It may sound ironic but India’s sleep industry is having sleepless nights. The domestic mattresses industry, heavily dependent on retail business, is facing one of its worst decline in sales due to the lockdown.

“The entire period has been a complete washout for both the company and the industry,” said Rahul Gautam, Managing Director, Sheela Foam Ltd, which owns the Sleepwell brand of mattresses.

The Noida-based brand, which produces one million mattresses annually, is a dominant player in the organised mattress industry.

“Retail constitutes about 90 per cent of the demand for our industry and the remaining comes from the institutional or B2B side,” said Uttam Malani, Executive Director of Hyderabad-based Centuary Mattresses, part of the Shree Malani Group, which also owns Shree Malani Foams.

Centuary, which holds a substantial market share in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, also witnessed a complete sales washout in April. “We will probably see about 10 per cent demand as compared to normal in May and are expecting to operate with 50-60 per cent of routine demand from June onwards,” Malani said.

Peak season

Smita Murarka, Vice President - Marketing, Duroflex Mattresses, said the pandemic has dealt a huge blow to the industry, since April and May are typically peak seasons for weddings and mattresses companies see a demand spike then.

However, she noted, the sales plunge is due to the lockdown and logistical issues and not due to a fall in demand. For instance, many regions of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, which are some of the strong markets for Duroflex, are currently among Covid-19 red zones.

“We have seen 3x growth in our social media following and 4x jump in website visits even during this period, which shows consumers still want to buy a mattress but are unable to due to the lockdown,” Murarka said.

Industry players also believe that mattresses, which fall under the discretionary segment, may not be the top priority for the consumers even after the lockdown is lifted.

“I assume people would be a little more wary about spending post lockdown. In that context, mattresses may not be a priority product except for weddings and new homes,” said S Balachandar, CEO of Coimbatore-based Repose Mattress, a specialised player in spring mattresses. He added that despite spending one-third of their lives sleeping, people do not give enough importance to mattresses.

But some industry players are optimistic that business will rebound in the coming months.

“A mattress is a source of bacteria and other pathogens,” Sleepwell’s Gautam said, adding: “During this lockdown, people have spent all their time at home on a mattress, so at first opportunity, people would come and buy new mattresses.”

‘New normal’ trends

Citing research studies on consumer behaviour in the ‘new normal’, Duroflex’s Murarka said that spending on home improvements will be among the priorities for consumers after essentials and healthcare spendings.

“Mattress is one key place where people already spend 30 per cent of their time. With the lockdown, people are spending even non-sleeping time on mattresses since many people don't have the luxury of a separate workplace at home,” she added.