How King-Sized Beds Came To Rule The Sleeping World

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As much as we love our super-sized fries, fast-food chains were not the first to come up with the idea to use bigger is better as a marketing ploy. That distinction goes to the bedding industry and their quest to sell larger upsized mattresses. Until the 1940s most people were happy to sleep in twin or double beds, even married couples slept apart in their own little beds! 

About halfway through the decade, bed and bedding manufacturers started to produce larger mattresses that would later be standardized by their new, and clever names “King” and “Queen” sized. Not only could they sell these bigger mattresses at a higher price, people also needed to purchase super king bed sheets to fit them! 

William London, the owner of the London Furniture & Carpet Co. of Cleveland Ohio pioneered the art of mattress and bedding upsizing. In a November 1954 article in Bedding Merchandiser magazine, a top-selling periodical among bedding merchandisers, he wrote that “We attempt to show the customer that he needs a bigger mattress and spring. We point out to the reluctant ones that for a few additional dollars more than he had budgeted, he can assure himself comfortable sleeping.” His idea came at the right time considering that as of 1900 only 4% of adult males were 182 centimetres tall, but by 1954 that number had shot up to 20%! The customer base was literally growing, and larger mattresses were coming into increasing demand!

Retailers took advantage of the trend and did a bang-up business selling custom-made supersized mattresses in a price ranged around 70 dollars. London stated that “The customer is advised it will cost him only one dollar more for each additional inch of length,” and offered the same for increases in width.

In 1961, J. Paul Fanning, secretary and general manager of the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers, said “What this country needs is larger beds and smaller cars, and we already have the latter. But in bedding, width is now even more important than length. Too many people are still sleeping two in a ‘full-size’ bed that provides only 27 inches, or crib space, for each person!” in a discussion over revising bedding-size standards to include both “conventional” and “oversize” mattresses. The concept proved to be a big winner, and in 1962 the mattress industry began their “Measure Your Mattress Month” promotion to convince people to purchase bigger bedding. This was soon followed by “Buy Bigger, Sleep Better!”

These campaigns turned out to be huge windfalls for the bedding industry. Back in 1953 when it all began only 1% of overall bedding sales were for queen-sized or king-sized sets, and by 1961 that number had risen to 5.5%, but after the promotions the number rose to 10% of sales just a year later, proving once and for all that at least when it came to beds, bigger is indeed, better!

These days almost everyone sleeps in at least a queen-sized bed, even if they are snoozing solo, and king-sized beds rule the sleeping world! 

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