"Everyone says they supply the best bed - not us"
2014-10-10 [Press release]
A relaxing night's rest and physical regeneration are valuable assets which customers are happy to invest in - which is why very many manufacturers praise their beds and mattresses as being absolutely the best choice. Hilding Anders, European bed market leader, deliberately makes no such claim. What's behind this - Scandinavian understatement or a poor competitive strategy? We ask Daniel Oelker, Senior Vice President Communication for the global player.
Mr. Oelker, is it really true that you as market leader don't actually supply, objectively speaking, the best bed?
Oelker: (laughing) In common with any other bed supplier in the world, we don‘t actually supply the bed deserving of the title 'the best’, irrespective of the user, his nationality and needs.
And yet the best possible sleeping experience is precisely what a whole range of publicity campaigns promise customers …
Oelker: The needs of consumers are too diverse for anyone to be able to make this claim with any real credibility. It is often claimed that consumers are only interested in comfort and durability – but it is more than that because everyone‘s notion of a 'good sleep’ is very individual. Just ask people in China or Germany about the best bed. You will hear quite different opinions.
What can you offer me instead of that?
Oelker: To a certain degree, the bed industry is like the car industry – the quality products of different manufacturers bring the consumer from ‘point A to point B’. In terms of our industry, that means that our products ensure a good night's rest. We are the Volkswagen group of the bed industry – we have a solution ready for all tastes and all pockets, in 65 markets around the world.
So your solutions are geared to meeting quite a variety of needs?
Oelker: Exactly. The criteria for a restful sleep vary with respect to a whole range of factors. For example, age, weight, stature, health-related restrictions and even national or regional preferences play a crucial role. As regards the last example, Asians have a clear preference for hard surfaces to sleep on, whereas Scandinavians feel most comfortable on softer surfaces which they can sink into a little. It‘s been like that for generations and won’t be changing in the near future.
No small challenge for international hotels …
Oelker: Very true. They always have to find a middle ground when choosing their beds that guests from around the world can accept. Since hotel beds around the world are essentially a compromise, you don't feel nearly so well rested after a night in one of them as you do after a night in your own.
If I don‘t want to settle for a compromise at home, how can I find 'my personal best bed’ among the wealth of different types available?
Oelker: (smiling) I think you should rely on your own sound judgement, do your ‘homework’ on the internet first and then seek the necessary advice on the spot in shops. Many of the myths of the past, e.g. that only a hard bed is a good bed, have survived and many companies will offer you a broad selection of different bed technologies and brands. Internationally speaking, we access the whole product range, though we do have certain regional biases. For example, Switzerland is still mainly a land of foam-filled mattress concepts whereas in Scandinavia we like to sleep in the famous box-spring beds. You need quality advice when you buy a bed. Find a dealer who can advise competently and you are already a good step closer to finding your personal dream bed.
Sounds good. But this makes me dependent on the technical knowledge and expertise of the vendor. Is there no way for me to track down my ideal bed myself?
Oelker: In the future, we will be trying to give you some guidance about this. For this purpose, we are creating our own Good Night's Sleeplab in Switzerland – a test centre where our products can be tested and classified according to the four central aspects of healthy and restful sleeping. Our certificate from the Swiss Centre for Workplace Medicine, Ergonomics and Hygiene (AEH) gives both the trade and consumers alike the necessary guidance, transforming featureless white expanses of mattresses into clearly defined categories.
Is a special test centre really necessary for this?
Oelker: Yes – as we found out for ourselves. You see, our research revealed that worldwide, no institute tests fully more than two aspects of a good sleep, with the main focus of attention being on mattress durability. Hilding Anders, however, regards four test criteria as indispensable before you can discover whether a bed or mattress is ideally suited to its owner.
And what exactly is Hilding Anders testing?
Oelker: The four central aspects of sound and restful sleep:- (a) ergonomics, i.e. relief from pressure and hence muscle regeneration; (b) hygiene, i.e. how well are product hygiene and freshness guaranteed and suitability for people with allergies; (c) bed climate, which combines the functions air permeability, ability to transport humidity and temperature regulation; and (d) durability, which guarantees undiminished comfort throughout the lifetime of the product.
Such tests must be conducted independently – how is this assured?
Oelker: Through collaboration with the respected Swiss AEH Centre, which will monitor our tests. Our choice of this site is a deliberate policy to align ourselves with ‘Swissness’, i.e. with Swiss precision, famed throughout the world. We are, after all, market leaders in the country and supply such well-known Swiss bed brands as BICO and Happy Sleep.
How big will the investment be and what do you hope to gain from it?
Oelker: We are investing around 1.25 million Euro in the Good Night's Sleeplab. This will be used for product development and marketing as well as classification and quality control. Dealers and end consumers will have the opportunity to visit the test centre and experience its methods on the spot.
With a 14% share of sales, Hilding Anders leads the way in the European bed market, which is worth around 4.5 billion Euro. We are committed to maintaining this position and delivering measurable value to our customers.
Not with the often promised ‘best bed’, but with each individual's personal best?
Oelker: Exactly. The end consumer has complete freedom of choice with us, depending on his individual needs. At the POS, he won't be steered towards a particular system in a particular price category but instead will be given comprehensive guidance on the various concepts. At the POS, we will be using an easy-to-understand pictogram system to supply information on product characteristics and weightings and enable the customer to make a straightforward choice in line with his personal criteria. A quality seal will verify the product characteristics produced in the Sleeplab and so delivers additional certainty for decision-making.
So as regards quality sleeping, it is rather like buying a made-to-measure suit?
Oelker: Exactly. And where it will be 100% right for you, on another it will hang too loose or be too tight. And finally, to return to your initial question, that is why there is, objectively, no such thing as the ‘best bed’.