The mattress industry has become surprisingly polarized of late thank to the emergence of two distinct camps: conventional retail models which come in a variety of comfort and construction styles versus “one size fits all” models sold online for one low budget price. While the latter have been hailed as an industry game-changer and boast undeniable hip factor — Kylie Jenner is a fan, after all — are they truly positioned as disruptors or are they more likely to go the way of the waterbed? Let’s take a closer look at the bed-in-a-box phenomenon along with its takeaways for Big Sleep.
A Mattress for Millennials?
Mattress startup company Casper counts some seriously famous people in its corner. Ashley Greene and Mario Lopez join Jenner in the Casper fan club, while celebrity investors include everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Adam Levine. Not bad for a company that has yet to celebrate its second birthday. In fact, in its initial 28 days, Casper sold a staggering $1 million worth of products — at least in part due to the peace of mind of the company’s 100-night, risk-free trial. (Although actually making these returns is another story; see below.)
This is not to say that “one size fits all” means bare bones. Quite the opposite if you take Casper’s word for it. The company markets their product as “an obsessively engineered mattress at a shockingly fair price.”
It’s no surprise that so many people are bouncing on board — both to Casper and to other bed-in-a-box entrants, including Yogabed, Tuft & Needle, Leesa, Saatva, Keetsa. (For the record, while the last three may be attempting to piggyback on the popularity of all things Scandinavian in both name and marketing approach, they’re all very much American.)
An Industry Icon
The concept of a “one size fits all” mattress may run contrary to everything you thought you knew. After all, conventional mattress companies have built their empires around the diametrically different concept that the quality of sleep is highly subjective and depends on such factors as whether your mattress is innerspring or foam, extra-firm or pillow top and other customizable configurations. Nor are they all that threatened by the competition. Said Mattress Firm VP Dan Dietz, “It’s a very high-touch, high-consideration product. Some 95 to 98 percent of customers still want to do that transaction in a store.”
And while conventional mattresses may not have the buzz and flash of their upstart challengers, they do have the Better Sleep Council in their corner which reports, “When it comes to mattresses, there is no one-size-fits-all. After all, we’re all built differently and have different comfort and support preferences, so why would the same mattress be “best” for all of us?”
How the Mattresses Stack Up
While “one size fits all” mattresses may be getting a lot of attention, they “aren’t keeping Big Mattress up at night,” according to a recent report from BloombergBusiness. Why not? Because while companies like Casper may be doing well by startup standards, they’re hardly making an impression on the overall mattress business numbers of $14 billion a year led by giants like Tempur-Sealy, Select Comfort and Mattress Firm. In fact, these mighty three have collectively seen 21 percent growth in sales and 11 percent profit growth over the past year alone.
As Furniture Today editor David Perry told BuzzfeedNews, even if the startups claimed a seemingly negligible market share of the sales, both parties might well be okay with it. “If they became a $100 million company, that would be a huge success,” he said, despite the fact that the major mattress players would hardly notice.
But gauging the success of these two different kinds of mattresses isn’t just measured in sales, but also in returns. Interestingly enough, research indicates that both come out with fairly equal (and low) return rates of between two and five percent. However, experts attribute this as much to the difficulty of figuring out how to return a mattress — particularly one shipped inside a box into which it will never ever fit again — as to evidence of satisfaction.
Considering that the average person sleeps through one-third of life, your choice of mattress may be more — or less — important than you think. In this respect, the Big Sleep industry may well be the equivalent of a king-size bed: there’s room enough for everyone.