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The Lasting Impact Of Mattress Returns—And What You Can Do About It
What’s the deal with mattress returns these days? This has been a topic of conversation lately, amongst both industry insiders and non-industry journalists alike. As more and more mattress brands are offering at-home trials and risk-free returns, it may seem like sending back a new mattress should be simple—but both the logistics and impact of high return rates are much more complicated than you may expect. What are some of the unintended consequences of more returned mattresses? And what can retailers be doing to minimize these growing rates?
The mattress industry isn’t the only product category that has seen an uptick in returns lately. In general, the growth of ecommerce has coincided with a greater rate of returned products. Online purchases are more likely to be returned as well, says David Sobie, co-founder and CEO of Happy Returns, a company that offers technologies and logistics to help retailers manage their returns: “Shoppers return five to 10 percent of what they purchase in store but 15 to 40 percent of what they buy online.” According to the U.S. Postal Service, the number of returns in the US and Canada jumped by 66% between 2010 and 2015.
While we know this trend has impacted the mattress industry, it’s not quite as clear as to the extent. For better or for worse, Casper has been at the center of this discussion around returns. In some ways, the brand has become short-hand for the online DTC mattress category at large—but with that comes added scrutiny, as people try to get a clearer picture of how the segment is faring. Additionally, the company’s public offering opened up much of its financial information to the general public. This led Furniture Today’s bedding editor, David Perry, to do some digging of his own trying to pin down the exact number of Casper’s return rate. Pouring over the company’s prospectus, the only indication he could find was a line item for “returns, refunds and discounts” which totaled 20% of revenues in the first three quarters of 2019. He turned to other industry experts for their insights on Casper’s potential returns, with estimations ranging from the 8.7% to over 18% range.
The existence of returns in and of themselves are not always terrible for business. Previous research has shown that higher return rates do not necessarily correlate with sales losses, as many people who return a lot of their purchases also tend to buy more products. All of this becomes more complicated when it comes to mattresses, of course. While some consumers may return lower-cost items such as clothing or smaller housewares in order to quickly swap them for different sizes or styles—the process of returning a mattress is much trickier.
There is also the added question of: what do you do with a returned mattress? It’s not as easy as returning the bed to the store or warehouse and repackaging it—most returned mattresses are not able to be resold through traditional avenues. Instead, many DTC brands simply eat that cost and try to donate their returns instead. For example, Tuft & Needle has an in-house logistics team that connects mattress returns with a network of over 250 charities throughout the country. The brand simply directs the customer to one of these charities, who then handle the donation as they normally do.
In her FiveThirtyEight article, Koerth discovered another avenue that some ecommerce mattress brands are using to deal with returns. Sharetown is an independent agent that works with a number of DTC mattress brands such as Purple, Layla, Nest and Helix. Contracted by the mattress brand, the company works by connecting the unsatisfied customer with a “nearby agent who takes the mattress off their hands, cleans it up, and markets it for sale on local community sites like Facebook and Craigslist.” This set-up is designed to keep each party in the resell loop: when the returned mattress is eventually re-sold, Sharetown and the mattress brand share the profit. According to Cody Hunter, founder and CEO of Sharetown, his company’s process does not cannibalize sales from traditional mattress sellers—since the consumer demographic who buys used mattresses is not those who are looking to pay full price. These are the people who would, instead, opt for not buying a mattress at all.
But not all returned mattresses can be donated or resold—even when they’re good as new. Many consumers are wary of buying a used bed, and the rules around mattress donations vary widely. California and New York, in particular, pose issues because many of the local charities are unable (or unwilling) to accept used mattresses. In these instances, there are an increasing number of mattress recycling programs available. For California-based companies, the Mattress Recycling Council’s “Bye Bye Mattress” program can help with useable mattress returns. Introduced in 2016, this program has helped recycle five million mattresses—saving the state more than 6 million cubic yards of space in landfills.
Funded by a recycling fee, which is tacked onto the sale price when a mattress or box spring is sold, the program aims to combat illegal dumping and minimize landfill waste. The program is able to collect the returned mattresses through a network of permanent collection sites, public collection events, in addition to collaborations with solid waste providers, nonprofit organizations and small and minority-owned businesses. The mattresses are then transported to regional recyclers, where they are cut open and layers separated. The interior materials are then organized for reuse by type: so the foam can be remade into carpet padding, the springs used to make other steel products, etc. More than 80 percent of a mattress can typically be recycled: including steel, foam, cotton, wood and other materials.
