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Why Do So Many Mattress Companies Exist?

By Jeff Frank

The proliferation of mattress brands is a fairly new phenomenon.

Unlike furniture brands, which have dramatically declined in the U.S. over the past 30 years, mattress brands have increased exponentially during that same period.

  • Currently there are over 100 significant mattress brands available in the U.S. and over 300 brands including second tier producers.
  • Several major retailers, including IKEA, Ashley, Amazon and Bob’s Furniture produce their own bedding lines.

Prior to 1990 mattress sales were dominated by the big “S” brands. These consisted of Sealy, Serta, Simmons, Spring Air and Stearns & Foster.

  • A few other second tier brands included King Koil and Restonic.
  • Other than the few major national brands there were hundreds of small local brands which serviced very limited geographic areas.

The national brands were primarily franchisers. Numerous licensed manufacturing facilities were scattered nationwide to service local and regional retailers.

  • This was considered more cost effective from a logistics viewpoint than shipping mattresses over a long distance from a single huge central production point.

The major brands set up franchised manufacturing facilities near as many population concentrations as possible. This had several benefits:

  • Mattresses could be manufactured and shipped very quickly within a limited geographic area, often within a week or less.
  • Limiting geographic distribution areas reduced transportation costs.
  • It was generally understood that mattress franchises sharing a brand would not ship to customers located in a region serviced by a different franchisee.
  • Occasionally this “understanding” would be tested when a licensee would attempt to “poach” particularly large customers.
  • Purchasing from local mattress manufacturers allowed smaller retailers to maintain limited inventories. This reduced warehousing costs, increased cash flow and maximized ROI (Return on Investment.)

Each franchisee would be required to offer the brand’s national lineup (e.g. Sealy Posturepedic, Serta Perfect Sleeper, Simmons Beautyrest, etc.)

  • These national lines had strict specifications dictated by the brand.
  • Discounting these top of the line models was forbidden.
  • Periodically, special limited versions of the national lines would be created only for major sales and promotions.
  • “Special edition” Posturepedics or Perfect Sleepers or Beautyrests could be sold at lower prices than the fixed National lines, although the amount of discount was often limited (or specified by the national brand.)

Other than the national lines, franchisees were free to create their own lower priced brand name mattress models with individual retailers.

  • Retailers could choose from an assortment of standard specifications. To avoid direct competition, retailers were allowed to choose exclusive fabric tickings and labels that would not be sold to any nearby competitors.
  • Exclusive mattress models were purchased with custom labels that included suggested retail pricing. These “suggested” prices left plenty of room for deep discounting.
  • Retailers could also create their own unique models with their own specifications, ticking fabric and labels. This was often done for special sales where very deep discounts were offered.
  • Retailers could create labels that listed whatever suggested pricing they wanted to display. There was no requirement (in most states) that the mattresses actually had to sell at those prices.

Many of the practices listed above are still in use, although there are some changes due to the elimination of most small mattress retailers, changes in consumer laws, the introduction of online sales and improvements in modern warehouse and shipping logistics.

The mattress industry began going through major changes in the 1990s.

  • Part of this was the introduction of new technologies, including memory foams, first introduced on a major scale by Tempur-Pedic.
  • Many new companies subsequently appeared touting new variations of memory foam and hybrid foam and coil mattresses.
  • During this same period another new technology, Sleep number mattresses were introduced by Sleep Comfort. The company became one of the largest U.S. mattress companies, formally changing its name to Sleep Number Corporation in 2017.

Another major industry change occured in 2014 when Casper introduced the first commercially successful bed-in-a-box product line.

  • Tuft & Needle soon followed and was in turn followed by dozens of new competitors.
  • The Bed in a Box concept started with the invention of a machine that could compress and roll foam mattresses to fit in small boxes that can be shipped inexpensively direct to the customer’s residence.
  • For the first time small mattress companies could produce, sell and ship their products direct to the homes of their customers.

The new Bed in a Box technology fit perfectly with the growth of ecommerce and advances in improved warehouse and shipping logistics.

  • Mattresses can now be produced in a single location and shipped nationwide quickly and inexpensively using FedEx and UPS or other low cost shippers.
  • Dozens of smaller companies seized the opportunity to go after smaller specialty bedding niche markets that had been ignored or overlooked by the major bedding producers.

There are now so many mattress brands available that it can be extremely confusing comparing the different brands.
Tuck Sleep | Sleep Product Reviews and Health Information is a comprehensive website devoted to all matters pertaining to sleep, including mattresses.
This website rates and explains nearly ever possible mattress type and specialty. It also provides independent reviews over 100 different mattress brands.

  • Long ago I was a buyer for a major retail furniture chain for 6 years. As a buyer I purchased approximately $5 million of mattresses annually.
  • I have no connection with Tuck.com.

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