Published on: February 14, 2018by Kate McMahon
“I’m so sorry we are unable to show you that mattress right now. Someone is napping on it.”
– A cheerful Casper sales representative
Yes, you read that right. Napping. It is rare that I am rendered speechless while shopping, but I certainly was that afternoon at the Casper retail store in a suburban mall.
My 22-year-old daughter was interested in purchasing an online Casper bed-in-a-box mattress for her first apartment. It was well-reviewed by her friends, but I was more than skeptical. A bed in a box? I insisted we drive 45 minutes to a Casper showroom and really get a feel for the product before hitting click online.
What we failed to do was schedule an appointment for a 30-minute in-store test nap behind a heavy curtain. Who knew?
When we asked if there might be another opportunity to see the mattress and foundation, the sales rep said to come back in 20 minutes and hopefully get in before the next scheduled napper. We returned, we tested the mattress, and we purchased.
If you had told me five years ago I would actually buy a bed in a box online, and put the frame, foundation and mattress together with my daughter, I would have been – yes - speechless.
Casper is but one of the bed-in-a-box brands disrupting the mattress industry. In 2007, a Tennessee machinist named Bill Bradley designed and built the first bed-in-a-box and trademarked the name. But it wasn’t until 2014 – when Casper launched and was joined by competitors Tuft & Needle and Leesa – that the online boxed beds picked up momentum. Scores of start-ups such as Purple, Ghostbed and WinkBeds are increasing the pressure on traditional heavyweights Mattress Firm, 1-800-Mattress and department stores.
According to the trade publication Furniture Today, direct-to-consumer mattress companies now make up 12% of the market, up from 6% in 2014. (Amazon, of course, is the No.1 e-commerce mattress seller.) The boxed products have earned positive buzz on social media and also from the extensive testing lab at Consumer Reports, which found that several brands perform at a level of Good to Excellent for sleepers of every body size and sleeping style.
Most of the boxed mattresses are made of compressed foam that springs into shape once the plastic wrapping is removed. The size of our Casper box was manageable, but the weight (92 pounds for a queen-size mattress) was the challenge and required two of us. The price, including free delivery, was comparable to a middle-of-the-line name brand mattress from a brick-and-mortar store. (Casper offers “white-glove delivery” including set-up for an additional $75).
For skeptics like me, Casper has opened 18 showrooms across the country and has a twin size sample of its most affordable mattress – the Essential – on display at select Target stores. (Targets also sells Casper bedding and accessories online and at most stores, and invested $75 million in the brand last year.) Leesa mattresses can now be found at some 80 West Elm furniture stores.
Almost all of the brands offer liberal trial periods – up to 100 days – with a full refund. Some will arrange for the rejected mattress to be picked up or donated to charity. Consumer Reports cited data showing 7% of bed-in-a-box purchases are returned, compared to 2.2% returned at Mattress Firm.
What’s the takeaway here? Clearly, this is a dynamic category, with Casper and Tuft & Needle showing huge revenue growth and competitors coming up with new innovations almost daily.
I recently received a news release with the following headline: “Sleepiphany Unveils a Mattress that Disrupts Bed-in-Box Category.” The mattress features five different layers – each with its own feel and function – that consumers can adjust and combine to reach a desired “responsive sleep system.” The company promises “hundreds of possibilities” and even “dual-sided adjustability” so partners can choose their comfort level.
I think it’s a safe bet that companies caught napping amid the changing technology and marketing in this category - like pretty much every category - will understand the true meaning of “you snooze, you lose.”
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