The waterbed might just be coming back. In a recent New York Times article entitled “The Squishiest, Sweetest Sleep,” writer Penelope Green chronicles the illustrious history of the waterbed and profiles the inventor of the phenomenon, Charles Hall. Waterbeds came to be because of Mr. Hall’s experimentation with jello-filled furniture as a graduate student at San Francisco State in 1967 and the bed gained popularity throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. The reason for the story? The waterbed is being rebranded by Hall to appeal to what the article refers to as the “Casper generation.”
Hall’s new bed, the Afloat, touts many of the same benefits retailers hear about among the majority of mattress models today—it contours to the body just right, offers temperature regulation and eliminates tossing and turning. But in the case of Hall’s bed, the key ingredient is water as opposed to foams and innersprings.
In the article from the Times, retail journalist Warren Shoulberg made a compelling point, saying that, “Consumers have no idea what’s inside most mattresses. It’s all gobbledygook. It’s this great mystery, and the industry loves it that way. It thrives on that confusion. The water bed is simple. It’s a big bag that holds water.” And maybe that is exactly what this generation needs: simplicity.
When the waterbed first hit the market it was sexualized by risqué advertising spouting humorous and suggestive claims like, “Two things are better on a waterbed: one of them is sleeping.” In its early days it garnered a reputation for the bed of bachelors, even Hugh Hefner had one for the Playboy Mansion. While this particular benefit of the waterbed will likely not be lost on millennials, the bed is positioned as a luxury wellness product in today’s market. This is a wise move on the part of the new(ish) brand’s leaders.
Improved by the technologies of the 2000’s, the Afloat also avoids some of the hazards that caused landlords to ban waterbeds from apartment complexes back in the day. In queen, it weighs 40 lbs empty, and 1,200 lbs full. Fitting right into the mid-luxury category, it is priced at $1,995 to $2,395 for a queen size. According to hallflotation.com, the reimagined waterbed can help reduce energy costs, dons a washable cover and those who sleep on waterbeds don’t have to worry about all the ‘critters’—as the site calls them—that commonly take up residence in more traditional mattress constructions over time. Available online with a 100-night trial, Hall’s waterbed update is hip to the ecommerce mattress game.
Will the waterbed catch on with the younger consumer? The jury is still out. But Hall’s reimagined version is yet another excellent example of how old products can evolve with the times.
This article originally appeared in Sleep Retailer eNews on December 27, 2018
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