Sleep, delivered. Manufacturers meet consumers’ desire for easily shipped mattresses
BY GARY JAMES
Casper and the dozens of other dot-com startups that have arrived on the scene in the past two years, an increasing number of bedding manufacturers are rolling out or ramping up programs designed to serve consumers’ growing desire to purchase mattresses that can be delivered—or taken home—in a box.
Beginning in 2015, a ballooning number of vendors introduced beds that ship compressed, folded and rolled. Most boxed beds are packaged to conform to standards set by small parcel carriers such as UPS and FedEx, and can thus be shipped to the consumer at little cost. Enso Sleep Systems, Gold Bond, King Koil, Organic Mattresses Inc., Restonic, Rush Mattress, Soft-Tex, Therapedic International, Wolf Mattress Corp. and many others recently began offering a boxed-bed option. They join the ranks of established players, such as Boyd Specialty Sleep, Innocor Comfort, Naturepedic and South Bay International, which continue to expand their boxed-bed presence.
Major manufacturers, too, such as Serta Simmons, Sleep Number and Tempur Sealy International, are on board with a boxed offering meant to be sold either in-store or online. And category pioneer BedInABox.com continues in the business, selling direct via its website and distributing to a range of retail partners.
“The model of distribution for sleep products is changing rapidly,” says Jerry Epperson, managing director of Richmond, Virginia-based investment banking firm Mann, Armistead & Epperson Ltd., about the trend. “In the past, the consumer would walk into a store, make a purchase and arrange for delivery. Now, they can conduct the entire transaction at home in their pajamas using a computer or phone. They never have to even enter a store, and the mattress will arrive at their doorstep in just a few days.”
Consumers who don’t mind getting dressed and going outside can drive to a mattress store, do a rest-test, and fit their purchase neatly into the trunk of their car.
The importance of ‘take with’—too
Brick-and-mortar store shoppers are who Soft-Tex had in mind when it developed DreamSmart. Known for its strong presence with sleep accessories in the big-box store channel, Soft-Tex developed a line of compressed, boxed mattresses to help furniture stores and specialty sleep shops better compete with online merchants. The program, which started to ship in August, includes two tiers of products—a “take with” value solution and a luxury lineup.
“Most of our retail partners are looking for an e-commerce-friendly mattress so they can be in the game with the business-to-consumer companies like Casper, Yogabed, Saatva and Luxi,” says John Timmerman, director of mattress and e-commerce sales for Mooresville, North Carolina-based Soft-Tex.
The value segment of the DreamSmart line includes five models with thicknesses ranging from 6 inches to 10 inches. Priced at $799 for a queen, these products are aimed at consumers who would like to take their new mattress home with them. The luxury lineup, also compressed and packaged in a box, features two 12-inch mattresses with a “cooling” panel fabric.
For larger retailers who want more personalized branding, Soft-Tex also offers a custom product “where they can design products with unique fabrics, feels and even retail packaging,” Timmerman adds.
DreamSmart ships to retailers on a container, less-than-truckload or common carrier basis. With a minimum floor plan commitment, Soft-Tex will drop-ship the product directly to the retailer’s customers.
“We’re trying to give furniture retailers a solution to keep their business from eroding,” Timmerman says. “There’s a certain group of consumers, particularly millennials, who are more interested in value and instant gratification than they are in finding the very best product.”
Rush Mattress, a small bedding supplier based in High Point, North Carolina, launched a mattress-in-a-box at the city’s October furniture market. Called GameChanger, the program features 90 SKUs of shippable sleep products, including memory foam and memory gel mattresses. According to Chief Executive Officer Mike Rush, the products feature a proprietary Let It Breathe construction that enables beds to decompress in less than a minute after being removed from the box.
Rush expects the line to be popular for both e-commerce and in-store programs, particularly special promotions such as back-to-school sales.
“We expect to entice some new types of retailers to try this line as a cash-and-carry item,” he says. “In addition, this program will enable traditional bedding stores that don’t sell mattresses online to enter this huge, fast-growing market.”
Denny Boyd, president of St. Louis-based Boyd Specialty Sleep, agrees that retailers “need to wake up and address this new threat by being proactive and expanding the range of options they offer.”
