Inside Sleep Country’s plans for mattress dominance

The brand's business development officer shares his predictions for the future of beds-in-a-box.

Sleep-Country

The fact that Sleep Country acquired bed-in-a-box brand Endy in November and more recently began selling the U.K’s Simba mattresses online, all while continuing to roll out a larger selection of its own Bloom mattresses, signals just how much the bedding landscape has evolved in recent years.

Speaking with strategy in 2017, Stewart Schaefer, chief business development officer at Sleep Country Canada and its Quebec arm Dormez-vous, felt confident that his industry would not be overly disrupted by trendy bed-in-a-box players like Casper, Leesa and Canada’s own Endy. Sleep Country’s advantage, he said, lay in its robust distribution network and manufacturing expertise, which would allow its own Bloom mattress to flourish with relative ease. An acquisition seemed like a distant possibility.

While DTC players’ businesses have continued to grow since then – Endy, for example, has turned into a $50 million business – they still only represent a fraction of the overall $1.8 billion mattress market, according to Schaefer. “The question is: where do we think the market could potentially go? That, over the last few years, has changed in my mind a little bit.”

EndySchaefer attributes his company’s $88.7 million acquisition of Endy to a confluence of forces shaping the future of bedding in this country.

For one, he sees the “pendulum swinging back,” noting all the original bed-in-a-box brands that are now entering bricks-and-mortar, pushed by rising customer acquisition costs online. Casper, for instance, has opened its own stores and partnered with HBC in Canada. Meanwhile, the U.K.’s Simba – whose hybrid, luxury mattress-in-a-box Sleep Country recently began offering online – almost immediately partnered with high-end retail chain John Lewis.

Secondly, Schaefer says the “cachet” around receiving a mattress in a cardboard container has “already begun to dissipate.” (There are currently more than 100 bed-in-a-box retailers that provide this service). Rather, what he believes carried DTC bed companies in the past, and what continues to lift them today, is strong branding. When a customer purchases a bed without testing it for themselves, they trust that they’ll be receiving a quality product – a belief fuelled entirely by branding.

More and more, Schaefer expects growth to come from the lower end of the market, cheaper beds intended for occasional use, like those in guest rooms. Even Sleep Country’s own Bloom solution has moved down-market since launching in 2017 (at a retail price of $995). Within a year, it rolled out $795, $595 and $395 lower-end versions that have seen strong growth, according to Schaefer.

Schaefer says the Endy acquisition will allow both companies to leverage their respective strengths, even as they run more-or-less independently of one another. “I’ll tell you what we won’t do,” he says. “We’re not going to screw up what Mike [Gettis] and Rajen [Ruparell] have done so incredibly well, which is build a fabulous brand.”

Bloom_RoomMoving forward, Sleep Country plans to work with Endy’s roughly 40-person team (many of whom have digital marketing backgrounds) on building its digital capabilities. Meanwhile, Sleep Country will assist Endy with distribution and more traditional bricks-and-mortar skills. The partnership even opens up the possibility for Endy to expand more quickly outside of boxed mattresses and into other offerings, Schaefer says.

Meanwhile, Sleep Country remains focused on building its own omnichannel approach, which is still in its “early days” as it looks to create an endless aisle in bedding. “We don’t have to be first to market; we want to be great at what we do,” says Schaefer pointing to its Black Friday roll-out of weighted blankets, throws and even dog beds, as a sign of what’s to come.

In the fall, it unveiled a new tagline, “All for sleep” (while maintaining its well-known jingle) to reflect the new focus of its marketing, merchandising and ecommerce teams. It has also struck a new agency relationship with John St (having previously worked with Sid Lee on Bloom), as it works towards evolving its own brand in the coming year.