Here’s how the Indian Mattress Industry is COPING WITH COVID-19

Coronavirus epidemic has completely shaken up the global economy. From the aviation sector to the banking sector, nothing has escaped from the impact. Here’s a look at how the mattress industry is coping up with epidemic and what all steps it can take to mitigate the impact.

Coronavirus epidemic has completely shaken up the global economy. From the aviation sector to the banking sector, nothing has escaped from the impact. Here’s a look at how the mattress industry is coping up with epidemic and what all steps it can take to mitigate the impact.

The coronavirus epidemic could not have come at a worse time for the world at large and India in particular. After a relatively subdued period, the economy finally seemed to be looking up. Experts were hoping that the year 2020 will bring new cheer to the economic scenario, the markets were looking up, and the inflation was at a record low. And then out of the blue, the COVID-19 emanated from Wuhan and took the world by storm. From Hong Kong to Honduras & Delhi to Denver, the spread of the virus was quick and lethal. As on date about more than 1.5 million people are affected and more than 90,000 are dead. As a result of the spread, various governments across the globe have forcefully imposed a state of shutdown to curtail the spread of the virus. The lockdown has brought the economy to a grinding halt.

Many experts believe that with people confined to their homes for an extended period of days, they will be looking at ways and means to make their stay comfortable.

IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS-IMPOSED SHUTDOWN ON THE MATTRESS INDUSTRY

The damage could run deep. The mattress industry had been waiting for good times almost throughout the year of 2019. “Manufacturers are waiting for the lockdown to be lifted. They apprehend that the priority for mattress purchase will go down since people are greatly worried about hygiene and safety. Hence there is a need to tackle the changed lifestyle of the consumers”, says ISPF secretary Mr. Srinivasan Sundaresan.

“The impacts are already visible, especially on the retail side, where the customers seem to have all but disappeared because of lockdown. All mattress manufacturers and retailers have fully cooperated with the Government by stopping the production and distribution. Now there is a pressure from Creditors for payment and all the Debtors are dodging in the name of lockdown. All the manufacturers are in deep predicament to come out of this situation”, he adds.

The lockdown will have far-reaching impacts. “ISPF members are now focusing on cost management and hygiene promotion in all the sales outlets. Liquidity is highly affected and this is big challenge now. Giving employment to office staff can be managed somehow, but to give work for the workers is a herculean task. Certainly, the industry is facing a trying situation with hardly any support from the Government to overcome this situation”, says Mr. Srinivasan Sundaresan.

Most of the companies in accordance with the guidelines, have also asked their staff to stay away from the office and operate from home.

HOW MATTRESS PLAYERS CAN OVERCOME THE SITUATION?

Just like every dark cloud has a silver lining, so too is the case with the mattress industry. While the actual sales from the retail establishments might be impacted, the online channel could bring some cheer. Many experts believe that with people confined to their homes for an extended period of days, they will be looking at ways and means to make their stay comfortable. Of the many things that could come up for an upgrade is a mattress. And this could be an opportunity for the industry.

The mattress players need to use this lull strategically. They need to enhance their marketing and advertising footprint and promote the connection between proper sleep and mattress. Secondly, they need to emphasize the fact that the online channels are still available for customers looking to order a new set of the mattress. While making any false claims is a strict no-no, the messaging could be a creative nudge towards better rest and its connection to better sleep.

Also, this would be an excellent time for mattress industry players to ramp up their efforts in the digital space. While many players already have an online shop, it would do well if they were to use innovation to create new engagements with the customers. For instance, a web-series that features experts on how to live well within the confines of the home, etc. Also, in terms of the products, new innovative launches like the bed-in-a-box could be a nice move to attract new customers. Through all, it is imperative to reassure the customers about the best business practices that are being undertaken to ensure that the products that reach the customer’s home are neat, clean and virus-free. A specific strategy should be built around how to ensure that the products and the people who deliver them are prim prom.

GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES

In March, the government announced a Rs 1.70 lakh crore relief package for the poor and vulnerable section of the society to help them deal with the hardships caused by the lockdown. It is said that in next few days, Union finance minister Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman may announce the stimulus for the hard-hit sectors of the economy due to COVID-19 situation. According to media reports, government is looking at the stress in various sectors including MSME, hospitality, civil aviation, agriculture and allied sectors. Mattress industry may get some relief from this stimulus.

Meanwhile the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), an autonomous institution under Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, has come up with a one-step curable anti-microbial coating.

This coating is capable of completely killing the influenza virus and resistant pathogenic bacteria and fungi, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, fluconazole-resistant C. albicans spp. and a range of virus type Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-19). It is anticipated that the coating will not allow microorganisms to become active on coated surfaces. During the COVID-19 outbreak, the coating may be used to protect personal protective tools, clothes and equipment of health workers. Mattress manufacturers can use this coating on the surface of the mattress for better protection.

ISPF has coordinated with the department of MSME for the supply of Hospital beds and allied items. We understand the Government of Odihsha has demanded for the supply of 15,000 mattresses. Some of the prominent members have planned to fulfill this requirement. Further the T N Medical Council has also called for the registration of suppliers. We are expecting their orders very soon.

WHAT CONSUMERS HAVE TO SAY?

When Comfort Times spoke to few consumers, most of them noted that they have a bleaker outlook on their own financial situations. “If lockdown continues for some more time, my financials situation will be in trouble. My immediate priority would be on very essential requirements for living and to continue my business”, says Harish, who runs a small machine tool manufacturing company.

However, there is another set of consumer segment who is looking at giving highest priority on health and safety. “Going forward I will buy products that are free of risk and of the highest quality when it comes to safety standards and efficacy, particularly with respect to cleaning products, antiseptics, clothes, mattress and food items. If I need to talk on buying a mattress, I require manufacturers, retailers and other mattress related industry players to clearly communicate why their products and supply chains should be trusted. I need their advertisements to talk about their manufacturing process and how safe are their products. Such communication will help in convincing consumers like me”, says Subramanya, Director at Sridhan Automation.

More than ever, consumers want to understand the supply chain, with complete transparency from factory to distribution, and they want details of the measures being taken to assure their safety. Promoting a mattress’s local origins could help manufacturers and retailers assuage some consumer concerns. “Going forward, I don’t want to buy products from countries where COVID-19 originated. Mattress companies need to be very clear in their communication on such matters“, says Anuradha Shreesh, resident of Bangalore.

WHAT WOULD CHANGE IN THE INDUSTRY AFTER COVID-19 DAYS?

Due to heavy cash crunch the Industry is planning to have payment against supply. Credit sales will come down heavily for the sake of survival. Further consumers have learnt more on online purchases with deferred delivery. This is another challenge for the industry. ISPF expects the lifestyle of consumers may change drastically. The priority for purchase of mattress may go down unless highlighted by hygiene. Manufacturers must focus more with attractive package of comfort with health care aspects. May be some extra features which would add immunity to beds would be a welcome relief to consumers. With lot of restrictions on the movements, all consumers may demand for home delivery as routine matter.

As Marie Curie says, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

ISPF is an industry body which promotes importance of sleep and role of mattress for a Indian consumers. ISPF plays very important role in connecting Indian bedding industry ecosystem. ISPF also acts as bridge between India and international players.