October 23, 2023 10 min read
I have been designing and manufacturing mattresses for over 13 years. From simple $100 crib mattresses up to $15,000 custom mattresses and everything in between, I’ve done it all. While having this knowledge is essential for my line of work, I tend to forget about the knowledge gaps of my customers – and this can mean the difference between making a sale or seeing customers walk out the door.
Let’s face it: when you're not deeply entrenched in the mattress industry and only make a few mattress purchases in your lifetime, becoming an expert isn't a reasonable expectation. Even though I work within this industry, I often find myself on the outside looking in, as there are certain industry practices with which I strongly disagree.
My objective here is to provide insights and education to mattress shoppers about the key factors influencing mattress prices. I'll strive to present this information as objectively as possible, but of course, biases can still play a role. I encourage you to conduct your own research and don't hesitate to reach out if you believe any part of this article requires updating.
There are plenty of factors to consider, but I prioritize three key points when determining a mattress price: the Mattress Brand Positioning, the Design & Materials, and lastly, the Point of Purchase. Let’s take a closer look at each.
What is Mattress Brand Positioning, and how does that impact the price you pay for a mattress?
Each mattress brand aims to appeal to a specific audience they want to capture; consumers tend to gravitate toward brands they are familiar with and trust. While the mattress industry is expansive, it is largely dominated by a select group of manufacturers. Smaller manufacturers tend to carve their niche in different market segments.
Each manufacturer may cater to distinct customer preferences, whether it's the quest for ultimate luxury, the best value for money, cutting-edge technology, or the convenience of doorstep delivery. Companies set their prices based on how consumers perceive their brand.
While it's important to support and buy from trusted companies, exercise caution. Often, you're paying for the brand name or a compelling narrative rather than a guarantee of better sleep, especially when it comes to the latest and greatest materials or technology. More often than not, it's just a well-crafted story that doesn't necessarily translate to improved sleep quality.
In general, larger companies target the average mattress consumer and offer a range of products across the price spectrum, primarily falling in the mid-range. These companies rely on a broad customer base to thrive.
On the lower end of the spectrum, larger independent manufacturers produce mattresses at higher volumes, albeit with slimmer profit margins compared to industry giants. These smaller brands might be familiar to some but aren't as prominent as the top three.
Additionally, there's the bed-in-a-box market, where mattresses are branded in various ways. The majority are foam-blend designs, while some incorporate pocket coils. These products are often marketed by e-commerce companies, with manufacturing outsourced. Each bed-in-a-box brand positions itself differently in terms of pricing and brand image.
There are too many factors to name, but brands will typically align themselves with customer perceptions, whether that means positioning themselves as affordable, mid-range, high-end, or a luxurious choice.
I firmly believe that when it comes to pricing mattresses, the Design and Material should take precedence, though this isn't always the case. I might be a bit biased, being involved in design and manufacturing – but these elements should carry the most weight in determining pricing because they have the most direct impact on consumers (even though they tend to be less understood).
Numerous mattress designs exist, and they significantly influence the price tag. When I refer to "design," I'm referring to the overall structure and the finishing touches of the product. Mattresses can be constructed in a multitude of ways, ranging from simple to complex.
Naturally, simpler designs require less labor, making them more budget-friendly. Fewer layers and components generally lead to quicker manufacturing, resulting in improved efficiency and more affordable mattresses for consumers. Examples include straightforward foam designs with minimal layers and basic covers or spring mattresses featuring a touch of low-density foam and quilted covers. These are easy to produce and can be manufactured in large quantities.
On the other hand, as you introduce more materials and layers, the design becomes more intricate and time-consuming to create, ultimately driving up production costs. This encompasses multi-layered pocket coils or, in some rare cases, two-sided mattresses, as well as modular mattresses or multi-layered foam blends with specialized covers.
There are also mattresses with layers of natural fibers, hand-tufting, and unique manufacturing processes. These may serve the purpose of enhancing sleep quality or, at times, upholding tradition or aligning with a brand's identity.
How quickly the mattress can be made influences the price, so always be sure to look at the overall construction of the mattress.
