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Marketing, potential of sleep and eco-design at the core of EBIA General assembly

06 Nov 23

On 21st and 22nd September, EBIA members gathered in Prague for the 24th General Assembly. Around 85 participants representing the bedding manufacturers and suppliers were present.

President Mr Geert Geerkens welcomed all participants and was delighted that so many have taken the effort to join our annual meeting in these challenging times. The past few years have been a fast-moving rollercoaster. This has necessitated the industry to adapt very quickly to changing conditions. Whilst the covid induced crisis had barely been overcome, the Russian invasion in Ukraine inflicted an energy crisis with strong impact on consumers and industry alike. The skyrocketing inflation seems to have eased off a bit but Europe continues to be confronted with energy and raw material costs in that impact on our overall competitiveness.

In 2023, no less than eight companies have joined the association: Adova Group, Aquinos Group, Bovelli bedding, Correct UT+C, Elite Strom, EuroComfort, Red Springs and Simalfa. All agree that the challenges ahead of the sector on e.g. sustainability issues will need to be addressed at a European scale. This stronger membership base will ensure that EBIA’s voice is louder in Brussels!

With the presence of ABICOL, the Brazilian bedding association, and ISPA, the US bedding association, EBIA hopes to be a partner in the worldwide developments of sustainability, circularity, and recycling.

Managing Director Frederik Lauwaert presented the activities of EBIA and underlined especially the Eco-design journey our industry is travelling. He reminded that mattresses are on top of the ESPR (Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation) prioritisations and pinned the JRC (Joint committee research) recommendations. EBIA is of course actively taking part in the whole process at EU level and is in close discussions with the companies.

The conference started with the international keynote speaker Wim Vermeulen whose work focuses on our sustainable transition and what role communication plays in it. His latest book Speak up now! Marketing in times of climate crisis, states that making the shift to a sustainable future requires major changes from all of us. We know that the drive for greater sustainability affects every aspect of what a company or a brand does. We also know that many consumers doubt the sincerity of companies' sustainability efforts. Because many are not yet convinced, they judge how sustainable products are marketed differently. Yet we market sustainable products as we market regular products. And this is causing a huge credibility deficit: less than one out of ten advertising campaigns for sustainable products turn out to be credible for the consumers.

The session was followed by the intervention of Simon Dyer – director of Dyer Holdings Pty Ltd and associated with the Sealy brand for almost 55 years as the Australian licensee – and Ryan Trainer, President of the International Sleep Products Association (ISPA) – who respectively addressed and discussed the Chinese and US mattress markets.

Mr Dyer addressed the question on how to do business in China from an international brand perspective. Through a number of recommendations on best business practices, he underlined the differences with the European market. As for Mr Trainer, he reminded the audience about the traditional drivers for the US market sales and presented the current market dynamics. He also tackled the question of the mattress regulatory and sustainability requirements.

The second day opened with Christophe Jauquet, author of Healthusiasm, who inspired the audience about the future of business in this health-conscious world. He identified four topics that lead the quest for good quality sleep (mindfulness, nothingness, healing, energy) and addressed a potential way forward for the bedding business to reach the consumer expectations. He gave an inspiring speech on how to follow the path from commodities, products, services, to experience, and finally to create transformations.

In a closing session, David Fitzsimons (Oakdene Hollins) moderated a panel discussion on eco-design for the bedding industry. He introduced the theme of eco-design, the ongoing legislative initiative Eco-design for Sustainable products Regulation and the report of the EU Joint research center’s report on eco-design scoring for mattresses.

Mr Wouter Dijkman (Royal Auping), Ms Lena Bischoff (IKEA), Mr Chico Van Hemert (RetourMatras) and Mr Stefaan Cognie (TripleR) each shared their perspectives on eco-design. During an interesting discussion various aspects like durability, longevity, disassembly, repairability, transparency, etc. were raised and discussed.

In his closing remarks, Mr Geerkens thanked all speakers and participants for their inspiring contributions and hoped that the positive and optimistic messages will find their ways into the daily business of the mattress sector. Climate change is happening fast but it can also be seen as an opportunity, a driver for businesses and consumers, a trigger for even more responsible actions. Finally, he invited all EBIA members to next years’ EBIA Annual meeting, that will take place in Málaga on 19th and 20th September 2024 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the association.