Upstart mattress manufacturers have scaled back the profusion of mattress types, qualities, prices, and sellers to offer a lean list of equally priced mattresses to grab some of the $14.2 billion retail mattress industry.
Mattress startups Casper Sleep, Lessa, Yogabed, and Tuft & Needle eschew the special sales or markdown events favored by department stores and specialty stores, and keep their mattress-fits-most offers in basic bed sizes at one price each.
The companies have developed a way to ship a mattress in a box, reducing shipping costs, so that it slowly unfolds once it’s out untill it’s ready to fit on a bed.
Mattress sales have remained a steady business for department stores, whose mattress departments have weathered the first upstarts in mattress sales — discount mattress stores. Tempur Sealy and Serta Simmons made 70% of bedding wholesale shipments in 2014, when half of the industry’s revenue growth came from price increases, according to the Washington Post.
Manufacturers have helped, by selling different variations of mattresses to various stores at a variety of prices. That, plus consistent sales and markdowns, have made in difficult to compare on price. People tend to go to showrooms and listen to salespeople while they lie on various mattress trying to imagine their comfort level.
It remains to be seen whether these new mattress upstarts can get past that last detail - the ability to try out a mattress. It’s a dubious experience — how much do you learn shopping that way? How many people get to know their mattress only after they’ve slept on it? But it’s a profound hands-on experience for a fairly big-purchase item.
But department stores in particular should be worried that a group of startups are simplifying the choices and the pricing in a way that, if it does catch on, could interrupt one of the smoother sailing aspects of their somewhat struggling businesses.