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What's My Line? or
Which Futon Component Drives This Thing?
There has never been any argument that our industry is built around a three component product, i.e. a single unit being composed of a futon mattress, a futon frame, and a futon cover. For some, typically the specialty stores, this has been a plus that has allowed for increased ticket totals and a long history of repeat business. For others, like the illusive traditional dealers, it has been a hard concept to manage, and also one that has played havoc with many a vendor’s delivery schedule. But as I see it the futon concept still remains a category of three separate components, each with its own good-better-best vendor base.
There are also several vendors that carry all three components. These suppliers could also be ranked GBB as is, but something tells me that in each case the dealer has chosen them because of convenience, not because they supply the very best product available in all three categories.
But my issue this time around is not the component issue and how it is playing out at retail, but it is, I believe, an even more interesting question for the true industry afficionado: Which of the three components is the central or driving force behind the category?
Arguments can be made for any one of the three. Over the past few years in hundreds of futon related conversations I have heard many say things like, “The futon cover sells the futon,” while others have said, “The futon frame is what makes this category fly,” and still others proclaim, “You have to start with the futon mattress.”
Try as I might to make the futon frame the key to our ultimate success or failure, it is the mattress that drives the engine, be it the little engine that could.
It is the futon mattress that started most of us on this long and winding road. It was the comfort and flexibility. It was the purity of natural fibers, and a back to basics minimalist aesthetic. It was simplicity.
Here was a simple folding mattress that was comfortable to sit on and sleep on. All of that at a price no one could really complain about. History says it was and is the mattress.
Standards are next. No component other than the futon mattress has a self imposed industry standard. Our industry, in its infinite wisdom, adopted the standard mattress sizes as outlined by ISPA, the International Sleep Products Association. The futon mattress is also regulated by the CPSC, a regulatory arm of the Federal Government whose sole job is to protect consumers from unsafe products. CFR 16 details the rigorous and extensive testing each individual mattress type must undergo and the record keeping that must be done by the manufacturer to insure only a safe product makes it to market.
Cottage level entrepreneurial spirit started this venture but it has been the stability and muscle of several independent, family owned and operated futon mattress companies that have pushed this category to the edge of legitimacy. I am sure there are cases where some smaller companies have weathered the storms of the past ten years but I cannot name a single futon frame manufacturing company that existed when I started this publication that is still operating under the same name and management today. On the other hand, the last time I looked Gold Bond, Wolf Corporation, and Otis Bed are still doing the same thing they have been doing the the past hundred years or so.
My case is made. Bring on the approvals or the rebuttals. And, oh yea, do you still remember that Y2K bug myth from the last millennia?