Billboards can elicit strong reactions from people. Whether the words or graphics make you happy, mad or sad, the creator of the board wants you to act.
Plain brown billboards with white lettering along Interstates 77 and 85 and Monroe Road have been around Charlotte for a few months. They all say, “Mattress Stores are Greedy. TN.com.”
The billboards raised my curiosity. I wanted to know who was responsible for making that accusation.
A quick Google search led me to Tuft and Needle (T&N), an online memory foam mattress company located in Arizona that started in 2012.
A memory foam mattress is also known as a bed-in-a-box because the mattress is ordered online and shipped in a box. When it arrives, you simply open the box, take off the wrapper and unroll it. Voilá – instant mattress.
T&N has multiple billboards all over Charlotte and other cities like Vegas, Phoenix and San Francisco. According to T&N’s head of public relations, Brooke Medansky, they created their newest eye-catching billboards, knowing that people could relate to its message. Their assumption is that most people feel cheated after buying a mattress from a brick and mortar store.
Sales and after-purchase surveys show that the billboards are being noticed in the Queen City.
Medansky said, “In a city like Charlotte, where we do billboards only, we can see there is a spike [in purchases].”
Furniture Today’s market research reports mattress industry retail sales at $15.4 billion in 2016. T&N reports making $40 million in sales in 2015 and $100 million in 2016.
Gabe Dungan is the owner of Muse, a local bed-in-a-box company located in South End. According to Dungan, 35, online bed-in-a-box sales could grow from 7 percent of mattress sales to 25 percent.
“I think it [the online trend] started around five years ago in the United States,” said Dungan. “It’s the convenience factor. People, my age and younger, don’t really enjoy going to a mattress store or department store to pick out a mattress.”
Dungan is concentrating on his new line, Muse, a memory foam mattress that ships in a box within five to seven days after an online purchase. The mattresses are manufactured in Indiana. Their beds range from $600 for a twin to $1000 for a California King.
Another bed-in-a-box business, Dromma (Swedish for “dream”) in Mooresville is owned by Derek Ridge, 26. Ridge’s company is just two years old. Their memory foam mattress line is made in Hickory and runs $549 for the twin and $949 for the California King. Like ViscoSoft, the mattress is rolled up in a box about 18”x18”x41”. The memory foam mattresses may be placed on a platform bed, box spring, Murphy bed, adjustable bed frame or even on the floor.
Ridge agrees with T&N’s billboards. He said, “They are absolutely right. They are spot on. Mattress stores are greedy.”
Dungan’s view is different. In his opinion, the problem is the idle time that the mattress sales associate has waiting on a limited number of customers to stop by a store with a lot of fixed overhead costs.
“It’s not that they are greedy, per se, it’s that their model is broken,” Dungan said.
The future for online mattress sales looks promising. As the industry grows, Dungan thinks the businesses will become more transparent, consumers will become more informed and get a better deal.
“I think there is going to be downward pressure on price,” Dungan said.
Photos: Dromma,Vanessa Infanzon, ViscoSoft