The Giants Strike Back: Established manufacturers challenge the upstarts
The Giants Strike Back:
Established manufacturers challenge the upstarts
For the last few years there has been a proliferation of start-up companies selling mattresses only online and shipping them directly to the customer in a cardboard box. Just a few of the newcomers are Yogabed, Casper Sleep, Tuft & Needle, Lull and Leesa. The mattress-in-a-box trend actually started in 2006 with BedInABox, which began selling mattresses online, compressing and rolling them, and shipping them in boxes. Before this, a “bed-in-a-box” was a set of coordinating comforter, shams, sheets and pillowcases in a box or vinyl bag sold in a department store.
The upstarts did not offer a menu of several models. Most of them have only one model in one firmness, a few offer a choice from two comfort levels.
At first, this was seen as a fad. But then the fad became a trend, promising to became an established way of marketing mattresses. The established manufacturers and retailers in bedding, the giants, first winked, then chuckled, then grimaced. The newcomers were proving to be a challenge.
Several things which make the mattress newcomers’ products more attractive are price, convenience, and terms.
Direct marketing cuts out the middleman with costs such as overhead and inventory to dictate markups. The prices of the new products are only a fraction of the big-name items. For example, since most of the mattress-in-a-box offerings are memory foam mattresses, the makers compare them to equivalent Tempur-Pedic models. These comparisons dramatically show the price differences.
The new generation, and many in the previous two, have become accustomed to ordering online. With the success and influence Amazon and eBay, most major retailers and some manufacturers sell their products not only in stores and through dealers, but sell or list them online. This has gone very well for items not too big, but larger products such as mattresses were too bulky to ship by common delivery services such as UPS, FedEx and the Post Office.
Along with online ordering and shipping, the start-up mattress firms are offering generous return policies. This only makes sense, since customers cannot try the beds in the showroom before buying them.
The title of this article is a reference to the sequel of Star Wars. But the major manufacturers could not strike directly at the swarm of start-ups. Therefore, they have been doing the next best thing. As the old saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”
Now it is the established players in the bedding market challenging the upstarts. Some, like Boyd Specialty Sleep, joined sooner. Some, like Therapedic, were already selling online. Now a real giant, Sealy, has stepped in.
In March 2016, Sealy introduced the Cocoon by Sealy. This is a mattress specifically designed for online sales and boxed shipping. The line even has its own website. It took more than a year for Sealy to design and test the new product. Rather than a “one firmness fits all” approach, the Cocoon has a choice of Firmer or Softer.
Other established firms signing onto the boxed mattress trend are Dorel Home Products with its Signature Sleep brand, Symbol Mattress (Gen-U-Ine Collection), Diamond Mattress (Highlight, Thrive and Avani), South Bay International (Blissful Nights), and Therapedic (EcoGel Flex).
The retailers are getting a piece of the action, too. Now a retailer of a company such as Sealy can have a floor model of the online mattress and process the order for the customer. The customers can see the mattress themselves before buying, but there is no inventory cost, and the bed can be delivered directly to their homes. The trend includes not only mattresses, but foundations.
It remains to be seen how this eventually plays out, but I believe that selling boxed beds online is here to stay, and most mattress manufacturers will be involved. The real question is whether the start-ups can continue to challenge the big boys, or will they become niche marketers.