What role does memory foam play in the current trend of boxable beds sold online and shipped by common commercial delivery services such as UPS and FedEx?
What is the boxable beds trend?
The current trend in the bedding industry is the manufacturing and delivery of boxable beds sold online. Also called bed-in-a-box and mattress-in-a-box, the mattresses are compressed, vacuum wrapped, rolled and put into a box for doorstep shipping. These are then sold online. For many, this is the exclusive sales venue, but several manufacturers are making them available for their retail partners, where the customer can take the mattress home if it is in stock. The trend is only about a couple of years old at the time of this writing, but the manufacturing, marketing and shipping processes have been used for much longer.
Compressing mattresses for shipping was developed by Italian bedding manufacturer Magniflex in 1986. In North America, the process was used by BedInABox of Johnson, Tennessee, founded in 2005. The following year, they began selling only online. However, Sleep Innovations, another American company, claims, “We are the original mattress in a box.”
How do they do it?
A currently booming product line in mattress manufacturing equipment is machines to box mattresses. One of these complex pieces of machinery compresses a mattress, vacuum seals it in plastic, rolls it, and inserts it into a box. The availability of this technology makes possible the widespread growth of mattress-in-a-box production.
Since Amazon started its online bookstore, online sales have grown to include almost anything which can be listed, displayed and sold online, including mattresses. Amazon has expanded from an online bookstore to an Internet marketplace where many others have their stores. Now there are several online marketplaces.
One factor driving this trend is the widespread use of smart phones, tablets, and very light notebook laptop computers. Mobile computing and internet access has been changing the marketplace. In stores, a shopper can scan a matrix code and access more information about a product. They can also do on-the-spot comparisons of prices and features to what is offered elsewhere. And customers can order merchandise–including boxed beds–from a park bench or the passenger seat of a moving vehicle as well as from home or the office.
What kinds of mattresses are boxed?
Most mattress-in-a-box models are memory foam mattresses. Several are latex mattresses or have both memory foam and latex foam in the comfort layers. All have firm foam base layers. Some, such as the Layla, are two-sided, flip-to-change-the-firmness beds.
But several boxed beds are innerspring mattresses. All I’ve found so far of these have individually wrapped pocket coils. Also called Marshall coils (after their inventor), they were first patented in 1900. Known for pressure relief, they are now part of the latest trend in mattresses116 years later. Pocket coils are the ideal springs for rolled-up mattresses, since the coils are not tied to each other and do not depend on stiff perimeter rods. Coils themselves are compressible and can spring to their original height. Most of the boxed innerspring mattresses have memory foam in the comfort layers.
When and how did boxable beds become a trend?
Until 2014, all but a few customers went to furniture outlets, mattress showrooms, and department stores to shop for mattresses. Even when they began shopping for beds online, they usually went to the brick-and-mortar showroom to check out the mattresses and make a final selection, with either next-day delivery of an in-stock model or scheduled shipping of a made-to-order bed.
Then dot-com upstart start-ups challenged the established way of doing business. The shake-up was deliberate. Mattress industry veterans saw the dissatisfaction of many consumers with high prices for mattresses that proved unsatisfactory. At fault was the marketing structure with several mark-ups which multiplied the original cost of making a mattress. Making this worse were poorly informed showroom personnel, high pressure sales, confusion of models and features, and hard-to-redeem sleep trials and warranties.
First, two software engineers in Silicon Valley were planning on starting their own business. Dissatisfied with their own mattress shopping experiences, they decided to make and sell mattresses a different way. That’s how JT Marino and Daehee Park started Tuft & Needle, selling a simple foam mattress only online, shipped in a UPS or FedEx box. They are based in Phoenix. It took someone in New York City to catch the attention of the press and ignite the trend.
Phil Krim, formerly head of the Merrick Group, parent company of AngelBeds, knows what it takes to design, make and sell a mattress. With a quartet of like-minded associates, he set out to change the way the system works. Together they designed a new memory foam/latex hybrid mattress (AngelBeds made memory foam mattresses), and Casper Sleep was born. The Casper Mattress has one firmness level (no confusion here), low cost, and shipping in a box by FedEx or UPS (or by bicycle for customers in New York City). Casper Sleep compares its product to those made by Tempur-Pedic.
