The Economic Downturn Created High Demand
If there’s one thing people put off when money is tight, it’s buying a new mattress. Who can afford to spend $1,000 or more on a new bed when they’re living paycheck to paycheck?
As a result of the 2008 recession, people cut back on unnecessary purchases, including mattresses. After the economy bounced back, people were ready to get that long overdue mattress.
Mattress stores expanded aggressively to meet the demand. But was this a big mistake?
Why Are There So Many Online Mattress Companies New Tech
The key reason these online mattress companies entered the market is a technological marvel. Prichard told me The reason youre seeing so many mattress startups appear is because of the development of the roll pack machine, which has enabled internet companies to ship mattresses across the country with minimal freight costs.
Levine agrees, as a trend expert he says most of these trends have a technology component to them that was the real game-changer.
Roll pack machines like the Teknomac Automatic Roll Pack System from Global Systems Group or other companies like Dolphin Pack Srl, with headquarters in Italy, are responsible for these online mattress companies. These unsung heroes of online sleep shopping ease were successful at cutting out the barriers to entry for new mattress competitors.
This was the final component to disrupt what Levine says is a 28 billion dollar industry.
New York-based Casper was one of the first, if not the first known company to use this technology as a method of selling mattresses on the internet. Levin says they earned 200 million in revenue in their first 2 years on the market. Because they didnt own the technology, however, other companies caught up fast. So, if you catch your zs from a mattress you bought online, now you know how it got to your door.
Best Mattress Stores For Shopping In
When buying a mattress in person, you are necessarily limited to the stores that are near where you live. Some areas will naturally have more options than others, and those options generally fall into a few categories.
Local Mattress Stores
Local mattress stores can be mom-and-pop shops with one location or city-wide or regional chains. In many cases, these are family-run stores with a longstanding history and ties to the community.
Some local mattress stores may even manufacture their own beds, carry specialty brands, or focus on a particular type of mattress . Even though selection may be limited in a smaller shop, shoppers often find local stores to offer reasonable pricing and high-quality customer care.
Another type of local mattress store is an outlet or factory-direct showroom. These may have a less personable feel but can be a source of good deals on name brands.
Showrooms For Online Brands
A number of online brands have branched out by opening physical showrooms for their products. These stores allow you to scope out their mattresses in person while still being able to get the pricing and sleep trials offered with an online purchase.
Even if they dont have their own branded showroom, some online mattress companies have partnered with retailers to give customers a place to check out their products in person.
National Mattress Stores
Department and Home Furnishings Stores
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They Dont Need Many Employees
Unless theyre having an 80% off sale, you wont typically find mattress store swarming with customers. Less foot traffic means fewer employees, and fewer employees means less overhead for the store.
Plus, the stock isnt constantly changing like it is at clothing retailers or grocery stores, so its cheaper to keep the store stocked.
Next: Heres the reason online sales arent dominating.
How Online Mattress Companies Changed Things
Online mattresses companies have introduced a new way to shop for a mattress and bedding in general.
Instead of trawling among limited selections in a brick and mortar store, you can do a quick search online and order a mattress from your couch.
The biggest advantage of online mattress companies is its price. Their sales model eliminates mediators and overhead costs.
So prices are much lower compared to brick and mortar stores. You can now get a decent memory foam mattress for $700-$1,000 .
Even luxury hybrid, pillow top, and organic mattresses cost half or a third of store prices.
Online mattress companies have also eliminated the risk of buying a mattress that you are not sure youll find comfortable.
Instead of a 15-minute test at the store, online companies provide 60-100 days to test the mattress at home with free returns if you dont like it. Others like Nectar give you a full year.
Once you combine all this with the ease of shopping from home and the wide variety you can access by just your phone, its easy to see why people no longer want to go to big box stores to buy a mattress.
Entrepreneurs see this as an opportunity to enter the market before it becomes too concentrated.
The fact that theres still no clear market leader makes the opportunities all the more appealing to investors and entrepreneurs.
Its not just startups disrupting the old way of selling mattresses.
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How Mattresses Made It Online
Mattresses were among the last consumer products to find a footing in e-commerce. Traditionally, mattresses have been sold by mom-and-pop stores, retail chains like Mattress Firm, and department stores. Because mattresses sell at relatively high profit marginsa mattress can be manufactured for as little as $250a mattress store needs to sell only a few mattresses to cover its costs. These dynamics have also led to a boom in the number of mattress stores in America.
Aside from, say, Tempur-Pedic, which pioneered memory foam mattresses, most people probably couldnt name the brand of mattress they slept on prior to the rush of online brands.
This was partly by the industrys design. If consumers recognize a brand, then they can go to another store and shop for the lowest price, creating a situation where mattress stores are slashing prices to compete with each other.
