25 May 2024, 12:03
By Furniture News Dec 22, 2016

Retailer panel: The bed in a box (February)

From the momentous decision to exit the EU to Trump’s victory, the year has been full of surprises. With the help of a panel of seasoned retailers, Furniture News looks at some of the most notable developments and their likely impact on the furniture industry …

Keeping up with every story published on the busy Furniture News website is hard work, but several stand out – either for their shock value or wider ramifications. For the purposes of our retrospective, Furniture News co-ordinated a panel of established furniture retailers to offer responses to a selected headline item from each month: Ross Beveridge, Archers Sleepcentre (RB); Mike Murray, Land of Beds (MM); Royce Clark, Grampian Furnishers (RC); Daniel Wade,

Feather & Black (DW); and Steve Pickering, Sussex Beds (SP). A number of anonymous contributions were also made.

In February, Bed-in-a-box manufacturer Simba strikes a deal to sell its products through selected John Lewis stores. Simba secured a second investment round in October, and reports that it is now ahead of US rivals Eve and Casper in the UK.

Is the mattress-in-a-box trend here to stay? Does the approach of these companies represent a change in the way beds are marketed in general? What are your thoughts on these new investor-funded brands?

SP: The emergence and rise of mattress-in-box suppliers is simply an evolution and maturing of the online mattress trader. The traditional online bed/mattress directory business model is becoming less and less viable as margins are squeezed and traffic generation costs increase.

Trading online therefore has to evolve, and the mattress-in-box is a move towards this – but with more and more joining this direction, it will quickly become very crowded, and as saturation point is reached an adjustment will take place where the stronger will take market share and weaker will disappear.

As to disruption of traditional mattress retailing, this will be minimal, and nothing compared to the original directory emergence of online trading.

MM: Purchasing and receiving your mattress has never been easier, thanks to the convenience of bed-in-a-box. It’s a trend that’s here to stay, with savvy manufacturers and retailers all finding ways to make it work for them and launching their own versions (including Land of Beds).

The phenomenon has definitely changed the way beds are marketed in general. Paring down the scope of choice, focusing on lifestyle as a key selling point and utilising social media are all approaches that can be transferred to more traditional beds and mattresses.

We welcome the new investor-funded brands, which ensure our industry is constantly evolving – developing new products and better meeting the needs of consumers. It’s an exciting time to be in the sleep business.

DW: The mattress-in-a-box trend has been driven by a number of new demands the market has displayed in the last 12-18 months. A number of brands in our sector are now reacting and going out with their own products to try and opportunistically take advantage of this emerging market.

At Feather & Black, we don’t believe a one-size-fits-all solution works in the mattress market. However, we will be launching our own mattress-in-a-box product shortly, which will be available within 48 hours when ordered online, or to take away immediately from our stores.

Our own product, however, is a result of us reacting to our customers’ clear desire for a more convenient mattress solution, rather than a move designed to simply follow a trend. Ultimately, we expect mattress-in-a-box to be something of a short-term fad rather than a moment that marks a massive change in the future of how mattresses are marketed by brands or purchased by consumers.

Our imminent entrance into this space is tied to our long-term strategy of always listening to what our own customers want, rather than seeking to belatedly enter a battle that only one brand can realistically win.

RB: I do not think that the mattress-in-a-box trend will stand the test of time. I personally feel that to suggest there is one mattress for everyone is an insult to the industry.

For a mattress to provide support is only one important element of the buying process. Customer preferences in terms of feel – from soft to extra firm – simply cannot be satisfied by one mattress. I think consumers will always have a desire to try to buy mattresses with varied spring and filling types.

This seems much more like a fad to me, which, like all fads, will eventually fade away.

RC: I definitely think the mattress-in-a-box is here to stay. The quality of them now is night-and-day compared to those from 10 years ago. With the need for shopping to become more convenient, and the relentless push towards instant delivery by Amazon and Argos, many customers will take the risk that what they are buying will suit their needs – if it doesn’t, it can be sent back anyway, so the risk is minimised, and at that point they may decide to visit a physical store!

I’m all for crowdfunded and angel-backed enterprises. I’m involved in the Angels’ Den myself, so think it is a great way to launch a product/company/brand. The pace at which Simba have managed to gain market share has been frightening, but I suspect there will be many more entering our market in this way.

Explore the panel's responses to various events throughout 2016 in the year in review article published across the December and January issues of Furniture News.

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