By Dale T. Read, Former President of the SSA
When people think of the Specialty Sleep Association (SSA) Showroom C-1565 located on the mattress and bedding 15th. floor of Building “C” of the World Market Center, they typically do not think of it as a center of manufacturing or supplier business-to-business marketing and sales. In fact most people who are affiliated with or who visit the SSA “show within a show” know it for the 400 to over 500 retail buyers and visitors who walk through during each market. Many people have successfully reached sleep shops, furniture stores, department stores, big box stores and in recent years online e-tailors who walk through the SSA showroom.
Although not widely recognized, business-to-business networking and negotiations have played a major role in the SSA showroom since the first day. Although there have been countless examples of this over the years, I will mention a few standouts here for you.
About ten years ago when polymer gel was first making a splash as a new mattress/ bedding component for cooler comfortable sleep, the CEO of the soon to be number one mattress brand in the US visited the SSA showroom (then on the 13th. floor), and began negotiations with a new exhibiting gel supplier that later led to the gel supplier becoming a key vendor for this top-ten brand. Together the team that met in the SSA showroom helped make that brand Number One in impregnated gel and foam mattresses in the US.
For many years regional sales reps who are long-time mattress and bedding veterans have met emerging manufacturers in the SSA Showroom, often leading to negotiations and business deals resulting in new markets and opportunities for both parties.
It is very common for new companies to launch their product offerings and brands in the SSA showroom, build a following, and then open their own private showroom. A few years back, there was such a company who introduced high quality, exceptional European foam inspired mattresses and pillows. They were going through major changes in product offerings, marketing, shipping outlets, and wanted a new sales team. They approached the leadership of the SSA, who recommended a prime experienced specialty sleep sales rep as a candidate for the position of national sales manager. This union has proven to be very successful for both parties and today that rep still serves as the brand’s national sales manager.
An internationally based inventor / designer of an ergonomic zoned adjustable bed base system came to the SSA showroom looking for retail customers, but then also used the venue to strategically reach out to manufacturing and supplier partners in North America. As a result of the most recent SSA Show, the company identified at least a dozen potential manufacturing /marketing partners. They are in the process of following up and negotiating a possible business deal.
A growing entrepreneurial European company offering an innovative, unique all-natural innerspring technology introduced their new product in the SSA showroom and targeted over 50 prospective manufacturers and retailers. The company went on to expand its business to capacity level doing business throughout Asia , Eastern Europe and Northern Europe. Today the door is still open for possible expansion of this all-natural support system into the USA.
A fast-growing Scandinavian and US based mattress, bedding and top-of-bed accessories company with a prime location in the SSA Showroom has recently launched the company’s growing private label program offering B2B solutions to retailers and other manufacturers. They recently published a “Guide to Private Label”, which they have posted online and distributed at the recent SSA Show.
A mid-western innovator focusing on offering health-based and ergonomic mattresses and bedding for sleepers who have pain or who are elderly, disabled, or physically challenged, showed several times in the SSA showroom. They approached the SSA leadership to find new sources for highly specified foams, cooling gel polymers, mattress materials and assembly. The SSA played a key role in introducing this ergonomic health-focused bed maker to eight different foam and latex suppliers, manufacturers and possible partners. Over the past year a working partnership has evolved between the ergo-bed company and a leading latex and foam supplier. Patented bed technologies recently have passed both performance and burn tests. These beds are now taking off with older of physically challenged consumers.
Another form of business-to-business activities has also been occurring on the SSA show floor. Over the past several markets online marketers or e-tailer buyers have been looking in the showroom for innovators and sources in order to expand their lines. Many of the SSA exhibitors are now reaching online /e-tailers, not just the traditional sleep shops, furniture stores, department stores and mass merchandizers.
SSA Executive Director Tambra Jones reminded me of several of the B2B deals that have been made between neighboring exhibitors in the showroom. Companies collaborate on new products, share raw materials knowledge, provide one another with private-label opportunities, and create team efforts in other shows or marketing opportunities. “The camaraderie within our showroom is palpable” says Jones.
As change has occurred at a swift pace in the mattress and bedding world, the SSA showroom has led the way as a vital and powerful venue for business-to-business contacts. If you are interested in learning more about the SSA Showroom and the numerous business-to-business opportunities, I encourage you to reach out to Executive Director, Tambra Jones.