Of course, these types of programs are not available everywhere yet. When there are no donation, resale or recycling options available, many companies have to resort to hiring a waste removal company. And that means the mattress, or at least a portion of it, may end up in a landfill—which further contributes to the existing climate crisis.
But the logistical and environmental concerns are just part of the issue. Cost is also a major drawback to higher return rates, especially in the age of risk-free, no-fee returns. When a consumer returns their new mattress, they are refunded the full cost. Even when the brand or retailer can resell the return, they will have to do so at a discounted price—while donating it brings in no money at all. The worst case scenario is when the bed gets thrown away, as many brands have to fully cover the cost of removal. All in all, these losses can hurt the company’s bottom line—and require them to either operate at a deficit or build those added costs into future price tags.
The final concern surrounding higher mattress returns? Word of mouth. Simply put, consumers talk. They tell their friends about their retail experiences and they write product reviews online. If enough people have expressed dissatisfaction with their purchase, that is going to reflect poorly on your product, brand or store.
So what can retailers do to minimize their return risks?
While there is a growing number of companies touting new solutions for alleviating the financial and logistical burden of higher returns, why not start at the source instead? Today’s consumers expect a generous and easy return policy. The best way to reduce return rates is definitely not to limit these policies - but to minimize the likelihood that your customer will want to return their new purchase in the first place.
Promote The In-Person Rest-Test
Even though today’s consumers are more willing to do it, buying a mattress sight-unseen is still a risky move. Mattresses are a very subjective product: what works for one person may not for another. Testing a mattress in person, with the guidance of a well-trained retail sales associated, remains the best way to make sure that the customer is walking away with the best possible mattress for their needs. Focus your consumer messaging the true value of this step—emphasizing that spending the time to rest-test now can save you the hassle of having to return your mattress later.
Utilize A Diagnostic System
If you really want to step up your selling strategy, a diagnostic system can be a huge asset on the retail floor. It adds another level of science and objectivity to the decision-making process, helping the consumer feel more confident that they’re picking the right model for their unique bodies and needs.
Add Accessories To Your Merchandising Mix
There are a number of different factors that can contribute to poor sleep. By offering a wide selection of quality accessories—from sheets and pillows to adjustable bases and black-out curtains—you can help consumers take a more comprehensive approach to improving their sleep environment.
Offer Customizable Mattress Options
The future of sleep is personalized! Mattresses like the ReST Bed or Kingsdown’s BedMatch adjust with the sleeper to ensure that they’re always getting the right level of comfort and support, minimizing the potential for comfort returns. For a more analog option, products like Bedgear’s M3 mattress and Spaldin’s new Circular Collection allow customers to swap out certain individual elements of their mattress. This not only makes it easy to rectify an unsatisfactory purchase without a return, it also limits how much of the bed may need to be recycled.
How To Maximize The Visibility Of A New Line In Your Showroom
Brought to you by Flexhaven by Modway
When it comes to bringing a new product into your store, it can be tempting to plop it down and hope consumers notice. But if you’re hoping that your latest addition will bring new customers in the door, then you’ll have to think more broadly about the program and how you plan to market it. If no one knows you have a new line-up, how can it help drive traffic? In order to create significant buzz around a new product, you’ll need comprehensive support.
Here are just a few ways to select and successfully integrate a new lineup into your store to drive maximum traffic:
Deliver A High-Quality Solution
First and foremost, you need to floor a product you feel proud of. When buying something new for your showroom, think about why you’d buy it and what makes it different than other items you have and that your competitors offer. Once you’ve found something you’re excited about, those same reasons that convinced you will form the basis of your messaging to consumers.
Deploy a Multi-Platform Marketing Campaign
While online brands seem to have things figured out when it comes to marketing, they’re not always offering the highest quality options and many consumers are more put-off by purchasing a mattress sight unseen than they realize. Your in-store experience is a key differentiator. If you’re carrying a product that can’t be bought elsewhere online or that delivers a stronger value than what can be ordered in the mail, communicate that clearly. How do you make shopping in your store more fun than buying online, while keeping the experience similarly convenient? These messages should be spelled out in your marketing and, thankfully, you don’t actually have to handle it all in-house. By partnering with a brand that provides comprehensive marketing support, you can access robust marketing assets including extensive physical signage—truck wraps, sidewalk signs, outdoor posters—social media, email marketing and more! New products should never be a secret.