On being buzzworthy
At this month’s Winter Las Vegas Market, Boyd is introducing new marketing tools for retailers to help promote Boyd’s boxed My Mattress Now direct-ship program, which launched in 2014. These include ad slicks, radio and TV spots, and online marketing support.
The customer base that brick-and-mortar retailers most risk losing by not having a mattress-in-a-box program is millennials, vendors say.
According to a recent study by Stifel, a St. Louis-based investment banking firm, 27% of millennials currently in the market for a new mattress say they’d rather buy online than in a store. To put the power and influence of this generation in perspective, there are 80 million millennials in America, representing about a fourth of the entire population, with $200 billion in annual buying power, according to a January 2015 feature at Forbes.com.
“Many of these customers will go to one of the new startups,” Boyd says. “But there’s no reason why furniture and bedding stores shouldn’t be the ones capturing this business. They can offer a better product at a lower price and the fact that they have an actual store means that consumers can come in and try the mattress before they buy.”
My Mattress Now allows retailers to drop-ship mattresses directly to consumers’ homes with an upcharge of $20 per order. Most orders are shipped same-day via UPS and FedEx from Boyd’s deep stock of inventory at its 60,000-square-foot warehouse in St. Louis or its 320,000-square-foot facility in Los Angeles. Products reach consumers in one to four days.
Designed for specialty sleep shops and furniture stores, My Mattress Now requires retailers to carry at least one Boyd Specialty Sleep mattress on their floor in order to participate. The program is not available to Internet-only retailers. To support each sale, Boyd offers a toll-free number backed by a large staff of knowledgeable customer service specialists.
All of the buzz generated by those dot-com mattress startups has its benefits, says Gary Reach, vice president of marketing at Innocor Inc., which manufactures and markets mattresses, pillows and mattress toppers through its Innocor Comfort division in West Long Branch, New Jersey. “It has built a higher level of awareness among consumers and generated excitement both in the industry and with the public, creating new opportunities to build our business.”
One of the first producers to introduce a mattress-in-a-box nearly 10 years ago, Sleep Innovations merged with polyurethane foam manufacturer Flexible Foam Products in 2014 to become Innocor Inc.
Today, its Innocor Comfort division sells sleep products through a “who’s who” of leading big-box chains, including Kmart, Macy’s, Sam’s Club, Sears and Target. The company’s mattress brands include Novaform, sold exclusively through Costco, and Sleep Innovations, an Amazon program. The company also provides boxed-beds under the Serta license.
“These are fantastic products but, for a long time, consumers were skeptical,” Reach says. “Shoppers would see a mattress in a box in one of the warehouse clubs and be nervous about its quality. But Casper, Tuft & Needle, Leesa and others have come into the marketplace with a lot of funding behind them, and that’s changing the game. They’ve brought a new legitimacy to the category that is benefitting everyone who offers this type of product.
“But, when it comes to a mattress, one size definitely does not fit all. Similarly, not all foams are equally compressible. We do a lot of testing to determine what types of foams and constructions work best when squeezed into a box.”
When it comes to returns, Innocor Comfort maintains a customer service team to handle consumer questions and, if a return is necessary, expedites that process based on the policies of its retailers.
Fontana, California-based South Bay International, known for its private-label programs, has been providing boxed mattresses to retailers since 2007. Today, it offers more than a dozen different boxed-bed models under the Blissful Nights brand. Offerings include a range of step-up products with “distinct features and benefits,” says CEO Daniella Serven. Bed profiles run up to 14.5 inches, with a latex component of no more than 2 inches, for optimal recovery, she adds.
“We’re constantly looking at ways to get our products into the smallest box possible,” Serven says. “But it’s equally important to make sure our products recover properly when un-boxed. The two goals go hand-in-hand.”
For e-commerce retailers, South Bay offers two types of delivery: drop-ship for individual mattress orders and white-glove for adjustable bases and base-bed combinations. South Bay uses FedEx for drop-ship deliveries and a white-glove logistics partner with warehousing capabilities for in-home service.
