adjustable model is wireless and features a vibration function.

Caption(s): 1. Restonic's demonstrator model shows the Adjustable Comfort Collection's range of motion. / 2. Restonic's Adjustable Comfort bedding logo. / 3. Restonic targets an active lifestyle consumer for its adjustable beds. / Kingsdown has a solid program in adjustable bedding. / Simmons' LivingRight adjustable foundation can be a step-up product. / Tempur-Pedic's beds function well on adjustable frames.
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Title Annotation:Ergo Customized Comfort
Author:Kunkel, Karl
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 2, 2004

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