With sales up significantly on pre-pandemic comparatives, Simba Sleep continues to make good headway in a competitive marketplace. Here, co-founder and CEO Steve Reid takes stock of the latest developments, from intelligent bedding to sustainable certification …
What’s keeping you busy right now?
There is a lot of buzz in the business right now. The last couple of years, during the pandemic, have been really productive for Simba, both in terms of product launches and our culture. We’ve refined all of our working practices, and introduced flexible working for everyone and a new ‘work from anywhere’ policy.
During that time we’ve also managed to complete a full Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the carbon footprint of all products in the UK, France, Canada and China, and now have 100% traceability and auditing of our most immediate, Tier 1 supply chain. Product-wise, there’s also lots simmering – the development pipeline is really strong this year. More on that later though!
Have there been any key developments in Simba’s directions this year?
On top of our B Corp submission, we have recently launched into Spain after cementing solid footings in the UK, France, Canada and China.
It’s not so much a development in direction as such, but we have spent a lot of time in Q2 galvanising our mission to improve the health of every Simba user, and what that looks like. So, I’m working closely with our teams to drive this forward in all areas of the business.
How are Simba’s sales panning out so far this year?
As has been widely referenced, the rise in living costs has sparked a correction in consumer confidence across retail as a whole. People are (rightly) weighing up bigger-ticket purchases – but we are fortunate at Simba that we have been really resilient to that downturn. Against pre-pandemic normalised trading, sales are significantly up – near triple-digit percent – and we’re continuing to trade with healthy profitability in the UK. That’s not to say it’s not a challenging market … but we believe we are navigating it very well compared to some.
Our positions internationally have also given us the confidence to branch out further.
The consumer appetite for accessories remains strong. We’ve been tracking inflation for the past 18 months, and with that in mind, we consciously pressed ahead with two key developments in this space and broadened our essentials offering.
Can you outline the latest product developments?
Just this week we’ve gone live with our new Hybrid 3-in-1 duvet – a flexible, four-season design, with our climate control technology Stratos. Designed from recycled PET bottles, it’s brimming with something called Simba Renew, a deluxe, featherlight filling that is 100% Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certified – a voluntary product standard for tracking and verifying the contents of recycled materials
We are also debuting a new versatile and sustainable Hybrid Firm Pillow which includes a layer of our patented Aerocoil springs, which you can configure in five different ways to suit your sleep style and preferred level of support.
In keeping with Simba’s ambitious sustainability strategy to be net zero by 2030, both products are made with innovative recycled and natural materials from verified sources.
When we spoke last year, you mentioned Simba’s “robust operating model” – can you give me an example of how you’re weathering the current downturn better than others might be?
We continue to provide category-challenging products that actually deliver a better night’s sleep. A huge part of our business is recommendation – 90% of customers have referred friends or family.
There is no room for settling in the sleep business. In order to have the greatest impact on and improve people’s health, you have to strive to engineer products that solve the 21st century problems that disrupt sleep. We are always optimising our marketing channels and creatives, and thinking ‘what next’.
We’ve also just launched an entry-price mattress – the Simba Hybrid Essential – to give people even more options.
We’re celebrating British-made product in this month’s issue. Is domestic production a strong selling point for Simba, or simply the sensible thing to do?
It’s both. Manufacturing in the country of distribution makes sustainable sense. We are blessed in the UK with some (if not the majority) of the most experienced mattress and sleep tech manufacturers in the world. Our springs are made in Leeds by expert craftspeople, which is only a fairly short hop (in terms of a global supply chain) to our brilliant extended team at our mattress factory in Ashton-under-Lyne.
For our UK consumers it’s a selling point of trust and reassurance. The same rings true in France, China and Canada though, which is why we also manufacture locally in each territory.
How close are you to achieving your goal of becoming B Corp certified?
We made the submission at the end of February 2022 with a score of 95.4. To give you context, a company requires a score of over 80 to be eligible to submit, so we’re very proud of where we’re at so far.
We are living and breathing the B Corp values day in day out whilst we await certification. Timings wise … it can take up to 12 months from submission at the moment. We’ve now completed the evaluation stage and have entered the verification queue. Once they greenlight this, we will be audited on our submission and then hopefully onto certification.
Can you comment on the broader evolution of the bed-in-a-box movement in general? Where does Simba sit in this marketplace right now?
Like anything, there is a fervour with something new and novel, and bed-in-a-box offerings absolutely rode that wave in 2016/17.
I think we knew very early on that once an unboxing is done, there has to be more meat to the bones to keep people interested, because any craze ultimately has a lifespan. We’ve always seen ourselves as so much more than a bed in a box – a box is just a planet-friendly form of delivery for us now, not an identification of who we are as a brand or business.
Six years on, we believe we have successfully navigated many choppy waters because we are offering products that are genuinely different, with proprietary technology, and we are as passionate as ever about our business and mission. Operationally, the business has matured significantly over the years too, thanks to some brilliant hires.
Simba’s purpose has always been clear – we’re here to engineer the perfect night’s sleep, for everyone. From the moment we founded the business and set about reinventing the mattress, we felt our mission could and should be so much more than selling the most comfortable (and innovative) mattresses – we knew we wanted to offer the world a greater service by democratising access to good-quality sleep.
Each year we learn and build. And there’s still so much more that we have planned to bring to the sector, which I look forward to sharing in the near future. Most of all, it’s our passion to make a difference that keeps the business moving forwards and at what we believe is the front of the field in many areas of the industry.