Those mom-and-pop shops dont want to compete on price against Mattress Firm, so every one of the stores gets a slightly different mattress so its hard for consumers to price compare across locations, said Mike Stewart, a partner at Bain and Company who follows the mattress industry. What that does is it also makes it hard for the consumer to understand your brand.
The Truth: Salespeople Are There To Help Themselves Make Mattress Sales
Sorry to say, but some salespeople do not have your best interest in mind when helping you shop for a mattress. Their job is to make a sale. Even if they arent working on commission, there are quotas to meet, overstocked mattresses to push, and non-commission bonuses to earn.
Some salespeople are helpful and genuinely interested in helping you find the best option as long as it is in their store.
Do you find high-pressure sales tactics uncomfortable when trying to make a rational decision? Salespeople tend to be smooth talkers. You may not realize youve been duped until it is too late. Or, perhaps you just want to get out of there and rush the decision.
If you feel sales pressure, your best bet is always walking out of the store. When you are ready to make a decision on your terms, there will still be a mattress for sale there. Or use their high-pressure sales tactics to get yourself a bargain. Set your own price and walk away if it exceeds your budget. Online sellers tend to have less markup, but may offer additional perks, too.
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The Truth: If You Can Return It But It Will Be A Hassle And It Wont Be Free
Be sure to ask about the return policy before committing to a purchase. Do they offer exchanges or store credit only? Are there pick up and restocking fees? Are there any specific requirements tied to the return? For example, if the mattress must return in a re-sellable condition, that means unused.
Since they cant sell your used mattress, retailers will try hard to make you keep it. This means making return policies short, more inconvenient, and costly.
Brands that sell primarily online, typically offer generous sleep trials, up to 100-nights, to give you more time to determine whether or not the mattress is right for you.
Carolina Curious: Why Are There So Many Mattress Stores
Since our series Carolina Curious began, we’ve received a wide range of questions. But theres one that comes in again and again, month after month:
“Why are there so many mattress stores?”
According to listener Keisha Redd, a lawyer from Winston-Salem, she’s seen five on Stratford Road alone.
Others have asked, Are mattresses really that much in demand? How do they all stay in business? Does every shopping strip have one?
To put this question to rest, we found an expert: Dave Perry, the Executive Editor and mattress writer for Greensboro-based Furniture Today, which is the trade newspaper of the entire furniture industry.
Perry has been writing about the mattress business for over 30 years. A big part of his job is following the trends of retailers. He says there are a few reasons why there are so many mattress stores.
“Mattress retailers have been aggressively expanding,” says Perry. “In addition, there’s a fairly low cost point of entry to open mattress stores. Mattresses are a product that sells pretty well, significant dollar growth year after a year. And, its a product that consumers need.”
According to Perry, there are around 10,000 mattress stores operated by the top 25 mattress retailers in the United States. But that is starting to change. The industry will be “right-sizing,” meaning they will begin scaling back on store openings.
What question would you like WFDD reporters to take on next?
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Why There Are So Many Online Mattress Brands
There are about 175 online bed-in-a-box companies in business. Why so many?
The reasons are similar to why there are so many physical stores. Online companies have little overhead costs and high profit margins. The technology that rolls the mattresses up into smaller boxes also makes them cheaper to ship.
Many mattress companies don’t manufacture their beds themselves. The process is outsourced, which brings costs down. So, it doesn’t take too much to start an online mattress company.
Why Are There So Many Mattress Stores In Austin
Austin has grown through the years more people, more traffic and with that growth has come lots and lots of mattress stores. If you ever make the drive on Anderson Lane in North Austin, you know there is no shortage of places to buy a mattress.
That proliferation got Vannezsa Smith wondering, so she asked our ATXplained project: Why does Burnet Road and Anderson Lane have a gazillion mattress shops? She wasnt the only one. Austins mattress store glut spurred multiple questions from multiple listeners.
Its easy for the casual mattress-store-observer to lose track of just how many there are. On Anderson Lane alone, there are almost a dozen places to buy a mattress, but the stores are not just concentrated around there theyre seemingly everywhere. In fact, there are more than 200 stores where you can buy a mattress around Austin and that doesnt even include online options.
The biggest one of them all in terms of numbers is Mattress Firm. In the Austin metro area, there are 76 Mattress Firm locations.
To put that in perspective, there are 93 Starbucks in the same area. There are 94 7-Eleven stores. You might go to either of those a handful of times a month, but most Americans will buy a mattress only a handful of times over a lifetime.
How did they blanket the Austin market? Acquisitions.
But in all of that gobbling, the company does something unconventional: It keeps most of the stores open.
He says Mattress Firms strategy in the market is simple.
