Correction: This story originally stated the Casper Essential mattress was exclusive to Target. In fact, only the bedding is exclusive to the retailer. The story has been updated. We regret the error.
Target on Thursday announced that it is taking its tie-up with Casper up a notch with a mattress called Casper Essential that the companies call the brand's "first streamlined mattress." Casper is also launching a new Target-exclusive sheet line priced from $75 to $110.
The mattress will be on display at 45 Target stores nationwide from mid-February through mid-March and sold through Target stores, Target.com and Casper.com, the companies said. It comes in six sizes, priced from $350 to $725, according to a company blog post. Anyone unable to test the mattress in store can get a 100-night trial with free shipping and returns.
Last year, Target invested $75 million into a funding round for Casper, shortly after announcing their retail partnership. The mass merchant reportedly considered buying the mattress startup outright for $1 billion.
Target and Casper are on a roll, separately and together. In addition to its 1,200-store brick-and-mortar opportunity at Target, Casper has opened 15 of its own concept stores. Casper also recently struck a deal with American Airlines, outfitting its fleet with Casper sleep systems in first class.
The mattress startup is helping Target reinvigorate its commitment to differentiated merchandise. Last week CEO Brian Cornell reiterated the importance of having unique, stylish merchandise, which he said entices customers and thereby helps the retailer avoid dependence on low-margin grocery sales.
As Cornell recently told CNBC, "We've had a much more balanced portfolio and it's one of the things that makes our company so unique. ... The difference is our 'expect more, pay less' positioning."
That's a decent description of Casper's approach, too, which, along with rivals Leesa, Yogabed and Tuft & Needle, offers small assortments of "mattress-fits-most" in basic bed sizes at a single price, paired with long try-out times and free returns.
Offering less selection and promising higher quality are emerging as differentiators for smaller brands entering a crowded retail market, according to research from Canadian retail tech firm Hubba. Consumers, especially in such segments, are seeking a curated product offering that cuts through the "paradox of choice," Hubba found.
A few such brands are turning to established partners for marketing and distribution to reach more consumers — vividly exemplified by the Target-Casper match and rival Leesa's similar partnership with Williams-Sonoma brand Pottery Barn.