Why is everyone trying to sell me a mattress?

By Oliver Smith 12 August 2016

Your boring bed is getting a high-tech overhaul from Eve, Simba and now Casper.

Sleep is big business.

A decade ago macho city workers would compete over who spent the most time in the office.

Today the challenge is who has the best sleep graph in apps like Sleep Cycle.

‘Sleep’ has boomed over the last few years, today it’s a $30bn industry in the US alone.

Pillows, sheets, beds and yes, mattresses, are flying off shelves, and a new breed of online sleep retailers are rising to take advantage of the boom.

Meet Casper

You’ve probably spotting the yellow Eve mattress ads on the London Underground over the last few weeks, promising to revolutionise your night’s sleep with its premium “three foam layer mattress”.

This week Casper, an online mattress company which has quickly become a household name in the US, brought its patented high-tech mattresses, pillows and sheets to the UK.

And then there’s Simba Sleep, a British mattress company now focussing on online sales.

Together these companies have raised over $90m, are valued at over $600m and count Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Adam Levine among their high profile investors.

That might all sound crazy, but according to Casper co-founder Luke Sherwin these companies are all part of a growing trend.

Casper had a swanky UK launch party in a Soho warehouse this week (Photo by Katy Davies).

Sleep cycle

“Exercise became a big thing in the ‘80s in response to the ‘couch potato’ culture, then came the boom in organic food, today this continuum is between mindfulness, yoga, wellness and sleep,” Casper’s Sherwin told The Memo.

“There are simply more people taking care of their sleep, they don’t want to spend one third of their lives without any knowledge of how they sleep.”

The trend isn’t quite as organic as Sherwin describes. A number of leading business stars like Arianna Huffington have publicly identified sleep as a turning point in their careers.

Read more: How to sleep your way to the top

Meanwhile wearable fitness trackers and sleep apps like Sleep Cycle are giving us visibility for the first time on how well we are actually sleeping.

The economic argument

Beside the sleep health ‘fad’ there’s also a strong economic argument as to why, right now, sleep and mattresses in particular are big business.

As Utpal Dholakia, a professor of marketing at Rice University in Texas, told the Freakonomics Podcast, it can all be traced back to the recession:

“People were moving much less; they were staying put in their own house. They were marrying much less, so the number of marriages went down. And these are the types of triggers which [usually] drive mattress purchases,” says Dholakia.

Indeed for the six years after the 2008 financial crisis the mattress industry, specialised in selling expensive £400 or £500 mattresses, was hit hard as people delayed buying new mattresses.

Now, Dholakia says, that pent-up demand is being released as many people are overdue new mattresses, pillows or beds, and are buying them in-mass.

That’s why, over the next few weeks and months, you’re going to hear a lot about Eve, Simba and Casper mattresses.

How their layers of memory foam and fast response foam that combine to give you just the right sink, just the right bounce.

Why you NEED a patented pillow, or sheets woven from Californian cotton.

And that’s why, more likely than not, those adverts will send millions of Brits reaching for their wallets.