House-bound consumers awaken a sleeping industry

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House-bound consumers awaken a sleeping industry

Customers shop for furniture at Hyundai Department Store in Guro District, western Seoul, on Sept. 15. Koreans have begun investing heavily in sleep-related products as Covid-19 leaves them spending more time at home. [YONHAP]

Customers shop for furniture at Hyundai Department Store in Guro District, western Seoul, on Sept. 15. Koreans have begun investing heavily in sleep-related products as Covid-19 leaves them spending more time at home. [YONHAP]

As social distancing grinds on and people spend more time at home, Koreans are increasingly investing in a good night’s sleep.
The consumption trend is sometimes described as “sleeponomics.”
According to e-commerce site Gmarket, sales of sleep-related products spiked by up to 70 percent between March and August.
“Due to people’s changing consumer patterns and high level of stress, we've seen products that are helpful to improve quality of sleep gain popularity,” the company said.
The industry had seen some growth before the Covid-19 outbreak, according to the Korea Sleep Industry Association, with market value jumping from 2 trillion won ($1.7 billion) in 2015 to 3 trillion won last year. But that trend was dramatically accelerated by the pandemic.
A few years ago, the top-selling items in the genre were candles, black-out curtains and thick cotton blankets. Now consumers are turning their eyes to more fundamental — and more expensive — equipment, including costly pillows and beds. And those investments come with a focus on health and safety amid the pandemic.
Bang Ji-won, a woman in her 30s, recently upgraded the pillows and bedding at her house to include more costly products.
"We wear pajamas in bed, but still these are items that are in direct contact with our skin,” Bang said. “I thought it'd be better to buy a more expensive product; it ensures better safety.”
Demand for costly latex pillows and memory foam pillows has been sharply growing.
Gmarket’s sales of latex pillows increased by 13 percent this year compared to a year earlier, while sales of normal pillows decreased by 9 percent. Sales of memory foam pillows from Denmark-based bedding provider Tempur also jumped by 30 percent this year compared to a year before. The growing interest in pillows also follows growing concerns with posture as office workers spend hours with their necks craned forward, attached to their digital devices.
“The sales increased nearly fivefold compared to 2012 when Tempur products were first introduced in Korea,” said Kim Sae-am, the head of Tempur's local marketing team. “We see significantly strong demand for pillows that are specifically designed to offer relief to the neck."
Another global mattress maker, Simmons, developed pillows using the same spring technology used on its mattresses.
And motion beds, or motorized bed frames that can elevate the head and bottom sections of a mattress, are particularly popular among customers who enjoy reading books, watching movies and using smartphones and tablets in their beds.
“Furniture companies have been enjoying an unexpected demand boom from Covid-19 government relief. Products that are made with a focus on offering physical relief are especially popular,” said a spokesperson for local furniture company Emons. “Many customers these days purchase motion beds, which in the past were not that popular due to the expensive price tag.”
As part of efforts to attract more customers, bedding companies are scrambling to introduce even better, more luxurious items.
In August, Tempur launched a motion bed, Lykke, which comes with Bang & Olufsen’s first sound bar, Beosound Stage. The fabric covering the bed frame is made of 100 percent pure wool and costs 10 million won to 12 million won.
Companies have also come up with unique functions for their motion beds. Emons introduced a motion bed that includes a sensor in the mattress to monitor users’ sleeping patterns and biological markers like heart rate and breathing, along with whether the user is tossing and turning in their sleep. And if the user falls asleep while watching television or reading a book with the frame tilted, the bed can automatically adjust itself to be flat again using the changes in the bio markers.  

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