“With our white-glove service, where beds are carried into the home and set up rather than simply dropped off at the threshold, we call each consumer ahead of time to confirm the delivery process,” Serven says.
At that point, South Bay or its retailer’s customer service agent will confirm the size and features of the product. “It’s a scripted call to make sure that if the customer has clicked ‘king size’ when placing their order, that king is really what they want.”
A similar discussion takes place if a consumer is unhappy with the bed once it arrives. “If they need to return a mattress because it’s too firm or too soft, we’ll arrange for a swap. Our goal is to save the sale and keep the customer, even if it means sending out a new bed.” In that case, the discarded mattress is either donated or destroyed, Serven says.
Therapedic International’s new EcoGel Flex boxed-bed program, “test marketed to promising reviews” in August, is being formally launched this month at the Las Vegas Market, says Gerry Borreggine, president and CEO of the Princeton, New Jersey-based licensing group. “It’s the crème de la crème of bed-in-a-box programs; all models feature a high-density gel memory foam layered with high-resiliency transition and base foams.”
Beds are floored on an adjustable base and consumers rest-test and order both base and mattress from the retailer, which in turn will schedule a white-glove delivery, including set-up and removal of old bedding. The pieces ship directly from a manufacturer’s fulfillment center to the consumer.
Since the retailer never has to touch the product, this approach will cut down on damage and returns, Borreggine says. “The fewer times you have to handle a heavy product like this, the less chance there is that something will go wrong. Shipping direct makes the delivery process much simpler and easier to execute for retailers.”
The “white glove to your bedroom” delivery will be included in the price of the mattress/base set. Retail prices run from $1,999 to $3,999, depending on the model.
According to Borreggine, higher resiliency foams recover much faster when unboxed than lower quality models. To confirm EcoGel Flex’s level of performance, the beds underwent more than 200,000 cycles on a Rollator machine, as well as Cornell testing.
While millennials have been the typical target of mattress-in-a-box programs, EcoGel Flex is designed to appeal to a different demographic, Borreggine says. “We’re aiming for an older, well-heeled consumer who is willing to pay for the quality of the product and the convenience of the store-to-bedroom service.”
The online-only Dream Bed
On the retail side, a new offering from brick-and-mortar retailer Mattress Firm, The Dream Bed, is available online only, and includes two models—the Original memory foam model, priced at $829 for a queen, and the $999 Dream Bed Cool. Backed by a “180 Day No Night-mare Guarantee,” The Dream Bed is delivered to most U.S. cities within two business days.
Mattress Firm’s website describes the convenience of the direct-delivery and setup process this way: “(The Dream Bed) is shipped in our unique pack and roll box, which allows for easy mobility and transport. Just put the box where you want your bed, place the mattress on the solid surface you have chosen you want your bed to live, and watch your bed unroll and fully expand.”
The result: “A wildly comfortable bed at a great value that can be ordered online and shipped quickly,” said Ken Murphy, president of Houston-based Mattress Firm, in a statement at the time of the line’s launch.
Stop, drop and roll-pack
As demand for boxed beds grows, demand also has exploded for fast, efficient mattress compression and roll-packing machinery. These machines perform a range of rapid maneuvers—some fold, some don’t—compressing, squeezing and rolling mattresses to fit compact boxes, without damaging bed components.
In the machinery halls at Interzum Cologne 2015, every bedding maker had roll-pack machinery on its wish list. And there was much to see from exhibitors such as Atlanta Attachment Co. Inc., based in Lawrenceville, Georgia; Dolphin Pack, with headquarters in Affi, Italy; Gruppo Grassi, based in Montemurlo, Italy; Leggett & Platt’s Global Systems Group, based in Carthage, Missouri; and Sala Macchine Speciali Srl, based in Serengo, Italy.
“Compression and roll packing are changing the way bedding companies compete in e-commerce,” says Joe Van De Hey, founder and chief executive officer of C3 Corp., headquartered in Appleton, Wisconsin. “With today’s new equipment, producers can place a quality mattress into a compact package and ship it directly to the consumers within a matter of days.”
