In what was another challenging year for big-ticket retailers, sleep tech firm Simba continued to buck the trend, taking market share with robust sales and driving an ambitious sustainability plan. Furniture News caught up with co-founder and CEO Steve Reid to discuss the strategy behind the brand’s ongoing success …

The war in Ukraine, rocketing energy prices, rising inflation and interest rates … 2022 was not an easy year for retail. How did this affect consumer demand for Simba’s products?

Consumer confidence fell in March, and remains subdued. At Simba, we’ve doubled our 2019 sales and have continued to trade profitably throughout 2022. Our sales are lapping well on 2021 – a record year for us – which demonstrates just how robust our business model and trading performance is.

The supply chain seems to pose continuous challenges for many. Have you experienced any issues?

We’ve seen rising costs in raw materials and, as the whole industry has found, foam has been trickier to source. Fortunately, as our production is based in the UK, and thanks to the quality of partners we have, we have managed to avoid much of the supply impact, and it hasn’t caused us any problems when it comes to fulfilling customer demand.

Last year saw both eve Sleep and Made.com crumble. How has Simba thrived, where others have faltered?

Staff, service, our unique product offer that won 50 awards last year, and, of course, strong industry partners. We aim to put customer experience first and give customers what they want – fast, three-day delivery, innovative products that deliver better sleep, and great customer experience. 

Our NPS, as a key business metric, remains at all-time highs, and we have an in-depth voice of the customer (VoC) programme, with 230,000 five-star reviews – the most of any mattress brand in the world – in addition to strong word of mouth. That’s plenty of real-world referrals from those who love our product. 

Our manufacturing and supply chain partners have stepped up to the plate to deliver for us and our customers throughout a challenging year, and for that we are very grateful.

In Q4, we were rated one of the top three best small retailers to work for, because we strive to motivate and retain our internal talent – our people are key to everything we do. We work with partners that place the same importance on people in their businesses. We also invest in brand awareness to remain at the forefront of peoples’ minds – we had 60% brand awareness from our 24-54 ABC1 audience, 3.5 billion TV impressions in 2022, and our digital channel setup remains market leading.

The rise in the cost of living is proving challenging for many – do you think retailers have a responsibility to help customers?

It’s about giving the customer responsible lending options. We’ve extended our payment options from 12 months to 48, and now offer responsible lending with Novuna Consumer Finance, with payment holiday options. We’ll never be the cheapest, because we won’t compromise on quality, but we have made a conscious effort to offer more affordable and accessible price points.

What were the biggest successes for Simba last year?

Our Pro and Luxe Hybrid mattresses still account for a high proportion of sales, with customers continuing to invest by trading up at our higher price points. Last year, we also introduced the GO (Green Organic) mattress as part of our drive for more sustainable sleep. 

Bundles continue to be extremely popular, as people seek the full sleep experience with the option to select the products they want specifically. We’re also making a success of newer marketing channels such as TikTok, opening up the potential of a great night’s sleep to a younger audience.

What’s happening in your overseas markets?

We just experienced a record performance in China, where we continue to expand our presence in spite of local Covid restrictions. Our partnership with [retailer] Sleep Country Canada continues to go from strength to strength, and we are delighted with our visibility across their stores. France remains a key market, and despite hardening market conditions there, we have maintained a robust growth trajectory.

How was trading during Q4?

It was very successful, but also very different to previous periods. Demand was more spread out across November and early December due to events like the World Cup – England versus USA coincided with Black Friday, for example. There was less online sleep product shopping, with lower search volumes from Google, and a more cautious approach from consumers who took longer to complete their purchases due to the well-publicised personal finance challenges.

Is sustainability still a priority for cash-strapped consumers?

Our ‘Health, People, Planet’ pillars put health, sustainability and people at the centre of everything we do, and sustainability is a key pillar – not because it’s popular, but because we have a moral responsibility to uphold it. That said, more consumers are making an informed choice with their sleep purchase. So, our mattresses are made in the UK, 100% recyclable, and we have a zero-to-landfill policy – all considerations at the point of purchase. 

Is there anything else in the pipeline for 2023?

This year, we’ll be adding new sustainable innovation to our mattress range, continuing to improve access to sleep education with the Simba Sleep app, and developing products that deliver a better night’s sleep across the board.