Materials in a mattress are probably the least understood and hardest gauge when purchasing a mattress. Again, the average person doesn’t know which materials are expensive and which aren’t. The industry wants it that way – which is why they create all sorts of different naming conventions for their materials.
The overall industry also introduces various specialty materials that may sound impressive but lack a proven track record.
Let's begin by looking at the mattress cover. Many bed-in-a-box and memory foam mattresses come with a Stretch Knit cover, which is a basic and cost-effective option. However, high-quality mattresses often feature a more lavish Plusher quilting and a softer, luxurious feel. When evaluating covers, consider factors such as fabric weight and composition, as well as the materials used in quilting or tufting.
Fabrics with natural elements tend to be pricier, with all-natural and organic materials being the most expensive. Additionally, heavier fabrics tend to be better, and some may come with bonus features like cooling phase-change technology or silver-infused materials.
As for quilting layers, natural materials like wool and silk are rarer and more expensive. Keep an eye out for higher-density foams in the top layers, as they contribute to the mattress's durability. Pay attention to details such as the overall craftsmanship, texture, handles, and whether the mattress is single or double-sided.
The support of a mattress refers to the material or medium responsible for providing support to your body. This support can come in various forms, from foam and springs to latex.
Latex and Foam will have a similar feel, where as spring mattress will have bit more ebb and flow or liveliness compared to foam and latex designs. When you are inspecting the core of foam mattresses, ensure it boasts a robust high-density foam, ideally measuring 2LB/CF or more. Although this might elevate the price point, it is a guarantee of superior longevity. In contrast, the cores crafted from latex provide a firm, deluxe feel but often come with a loftier price tag.
It's important to remember that price doesn't always equate to quality. The choice between latex and other materials largely hinges on individual preferences for support and comfort, with latex standing out as a premium option esteemed for its enduring performance.
Spring mattresses come in various designs, with open-style coils offering excellent durability but a firmer sensation and potentially more motion transfer. Pocket coils, the preferred choice for higher-end mattresses, excel in contouring the body with minimal motion transfer. While pocket coils are generally more budget-friendly than latex, they can provide a luxurious feel. This is all thanks to their dynamic support structure that molds to different body shapes, especially those with curves.
Most body types can find a suitable spring or foam mattress, but spring mattresses are particularly well-suited for those with curvier figures. Just keep in mind that constructing coil-based mattresses requires more labor.
When assessing a mattress's components, the most influential layers in terms of longevity and cost are the comfort layers. Surprisingly, these layers bear the brunt of wear and tear and have the potential to sag over time. You might have had mattresses in the past with uncomfortable depressions where your hips rest; this usually results from lower-quality materials losing their ability to spring back and provide adequate support.
Comfort layers encompass a variety of materials, from low-density and high-density foams, memory foams, gel toppers, natural fibers, to latex. Generally, the quality and price of mattresses follow this order. Therefore, when shopping for a mattress, be sure to figure out the composition of the layers, their thickness, and the weight or density of the materials used.
Less expensive mattresses will generally have regular foams in the 1.5LB/CF range and Memory foams in the 3LB/CF range. A step up would be in the 1.8LB/CB or greater range, and 4LB/CF or greater for memory foam. This will come in different levels of firmness, but that doesn’t really impact the cost in a mattress.
Gel Grids are somewhat new. They tend to be more expensive, but their durability is superior. Be sure to check what is on top of the grid to ensure that layer will last. Some folks find the gel too warm; it is plastic like rubber and is not breathable. The cell structure limits the movement of air.
Natural Fibers are great for breathability; however, they tend to compress and add firmness over time. Very high-end mattresses may use horse, mohair, and wool – sometimes to great affect, and typically contributing to their higher cost and labor-intensive production. To make an informed choice, always inquire about the percentage of these materials in the mattress, as a mere 10% blend might not meet your expectations.
Lastly, latex serves as a high-quality comfort layer, typically found in superior mattresses. Major manufacturers don't use it extensively because it's three times the cost of foams. However, latex stands out for its durability, breathability, and superior tactile experience. When considering latex, be sure to inquire about the thickness and ensure it encompasses the entire mattress, rather than just a meager 0.5-inch section. Beware of companies that incorporate minimal materials yet inflate their prices significantly.
