If you hadn’t noticed already, it has gotten a little bit harder to buy a mattress here in Maryland in the last few months. It’s because nationwide mattress retailer Mattress Firm filed for bankruptcy protection in October, forcing the closure of eleven of its Maryland locations. If you hadn’t noticed that, it might be because those eleven locations are merely a drop in the bucket – there seems to be a mattress retailer on every corner. That situation, however, is starting to change and it could have a major (positive) impact on your wallet. If you’re in the market for a new mattress, here’s what you need to know.
The Latest Digital Disruption
Over the last twenty years or so, almost every kind of consumer product industry went through a transformational event: the birth of eCommerce. At first, electronics retailers and bookstores were the first to feel the pinch, leading to a wave of store closures, buyouts, and mergers. As you already know, it didn’t stop there. Today, there’s no end to the digital shopping options we all have at our disposal, and the product selection is endless. This year, you could have even ordered a live Christmas tree delivered straight to your door! Despite the growth in eCommerce, however, there were still a few notable kinds of products you couldn’t buy online.
The thing that the holdouts had in common is that they tended to be items that were either very expensive, very large, or a combination of both. Vehicles are an obvious example. They represent a significant financial commitment, and they can’t be delivered by your local postal worker. Now, however, there are plenty of services that offer car purchases exclusively online, and if you so choose, you can even pick up your vehicle at an enormous car vending machine located in Gaithersburg. Now, the mattress industry is following suit, with an explosion of bed-in-a-box options that come compressed and shipped straight to your door.
The Economy of Minimal Scale
The reason that it’s finally become possible to buy mattresses online has everything to do with the advent of memory foam as a primary manufacturing material. It’s light, soft, and most crucially, it’s pliable. That means that mattresses of any size, from single size mattresses all the way up to California king can now fit in a neat little shipping container and brought straight to your door. Most online retailers will even allow for generous sleep-in periods, so you can even take your time in deciding to keep the mattress you chose online.
Those two innovations, when coupled with just-in-time manufacturing techniques, mean that there’s no longer any real impediment to making a mattress purchase online. Best of all, it also changes the financial equation that led to the proliferation of brick-and-mortar mattress stores in the first place, and that’s something that should make Maryland consumers sit up and take notice.
Getting the Most for Your Money
Earlier, we mentioned that there were more mattress stores in the southern Maryland area than you could shake a stick at, but we never got around to why that is. The reason, as it turns out, is very simple. Mattresses, unlike many other consumer products, are typically purchased only once per decade by the average American. That has allowed retailers to charge higher-than-normal markups on them, with some high-end mattresses selling for up to 900% what they cost to manufacture. With margins like those, it becomes easy to understand why there are so many mattress stores around.
Online retailers, by contrast, have every reason to cut into those high markups to attract customers. After all, they’re industry upstarts, and can’t rely on reputation or salespeople to gin up business. That’s why you’ll often find comparable mattresses for sale online for hundreds of dollars less than those in your local showroom. It isn’t because they’re inferior – it’s because the major bed-in-a-box brands are hungry and have something to prove. That can add up to hundreds of dollars in savings for the average consumer.
The Bottom Line
The key takeaway here is that the mattress industry is changing, and consumers are the main beneficiaries. It’s important to note, of course, that traditional spring or coil-based mattresses still haven’t joined the digital revolution. If you’re hesitant to switch to a memory foam model and prefer an old standby, you’re still best served by heading down to your local mattress store. If not, you could save plenty of money by choosing and purchasing a mattress online, without sacrificing a thing. Sure, the local mattress retailer may not like it, but look at it this way: buying a mattress online won’t just save you time, money, and hassle – it may also help Starbucks to open a few more locations near you sometime soon.