business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times has a story about how the Casper mattress company, having successfully contributed to the disruption of the traditional mattress business, is trying to take the next step and continue its disruptive ways.

Here’s how the Times frames the story:

“Casper has quietly acknowledged that it’s not enough to be a mere foam-slab company. The start-up needs a bigger market, and the concept it’s embracing is sleep itself.

“Five years ago, the start-up started slinging compressed mattresses in cardboard boxes straight to buyers’ homes — an alternative to cluttered mattress chains that tried to baffle consumers with jargon. Casper’s basic proposition, that going to a mattress store is a drag and no one should have to do it, made sense to fans of other retail start-ups trying to cut out middlemen, such as Warby Parker.

“But in the years since, Casper has had to shift positions. Dozens of mattress-in-a-box competitors crowded the market. Realizing the limitations of an entirely virtual business model, Casper began opening storefronts and selling products like pillows and sheets. All the while, the wellness industry rose up, with companies attaching their wares to a sense of higher, healthful purpose. While businesses devoted to optimizing most of the core bodily functions abound — start-ups that promise more healthful eating, more holistic hydration, etc. — no company has yet established itself as the clear leader of the sleep space.

“It’s a slightly absurd concept, until you consider that humans spend about one-third of their lives sleeping, and that the potential market is enormous.”

Enormous as in being an $85 billion business by 2021, says one analyst.

Whether it is “bed frames (starting at $365), duvets ($250), dog beds ($125),” or even Glow, described as “a cordless bedside light designed to expedite the wind-down process, a somewhat oxymoronic proposition … Glow gradually dims for 45 minutes and turns on or off with a simple shake,” Casper is trying to position itself as “the Nike of sleep.”
KC's View:
Regardless of whether Casper is in the end successful in this effort, I have to say that I think it is smart to realize that if it is going to have a sustainable business model, it needs to be in the business of enabling and promoting sleep, not in the business of selling mattresses and various accoutrements. Just as food stores ought to think more about being nourishing, not selling boxes and bags and cans of stuff.

This attitude adjustment changes the way you think about the business challenge, and changes the way you think about your relationship to the customer - and all for the positive.