Casper Sleep has been quickly followed by several others. Among these are Yogabed, Purple Mattress, GhostBed, Leesa, Helix Sleep, and Lull, as well as others. The newer firms usually compare their mattresses to those by Casper and/or Yogabed, as well as to Tempur-Pedic models.
Will this last?
When is a trend here to stay? And when is it just a passing fad? A trend that is part of a larger, lasting change in the way things are done is more likely to stay. Thanks to Amazon, eBay, Wayfair, Overstock and others, customers are doing more of their shopping online. For instance, Black Friday has taken second place to Cyber Monday with more people buying Christmas gifts through retail websites than at brick-&-mortar retailers. Cyber commerce is doing to big box stores and shopping malls what they did to mom-&-pop stores. However, some forecasters see a rebound of locally owned and operated retailers, since they are closer to home and more personal than shopping centers and big box outlets.
This is also the age of convenience and quick turn-over. When people shop at a store, they don’t want to wait for their purchase. They want to take it with them. Buy a car, drive it off the lot today. “If I wanted to wait for it, I would have ordered it online.”
Who are the Startups?
Here is a list of the boxable bed startups:
- Tuft and Needle
- Purple Mattress
- Helix Sleep
- Sleep Better by Carpenter
- Zinus (Slumber 1 and Slumber Solutions [an Overstock exclusive])
- Select Foam
- Textrade (a company in India)
- Mattress-in-a-box (an Overstock exclusive made in China)
- Zeopedic (made by Sinomax in China, sold by Big Lot)
- Rebound by Raymour & Flanigan Furniture
- Layla by Layla Sleep [flip for firmness level]
- Luma by Luma Sleep
- Nest Bedding (6 series)
- Safavieh Dream Harmony
- Lux Living (sold by Sleep Train)
“If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”
Seeing this trend as a permanent change in the marketplace as well as seeing a window of opportunity for them and their retailers, established bedding manufacturers have entered the bed-in-a-box market with offerings of their own. Just a few of these are as follows:
- Sealy introduced the Cocoon by Sealy.
- Serta’s Memory Foam Mattresses are sold online through Sam’s Club, Overstock and Amazon.
- Simmons Beautyrest and ComforPedic sell boxable memory foam mattresses through several online retailers.
- King Koil’s new Express Comfort is boxable.
- Gen-U-Ine boxed beds are made by Symbol Mattress.
- Classic Brands has two boxed bed models in its Sleep Options Collection.
- FXI makes Comfort Dreams boxed beds (sold on Overstock and Amazon)
- Brooklyn Bedding in Phoenix is using its name for its new bed-in-a-box line and is making and selling its in-store models through the new DreamFoam Bedding
- Diamond Mattress released its Rally mattress this year.
Players in this market now include traditional retailers. For example, Sears, an old-time department store chain, has been cutting back its number of local stores while increasing its online sales and selling its signature Kenmore appliances and Craftsman tools in smaller neighborhood outlets such as Ace Hardware stores and local appliance dealers. And Sears has followed the lead of Amazon by hosting an online marketplace where other retailers and manufacturers can list their products and sell either directly to consumers or through Sears, and some of these sell boxable beds.
Mattress Firm, a mattress store chain, commissioned the design and manufacture of the Dream Bed, a boxed bed which is sold online and shipped. There are two Dream Bed models, Original and Cool. They are “grab-and-go” items “in select stores.”
Meanwhile, Modway Furniture, a chain of furniture stores, has the Aveline collection of memory foam mattresses. They come in 6”, 8” and 10” models, all rolled into boxes.
Memory foam and boxable beds
So what role does memory foam play in the boxable beds trend? To begin with, the first compressed beds were foam beds, either polyurethane or latex. This was before memory foam was used commercially. When BedInABox started, many of their models were either memory foam mattresses or had memory foam in them. The Casper Mattress, the first model of the current movement, has a top layer of memory foam and a second layer of latex. Most of the other entries feature memory foam or a material designed to respond like memory foam.
Why memory foam?
