How the fashion bedding business is adjusting to the high-cost environment

Top-of-bed sales in the specialty store channel, where Bed Bath & Beyond is the largest player, ticked up just under 1% last year, according to HTT’s 2022 Strategic Insights study.

New York – The disruptions of last year laid the groundwork for the today’s inflationary challenges as the industry retooled to work around cost hurdles.

2021 was an “if only” kind of year for the top of bed category. Consumers buoyed by higher savings and the spring 2021 infusion of federal stimulus payments were still home-focused and shopping accordingly. So demand was hot, but the supply chain was not, sometimes leading to months-long delays in deliveries.

To be fair, comparisons were up against explosive sales growth of 16% in 2020, when category sales at retail came in just shy of $6 billion, according to HTT’s 2022 Strategic Insights study. Although 2021 growth pulled back into a more normal year-over-year cadence – up 1.8% – it managed to push sales over the line to $6.1 billion.

Big Lots bedding department

The discount channel made the biggest gain in fashion bedding market share last year, although it was up against steep comparisons against the 2020 boom.

“Last year was an anomaly.  Supply chain issues certainly impacted sales negatively, but we had lots of factors driving business as well – stimulus money, more time spent working from home, nowhere to spend disposable income other than purchases because restaurants, shows and travel were all off-limits,” said Rosie Iglesias, senior vice president of sales, Mainstream International. “Supply chain and freight costs are further impacting the business this year because the positive factors that influenced last year’s business are no longer there.”

Higher freight and raw materials costs also had an impact on put-ups. Piece counts in ensembles got smaller. Quilt sales picked up, and in an unusual twist, so did the business in duvet cover sets.

“Quilts and duvet covers are a lot smaller than comforters, so they cost a helluva lot less to ship. And they cube out a million times better,” said Carol Antone, vice president of creative at Peking Handicraft.

AICO/Amini generated a boost in its duvet cover business by including inserts as a value-add. Tannia Heroz, manager of soft home merchandising, noted that many consumers prefer to use duvet covers without inserts. The fashion bedding company is also continuing to see strong demand for quilts.

“Quilts are hot for us,” she said. “They’re washable, they’re light and they’re less expensive.”

In the comforter ensemble category, the diminution of piece counts varies according to how many items in a bag had been considered the norm before the paring down began.

“We have seen the bedding ensembles go down to three pieces now. However, many customers would purchase two sets of three pieces, either in different textures or textures plus print, plus some euros and dec pillows. So their purchases could go up to eight or nine pieces,” said Cynthia Zheng, president of HiEnd Accents.

For Triangle Home Fashions’ Lush Décor brand, the-more-the-merrier philosophy still prevails.

“Three to four is still the sweet spot, but we’re seeing interest in sets that are anywhere from seven to 14 for both value and decorating ease,” said Nancy Golden, senior vice president of merchandising. “We are seeing that retailers are using multi-piece bedding ensembles as a way of product differentiation.”

Suppliers agreed that online business remains strong, however online sales fell back in 2021 after climbing 21% in 2020.

“Brick & mortar business has picked when compared to last year,” said Mainstream International’s Iglesias. “Stores are enjoying a bit more foot traffic, but we see smaller/lower cost items reaping those benefits more than the ‘more cumbersome’ to carry pieces.”

Quilts, seen here at TJMaxx, are providing fashion and value, suppliers said.

In terms of design, texture remains all-important. Key lifestyle segments are branching out in subgenres. For Triangle Home Fashions, core lifestyle looks like Coastal, Farmhouse, Boho and Mid Century Modern all have their unique spin-offs – Casually Coastal vs Nautical Coastal, Modern Farmhouse vs Rustic Farmhouse, Minimalist/Maximalist/ Global Boho and MCM vs Scandi/Hygge.  And vintage-inspired looks have given rise to Cottagecore, Regencycore (inspired by the Netflix show “Bridgerton”) and even Grandmillennial which, itself, has spun off to Coastal Grandma, said Golden.

“There is a renewed interest in botanical prints – possibly driven by a health and wellness focus that is driving more consideration of organic, sustainable and ethically sourced materials,” she added. “It’s an exciting time to design for consumers who are more creative with their personal style than ever before.”

For Peking Handicrafts, the evolving style directions are inspired by travel, or the desire to begin travelling again. Eco resort looks key in on naturally inspired neutrals and textures. Parisian-influenced luxury looks borrow from plaster relief walls for quilting patterns and decorative embroidery. The fez tiles of Marrakech work their way into prints and chenille jacquards in spice colors. And glam seems to be making a comeback, with a focus on velvet and sheen with a sprinkling of metallics, said Antone.

“People you wouldn’t imagine asking for glam are now asking for glam,” she added.

As for 2022, the pace of order-writing dropped off early and remains spotty. Some retailers have nearly exhausted their open-to-buy and others are proceeding cautiously as consumers come down off their sugar high.

“It seems that retail and consumers are buckling down for a somewhat rocky ride over the next few months,” said Mainstream’s Iglesias. “It’s all cyclical and this rough spot will pass, but for the time being, consumers seem to be holding their cash a bit more tightly.”

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