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Special Feature


How Women Are The Key To The Bedding Industry’s Future By Gretchen Kast


T


he bedding industry has long been de- signing and marketing its products to the female consumer—and with good


reason. Today women drive nearly 80% of all consumer purchasing, with both buying power and influence. And because they often serve as the primary caregiver to children and elderly parents, women are the decision mak- er across many different market segments. Though women make up the majority of the mattress industry’s customer base, the same cannot be said about its workforce. Accord- ing to the US Department of Labor, women made up only 41% of the home furnishings retail and just 28% of furniture manufacturing industries in 2015. While there are more wom- en working in the mattress industry than ever before, there is still a clear lack in senior level management positions.


Since founding Suite Sleep in 2003, owner


Angela Owen has had first-hand experience with being one of the few female executives. “The mattress industry is deeply rooted in tra- dition,” she explains. “It was an uphill battle trying to get manufacturers to try new tech- niques based on a woman’s ideas and feed- back in the marketplace.” Tradition remains a key trait of the industry, but times are changing. “Social media has transformed the industry in a multitude of ways—and it will continue to transform it as we continue to embrace dig- ital communications in our lives,” says Julia Rosien, Brand Director for Restonic. Digital media has altered the way people are buying mattresses, making it necessary for manufacturers and retailers to rethink the way they communicate with consumers. Adapting to the changing market requires companies to have an acute understanding of the people they are trying to reach. While research and testing can help illuminate key insights into the minds of consumers, the benefits of having women in the board room and on the sales floor are clear.


48 Sleep Retailer / Summer 2016


“We work in a male-dominated industry that is focused on selling to a female con- sumer base,” explains Sarah Bergman, Pure- Care’s Vice President of Marketing and Cre- ative. “We may be the minority when it comes to numbers, but we are the voice of the con- sumer for our industry.”


In her role, Bergman is tasked with guid- ing the in-house team on how to translate its brand messaging across the board. She works closely with the sales team and stress- es the importance of “having strong leader- ship in place with a focus on team building.” As President and Inventor of the Pillow Bar, Merrimac Dillon has leadership experience in all facets of the bedding industry—from de- veloping new products to overseeing produc- tion to serving as the primary sales person. “I do believe that many women bring a com-


pletely different and more creative perspective to the table,” Dillon explains. “Especially in ‘mes- saging’ to the end consumer. We tend to look at things from a value and family perspective and I think that matters in the bedding world.” This unique perspective benefits more than just marketing; it allows women to develop products that truly resonate with their peers. Both Owen and Dillon cite their own family life as the inspiration behind starting their compa- nies—with Owen aiming to help “other moms make healthier choices in their home furnish- ings needs” and Dillon developing her pillow line to help solve her husband’s health prob- lems. Rather than just focusing on “feminine” styling or advertising, these businesses have been successful because they provide real solutions for issues that matter.


“Suite Sleep strives to work with as many women-owned manufacturers as possible and we find those relationships last longer, bring greater trust and loyalty and are far more collaborative in nature,” Owen explains. “Women executives clearly know what wom- en want, so they have so much to offer in product development, marketing and sales.”


Of course, it’s not just women who ben- efit from increased representation in the workplace. According to Bridget Brennan, CEO of the consulting firm Female Factor, research has shown that companies whose management teams are gender balanced yield a higher ROI. “Women bring diversity to the table,” says Rosien. “We bring a different way to look at things and a different way to solve problems. We need men and women working together— not one over the other.”


But if greater gender parity has proven beneficial for the industry as a whole, why isn’t female leadership more prevalent? “One of the things that still holds women


back from advancing to senior level manage- ment positions is lack of access to leadership training and opportunities to lead,” explains Amy Van Dorp, Director of WithIt, a not-for- profit organization dedicated to in the home furnishings industry. “Few companies are investing in the focused leadership training because of the expense.” The best way to support women in the bedding industry is a more dedicated focus on opportunity and mentorship—from both men and women.


“I think we need to give women more of a voice in the industry,” Owen explains. Women in our industry need to be mentors to the young women coming up in the ranks. We are strong when we pull others up.” Programs like WithIt, Mattress Firm’s Lead-


HERship program and ISPA’s Women’s Net- work all strive to foster this sense of com- munity—providing affordable professional development resources that benefit the in- dustry at large. As retail continues to change, it’s becom- ing increasingly important for companies to invest in its female workforce. Those that do will reap the benefits of their unique perspec- tive, insight and problem-solving abilities. Read more on SleepRetailer.com now!


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