Make It Convenient
Can you work with a manufacturer that drop-ships? Is the product packaged such that a consumer can walk to their car with it? Part of why going to the store is nicer than buying online is the instant gratification—capitalize on that by making it possible for shoppers to easily transport products. While this can be challenging when it comes to mattresses, being thoughtful about how you can match and potentially exceed the convenience of online shopping is essential.
Choose A Differentiator In The Category
With quality, convenience and brick-and-mortar retail top of mind, Modway recently debuted its first-ever private-label mattress collection: Flexhaven. Motivated to help retailers succeed, Modway developed the Flexhaven collection exclusively for physical retail stores. And, the collection offers retailers a unique and well-supported product—a differentiator in the market.
Available in twin, full, queen, and king sizes, the 10” Flexhaven mattress offers unparalleled comfort at an economical price point. A durable quilted top and ventilated gel-infused memory foam combine to deliver an incredible night of sleep. Retailers will rest more easily too as this product—along with Modway’s comprehensive marketing support and drop-ship capabilities—make meaningfully introducing the collection simple.
“We saw stores partnering with mattress brands that sold the same products online,” says Yonatan Gordon, Director of Product Development. “After seeing this and asking current accounts for their feedback, we realized the need for a mattress program catered exclusively for stores.”
Keeping up with e-commerce competitors can be a challenge for in-store retailers, but the Flexhaven collection minimizes this challenge by offering a high-quality product with all the tools to successfully launch it in stores.
What Naps Can Teach You About Your Nightly Sleep Habits
Generally speaking, napping is often viewed as an activity reserved for the very old or very young—but many adults regularly also reap the benefits of an afternoon power nap. That said, if you’ve ever brought up the idea in conversation with a group of people then you know that naps can be a polarizing topic. People tend to fall in one of three camps: regular nappers (this includes power nappers), non-nappers (those individuals who insist that they “never” or “cannot” nap) and people who are neutral on the topic (though in my experience, most people have opinions about this). Whatever your stance on naps, there is scientific evidence to back the value of them. But if you’re someone that believes naps just don’t work for you, you’re not alone. A recent study suggests that some people may be genetically predisposed to needing more continuous sleep than others, thus limiting their ability to nap. As we are all grappling with the ongoing effects of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s an important time to ensure that you are carefully regulating your sleep—and understanding how your body reacts to napping can be essential to maintaining the right sleep habits.
When considering which camp you fall into, it’s important to think about the regularity of your naps and how you feel after them. If you nap regularly and it gives you the boost you need to get through the day, then more than likely you’re someone who benefits from a good, old-fashioned nap. For those that are not regular nappers, naps can be disruptive and negatively impact their overall sleep routine. According to this Washington Post article, there is a difference between people who can nap during the day versus those who either can’t fall asleep or wake up from naps feeling worse than when they started—and it often has more to do with how their body needs to go about hitting their 7-8 hours of shut-eye than the actual nap itself.
Some individuals need to have 7-8 consecutive hours of sleep. For someone who has a tendency to sleep 5 or 6 hours in a row, they may be able to catch their missing two in the form of a nap here and there throughout the day. But for someone who is able to sleep consistently and get all their hours of sleep at night, a nap may not be necessary—and in fact, the nap can take them beyond the necessary amount of sleep they need to detrimental effect.
So on one hand, nappability depends on how long one can sleep at a time as well as a person’s normal schedule. The WaPo article goes on to explain, “One reason for this has to do with how your homeostatic sleep pressure (HSP), which regulates sleep intensity, aligns with your circadian rhythm, which regulates the timing of sleep.” So the amount, schedule and intensity of sleep you get all factors into the equation that determines if you are someone who can benefit from naps or not.
“If napping becomes a pattern for people who aren’t able to habitually nap, it can throw off their natural circadian rhythm, which influences functions such as digestion and body temperature.” Excessive napping can also be a sign that something is wrong, so if you find yourself dozing off during the day—pay attention to how your body is feeling. Is this normal for you or not? If not, you may want to check in with a doctor or mental health professional to help determine the reason behind the heightened exhaustion.
The science behind the genetic predisposition to naps really drives home the importance of sleep routine. Better sleep and how you achieve it all comes down to consistency. In order to stay healthy and ensure you get enough rest is to establish a consistent sleep routine that works for you and helps you get solid REM sleep. And, as you take measures to protect yourself and your family during the COVID-19 outbreak, prioritize sleep—it’s one of your best defenses as healthy sleep supports your immune system, helping it function as it should.