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Is It Okay To Buy A Floor Model Mattress
Its not uncommon for a mattress store to sell their floor models at a discounted price as they clear out old stock. A floor model mattress can be a good way to obtain a high-quality mattress at a bargain price. Theyre often no more than gently used, as customers tend to only lie on them for a few minutes at a time.
Still, its smart to exercise caution and examine a floor model mattress thoroughly before you purchase it. You should also double-check if your mattress will include a return policy or a full warranty. If the bed lacks either of these, it might not be as great a deal as it seems.
If you choose a floor model mattress, its a smart idea to encase the mattress in a bedbug-proof mattress protector before you bring it home. Leave the mattress protector on for a full year before you take it off, to ensure anything that might have traveled home in your mattress has died off.
Mattress Firm Probably Wasnt Laundering Money But They Werent Making Great Business Decisions
We know that because Mattress Firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which it emerged from quickly in Nov., 2018. The company had poured money into branding over the previous decades, taking over many of its competitors and opening new locations nationwide.
In 2014, online mattress retailers emerged, taking a huge bite out of Mattress Firms market share. The company couldnt adapt quickly, as it relied on brick-and-mortar locations to shore up its bottom line, and many of those locations had costly leases. Mattress Firm also alleged that two former employees were getting kickbacks for signing those leases, which were much more expensive than necessary . That might help to explain why some Mattress Firms were located within miles of one another. The company simply made bad calls and encountered some alleged corporate fraud along the way.
But in 2016, a South African retail company called Steinhoff purchased Mattress Firm for $3.8 billion, more than twice the latter companys market price. Was this evidence of money laundering?
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How Does Mattress Shipping And Delivery Work
Mattress shipping and delivery depends on the vendor, the type of mattress, and sometimes, the cost of the mattress. In general, a mattress can be delivered to your house in one of three ways.
Ground shippingMany mattress retailers prefer ground shipping because it is the cheapest. If they can ship it cheaper, then they can pass off additional savings to you, the customer. Factory-direct retailers strive to specially package their mattresses for shipping via UPS or FedEx. They use machines to compress air out of the mattress and compact it into smaller boxes for shipping. This is especially true of memory foam mattresses. DeliveryMattress can also be delivered by an actual delivery team, often referred to as white glove delivery. These will be from your local mattress store or via a third-party delivery team. This type of large parcel delivery is convenient because the company is often able to remove your old mattress for a small fee. Self DeliveryEven if you shop at a local furniture or mattress store near your home, chances are they wont be able to deliver your mattress for one to seven days. If you want it immediately, you can take it home yourself. You may need to sign some kind of liability paperwork stating that if it gets damaged on the way home, it isnt covered by the warranty.
Downsides Of Buying In
The most significant downsides to buying in-store include:
- More limited selection: Even in a huge showroom, youre only seeing a slice of the actual mattresses on the market. To see more options, you may need to go to different stores, which takes more time and energy.
- Misleading minutes: Lying down on a mattress for just a few minutes can be deceptive. You often cannot get a true sense of the comfort and support of a mattress until youve spent several hours, or in some cases, several nights, using it.
- Sales pressure: Salespeople, especially if they are paid on commission, may try to push you toward a purchase. Many people feel uncomfortable shopping in this type of environment.
- More restrictive return policies: Sleep trials are the norm online, but many brick-and-mortar stores have more limited return policies that charge significant restocking fees.
- Harder to get the best deal: Sales are common in brick-and-mortar stores, but the best values are often only offered during limited times, such as around holidays. If youre not shopping during those windows, you likely will need to do some effective bargaining, which not all shoppers are comfortable doing.
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Making Your Mattress Feel At Home
Mattresses usually arrive a few days to a week after an order is placed. Although the cartons are compact , they can be heavy, ranging from 60 to 150 pounds, and difficult for someone to wrangle alone.
Shipping is often free, but for an additional fee almost all these companies offer white-glove delivery, similar to the services offered by a traditional retailer. Casper charges $75 to $100 to move a mattress into a bedroom and set it up, and an additional $50 to remove the old one.
A mattress-in-a-box, which is usually foam, is compressed and rolled or folded before shipping. If youre setting it up yourself, follow the steps outlined by the manufacturer. If you bought a bed frame or platform, put that together first.
Because it can be heavy and unwieldy when fully open, the mattress should always be taken to the bedroom where it will be used while its still in the box. Once you take it out of the box, Regan says, put it on your box spring or platform before removing the plastic.
Some will be wrapped in multiple layers of plastic others have only one, Regan adds. You can use scissors or a knife to open them, but take care not to puncture the mattress.
Once the wrapping is removed, the mattress regains the volume that was lost when compressed for shipment. It can take a few minutes to a few hours for it to regain its full shape.