First, it is the foam of this time. Well-known for pressure relief, it is the material of choice for many customers who want to relieve the backaches and joint pain that comes from poorly distributed support. Memory foam conforms itself to the curves of a sleeper’s body, reducing pressure on large joints and providing support to smaller areas.
Secondly, memory foam is the ideal mattress material for compression. When the vacuum-sealed wrap is slit, the mattress begins expanding. At normal room temperatures, it does not take too long for the mattress to suck in air and expand to its original size. Memory foam’s response time makes it ideal for this.
Are rolled and boxed memory foam mattresses as durable as the unrolled models?
As with all memory foam mattresses, durability depends on the density and quality of the foams. This is discussed by Dr. Rick Swartzburg. He says, “Unfortunately, not all foam is created equal.” Memory foam made in North America and in Europe has more reliable quality than that made in China and Third World countries. This includes the durability.
One of the startup companies, Winkbeds, refuses to compress and roll and box its mattresses for shipping, claiming foam that can be compressed and rolled like that cannot keep its support for very long. However, another company that originally hesitated to get into the boxable bed market now has a mattress-in-a-box. Relief-Mart, maker of Tri-Pedic and Tempflow mattresses, did considerable testing of the materials and finished mattresses, including customer reviews, before releasing its new Snuggle-Pedic Mattress, which is now available on Amazon.
The trend of packaging compressed mattresses is becoming an established way of making and marketing bedding. Even boxable adjustable beds are coming to market in easy-to-assemble sections in separate boxes.
There will still be a place for on-site retailers. They are already adapting to the new normal. Ordering through the store and grab-and-go mattresses are here to stay. Also, customers still need a place to check out beds that cannot be shipped by UPS or FedEx. With some shrinkage of the brick-and-mortar mattress outlets, most of this traffic will return to furniture stores. Already more mattresses will be made to order and shipped to the stores for local delivery, reducing the stores’ inventory, thereby lowering costs.
As far as the mattresses themselves are concerned, most of those shipped in boxes will have memory foam either as the primary feature or in a comfort layer.
“Is the Boxed-Bed Craze Turning the Mattress Business Upside Down?” – Sleep Savvy, 3-22-2016
“Casper, an Online Mattress Start-Up, Raises $13.1 Million” – New York Times, 8-7-2016 http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/07/casper-an-online-mattress-sales-start-up-raises-13-1-million/?_r=0
“Manufacturers Level the Boxed Bed Playing Field” – Sleep Retailer, 4-12-2016 http://bedroomretailers.com/product-focus/manufacturers-level-the-boxed-bed-playing-field/
“New boxed mattresses for brick-and-mortar as well as e-commerce” – BedTimes Magazine, February 2016 http://bedtimesmagazine.com/2016/02/boxed-mattresses-brick-and-mortar-e-commerce/
“Diamond Mattress debuts Rally” – by David Perry, Furniture Today, 7-30-2016
“Classic Brands’ Bed-In-A-Box Program Surpasses Two Million Units Sold” – Sleep Retailer, 5-11-2016 http://bedroomretailers.com/industry/classic-brands-bed-in-a-box-program-surpasses-two-million-units-sold/
Selected Boxed Bed Startups
Casper Sleep – https://casper.com/
Yogabed – https://www.yogabed.com/
Tuft and Needle – https://www.tuftandneedle.com/
Purple Mattress – http://onpurple.com/
Ghost Bed – https://www.ghostbed.com/
Leesa – https://www.leesa.com/
Helix Sleep – https://www.helixsleep.com/homepage2
Lull – https://lull.com/
Selected Boxed Beds by Established Manufacturers & Retailers
Snuggle-Pedic Mattress by Relief-Mart – http://www.snugglepedic.com/snuggle-pedic-the-mattress-that-breathes.html
Cocoon by Sealy – https://www.cocoonbysealy.com/
Brooklyn Bedding – http://www.brooklynbedding.com/
Rally by Diamond Mattress – https://www.facebook.com/Diamond-Mattress-149673051712030/
Dream Bed by Mattress Firm – http://www.mattressfirm.com/dream-bed-original-dream-mattress-10032.html