The growing demand for boxed beds has led Leggett & Platt’s Global Systems Group to develop new machines to help producers serve this market. The company’s Teknomac Roll Pack line includes the TK381/1 model, a flexible, multipurpose machine. The TK381/1 performs four different functions, allowing customers to compress and roll-pack mattresses; wrap and compress mattresses into the flattest potential thickness; wrap mattresses in an uncompressed state; or wrap mattresses with partial compression. The high-speed unit can roll up to three foam or innerspring mattresses per minute.
In addition, GSG has introduced a work cell to help companies sew their own mattress covers rather than sending them out to a contract cut-and-sew contractor. Three machines—the Heavy Duty Porter Zip Cutter, the POM-500 Edge Closer and the NC1199-1 Long Arm Zipper Sewing Workstation—allow mattress makers to create the sewn cover looks popular on all-foam, boxed beds.
“The market shift toward the mattress-in-a-box style of bedding has created an opportunity for product developers and marketers to think ‘outside the box’ and get involved in markets far beyond their normal geographic limitations,” says Paul Block, vice president of sales strategy and product planning for GSG. “Many of GSG’s machines are beneficial to mattress manufacturers, whether they’re pure mattress-in-a-box providers or not, so many of our products have already been experiencing good demand. However, we are getting even more inquiries from products with this very purpose in mind.”
According to Block, there are some important steps that need to be taken when setting up this type of program.
“Producers need to be very careful to choose the proper materials that will recover to uncompressed standards,” he says. “They need to choose fabrics for their covers that will recover from compression to a smooth, unwrinkled state. And they need to choose fill materials that will reset to their original sizing tolerances after compression.”
Block recommends that customers considering boxed-bed products visit the GSG’s state-of-the-art testing facility at its headquarters. “It is equipped with our line of machinery so we can do exacting tests to determine material performance and find the right combinations of materials that should be used.”
Block adds that the types of mattress construction that lend themselves to boxed bed construction include foam core, pocketed coil, foam-encased pocketed coil and the new L&P Quantum Edge Steel Perimeter Units.
Atlanta Attachment’s line includes the 1390HCA machine, which can compress, roll and wrap up to three mattresses per minute for e-commerce shipping. The machine’s features include variable compression height settings, a built-in roll holder and a patented serial bus control system. The 1390HCA can be used to automatically wrap with conventional bagging or compress with optional turn, fold and roll-pack modules.
“Keeping up with changes in market conditions and providing solutions is what Atlanta Attachment Co. Inc. does for our customers,” says Hank Little, president. “Mattress-in-a-box technology is good for the e-commerce market, but also benefits traditional brick-and-mortar locations by reducing both the storage and shipping costs of mattresses.”
To help manufacturers meet growing demand for boxed beds, C3 offers three machines: the patent-pending CWU2000, which laterally and vertically compresses and rolls foam mattresses to fit in a box without a fold; RCR 1000, which rolls foam mattresses to length; and CF1596, a new machine designed for use with spring, coil and foam mattresses that folds and rolls.
Previewed at an event held at C3 headquarters in November, the CF1596 is a compression roll-packing machine with auto bagger, roll-to-length and fold-and-roll capabilities. By compressing before the fold, coil beds without border wire “will now be able to compete in the e-commerce market space,” Van De Hey says.
With foam beds, C3 machines can generally get a queen- or king-size mattress to fit in a 19 x 19 x 44 or 20 x 20 x 40 box—the “sweet spot” for obtaining the best shipping rates, he adds.
Van De Hey says that lower density foams of 1.5 or less can sometimes cause problems with recovery. “The lighter foams may experience ‘compression set,’ where they don’t completely recover. We’re seeing a number of producers move to 1.5-, 1.8- or even 2-pound densities, because they hold up better under pressure.”
With any mattress, the less time a product spends in the box, the more successful the recovery is, he says. “Certain foams can’t handle compression very long. It’s best to ship them out to the consumer quickly and not have them sit in a warehouse month after month.”
Because performance may vary from model to model, C3 encourages customers—and prospective customers—to bring their mattresses to the company’s Wisconsin facility for testing. “Anyone who wants to test a mattress can come in and try out our machines,” he says. ■