Conduct thorough research and don't hesitate to ask about your mattress's composition. This will not only reveal the knowledge of the salesperson but also offer insight into the overall quality and value of your investment.
The point of purchase significantly influences where you acquire your mattress and, in turn, impacts its pricing. When it comes to buying a mattress, you generally have two main options: in-store or online.
The choice between these two avenues can directly affect the price you pay. Online mattress retailers, unlike brick-and-mortar stores, don't require physical showroom space, which translates to cost savings.
In essence, you should expect to save money because there are no expenses tied to maintaining retail space or employing sales personnel. However, this doesn't mean that online mattress companies skimp on marketing or e-commerce efforts; they often have robust marketing teams working diligently behind the scenes, which comes with its own budget.
While online options tend to be more budget-friendly, the drawback is that you can't physically try the mattress before purchase, although many online retailers do offer accommodating return policies. It's essential to check these policies, as some can be somewhat cumbersome to navigate. Moreover, the profit margins on these mattresses are notably high, typically marking up prices by up to 300%, allowing room for a certain level of returns.
For Retail Stores there are normally 2 major types. One would be a discount store and the other would be a specialty mattress store.
Discounters often present themselves with no-frills showrooms, sometimes even featuring concrete floors. They generally cater to the mid to low-end mattress market, offering potential value in terms of price. However, durability and customer service may be areas of concern. It's advisable to collaborate with businesses that boast good reputations in the industry.
Discount establishments primarily target budget-conscious customers and might not stock the top-tier mattresses. While you might stumble upon a great deal, you could also end up with a less-than-optimal product. If you have the opportunity to test and try a mattress, it can significantly aid in narrowing down your selection, sparing you from an endless quest for the perfect mattress.
Specialty mattress stores, in contrast, provide a superior shopping experience. These stores feature well-appointed showrooms with an extensive selection of mattresses available for trial. While their prices may be slightly higher than online and discount options, the key differentiator is knowledge, variety, and hopefully, improved customer service.
In some cases, the price difference may not be significant compared to online retailers, yet the advantage lies in the ability to test and ensure the mattress aligns with your specific preferences and needs. Mattress stores often have markups of around 200%, which means that even with substantial discounts, they maintain healthy profit margins. It's wise to inquire about the mattress's composition.
Sales staff at these establishments typically possess superior product knowledge, allowing them to guide you toward the most suitable mattress for your requirements. Showrooms of this caliber tend to feature higher-quality models that offer better fit and longer-lasting durability.
Within this category, you may also encounter custom mattress makers who maintain showrooms either on-site or in close proximity to their manufacturing facilities. These businesses can sometimes provide top-quality mattresses at exceptional value since they bypass the same level of markups. Given their in-depth knowledge of both selling and crafting mattresses, these establishments often offer a high-quality, well-informed buying experience.
Shopping for a mattress might not top the list of exciting Saturday activities, but consider this: the average person dedicates a whopping 26 years of their life to slumber. So, why not make those 26 years the epitome of restful sleep?
Bear in mind that different mattress brands have distinct target audiences and price ranges, even if the reality doesn't always align with their intentions. When seeking the best mattress value, materials, and design should be your primary considerations. This quest may demand some diligent research, just like exploring the pages of a book—never judge a mattress solely by its cover; it's what lies within that truly matters.
Lastly, different points of purchase will influence the price. Each one has pluses and negatives – but if you’re looking for mid to higher quality, a Specialty mattress store would be best. If operating on a budget, a discounter would have the less expensive options, but you do get what you pay for. Online can be hit or miss, but they have high markups that don’t typically guarantee better quality materials.
Remember that your investment in a mattress is an investment in your well-being. So, take the time to explore, inquire, and test to ensure you're choosing the perfect bed for your 26 years of peaceful slumber.
Colin Crump is the founder of Evrbed, Sleep Boutique, and Vonviva mattresses. He has been in the mattress industry for 13 years both in designing and developing mattresses, and mattress brands, as well as manufacturing mattresses.