Lots of e-commerce boxed-bed brand introductions, Purple goes public, Casper and Leesa nab more funding, and more
BY BARBARA T. NELLES
E-commerce brands occupy a growing portion of bedding industry headlines. In fact, the BedTimes news desk is bombarded with news releases from just-launched, online-only bedding companies seeking coverage, as well as updates and product introductions from more established players. So much is happening so quickly that names like Casper, Leesa, Purple and Tuft & Needle have the ring of legacy brands. Interestingly, much of the news from established players involves evolving alliances with the brick-and-mortar retail world.
New kids on the web
Let’s begin with a handful of newcomers to the category—just a sampling of launches this year. The companies use different combinations of components, from latex to pocket springs, and each attempts to stand out from the pack and zero in on a specific attribute.
In mid-March, we heard from Medford, New York-based PangeaBed (PangeaBed.com). Its bed retails for $895 in queen. It includes a layer of copper-infused Talalay latex and copper-imbued ticking to make the claim that it offers healthier, cleaner sleep, as copper is said to be anti-bacterial. The PangeaBed also has a pretty, copper-colored border fabric and two tape-edges that give it traditional styling.
SleepOvation (Sleep-Ovation.com), based in East Hanover, New Jersey, offers a patented, innerspring “hi-tech mattress” that launches this month, following a Kickstarter campaign that successfully raised more than $10,000. The bed boasts a pocketed coil core “composed of hundreds of tiny mattresses that cradle every inch of your body,” according to the product description. Each pocket spring is topped with an individual, tall cube of foam. An advance purchase of the queen size is $875 at Kickstarter.
Using an online video, Zotto (ZottoSleep.com) takes you from the roll-pack machine to the consumer’s bedroom to show how quickly and easily the bed unboxes and returns to its original shape. Irvine, California-based Zotto prices its queen at $875 and says the bed offers the responsiveness and springiness of latex in an all-polyurethane foam model. The homepage promises you will “sleep with confidence” because the bed uses CertiPUR-US foams, and the company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
The new Puffy mattress (Puffy.com) launched in July and required four years of research and development, according to its website. Based in North Hollywood, California, it, too, touts the use of CertiPUR-US foams, is said to adapt to any sleep style and is priced slightly higher than other new launches at $950 in queen. (This is a sale price, according to the site. The mattress regularly retails for $1,150.)
In August, Cincinnati-based Spoon Sleep (SpoonSleep.com) launched. According to a story on Business Insider.com, the bed was created by Herman Fisher, an engineer and former executive for Sealy, to address “the shortcomings of today’s modern foam mattress.” The bed’s panel fabric is impervious to spills and stains but is said to be highly breathable. The mattress is described as conforming and good at preventing motion transfer, thanks to the individual “industrial-strength foam pillars” at its core.
The number of online bed linen brands is on the rise, too. To single out two, there is WickedSheets (WickedSheets.com), based in Louisville, Kentucky, a clever name as the synthetic sheets are said to be “moisture-wicking,” and Brooklinen (Brooklinen.com)—also a cute play on words, as the company really is based in Brooklyn, New York, and sells a complete line of sleep accessories.
Competition heats up
In news from more established industry players, in July, we witnessed Houston-based Mattress Firm (MattressFirm.com) go head-to-head with upstart Tuft & Needle (TuftAndNeedle.com) and its infamous “Mattress Stores Are Greedy” billboard campaign. The brick-and-mortar behemoth countered the Phoenix-based online upstart with an ad campaign peppered with the hashtag #dontget-boxedin. The fireworks included lots of contact on social media between the two. Ironically, Mattress Firm sells its own boxed brand, the Dream Bed—something Twitter critics were quick to point out—while Tuft & Needle operates three brick-and-mortar stores.
There are more stores in the offing, too. Tuft & Needle has announced plans to open 30 brick-and-mortar bedding stores by 2020, in partnership with e-commerce monolith Amazon (Amazon.com), which has headquarters in Seattle.
— Tuft & Needle (@TuftandNeedle) July 20, 2017
According to an Aug. 1 story in The Washington Post (owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos), Tuft & Needle has sold more than 500,000 foam mattresses since its founding in 2012 and gets about 25% of its sales through Amazon. While brick-and-mortar retailers “have for years tried to guard against ‘showrooming,’ in which shoppers scope out products in stores before buying them online on sites like Amazon.com (now) mattress start-up Tuft & Needle is embracing the practice—encouraging it, even—by linking its upcoming store to Amazon technology,” the Post reported.
The first Amazon-powered location is slated to open in October and will offer tablets so shoppers can read product reviews online at Amazon. The new store also will have “Alexa-powered Echo devices programmed to answer customer questions; QR codes to enable one-click purchasing through the Amazon app; and, eventually, the company hopes, the perk of two-hour delivery through Amazon’s Prime Now service, too,” according to technology news site Recode.
Media darling Casper (Casper.com), headquartered in New York, made more headlines when it raised $170 million in funding and hinted at an initial public offering, according to a June 18 article in The New York Times. The new investment was led by Minneapolis-based mass merchant Target, which began selling Casper products at select stores and on its website in June.
According to a June 19 Casper news release, in addition to various investment firms, high-profile celebrities and athletes joined the Series C funding round, including actor Kevin Spacey; rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson; basketball players Carmelo Anthony, Andre Iguodala and Kyrie Irving; and snowboarder and skateboarder Shaun White.
Since launching in April 2014, Casper says it earned $1 million in revenue in its first 28 days, earned $100 million in 2015 and doubled its annual revenue to more than $200 million in 2016.
Not to be outdone, on July 26, Leesa Sleep (Leesa.com), based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, announced it had raised $23 million in Series B funding, unveiled a new pillow and a “patriotic blanket,” and named John Replogle chair of the board. He also is chief executive officer of Seventh Generation. Leesa is a Certified B Corp., a for-profit, social or environmental benefit company that has met certain requirements outlined by the nonprofit B Lab. Leesa gives away one mattress for every 10 it sells and plants one tree for every mattress sold, in addition to other philanthropic activities.
Arguably the biggest happening among the industry’s e-commerce players in this news cycle is from Alpine, Utah-based Purple (OnPurple.com). After inventing the support layer now called Hyper-Elastic Polymer in 1996, engineers and brothers Terry and Tony Pearce (Purple’s principals) launched the Purple mattress in 2016. Thanks to a quirky video that quickly went viral, the pressure-relieving mattress with its “smart comfort grid” is a major online moneymaker. And, now, Purple is going public.
It merged with a publicly traded nonoperating company, Global Partner Acquisition Corp., and shares now are trading on the Nasdaq. Forbes described the deal as “a reverse merger, a private company like Purple can become public without doing an initial public offering.”
The Pearce brothers retain a majority shareholder position that Forbes estimates to be worth about $850 million, with a total company valuation of about $1.1 billion.
Purple, like many other established players in the online space, is “pursuing partnerships and opportunities to support its multichannel distribution strategy,” according to a news release. In May, the company announced plans to partner “with Mattress Firm and its parent company, Steinhoff, to prominently feature Purple’s products in select retail locations as a store-within-a-store.”
Stay tuned, folks.