A couple of years ago you couldn’t read a newspaper or magazine or scroll through social media channels without seeing them. They were everywhere – even in some of the biggest furniture and bed retailers’ stores around the country.

Yes, we’re talking about the mattress-in-a-box companies that are were shaking up the traditional, sleepy beds sector with their idea that one mattress fits all.

What’s interesting is that over the past couple of years, this notion of ‘one mattress fits all’ seems to have slightly waivered with some offering different alternatives now – showing that the concept is a little simplistic as mattress comfort is so subjective.

One of the key frustrations about buying a mattress has always been how difficult it is to comparison shop. These products appeal to like-minded consumers who find the whole process of buying a mattress a frustrating journey.

Most of us buy a new mattress so infrequently that when we decide to search for a new one and wander aimlessly into a bed store, we are faced with a sea of near identical looking beige coloured rectangles. Where on earth do you start?

There is so much reliance on commission-based salespeople to try and establish which one product from a choice of 30 or more might be the most suitable. Even if you do manage to land on one that appears to meet your needs, you often have to wait several weeks for it to be delivered.

If, after a short period, you realise that maybe the one you’ve chosen isn’t as comfortable as you first thought, you have to go through the often time-consuming and frustrating process of complaining which may result in inspection visits from the retailer and/or an independent inspector and there’s no guarantee that that they will agree to offer you a replacement.

That’s why for many of us, there’s something quite easy about ordering a one size fits all mattress online. Typically you have up to 100 days to sleep on your mattress and at any time up until then, if you’re unhappy with your mattress for whatever reason, they will come and collect it and fully refund your money.

And with the Covid-19 lockdown ensuring non-essential shops were closed for a period of time, more people turned to this kind of online shopping to purchase their new mattresses hassle-free. Even with shops now re-opening, for some buying online seems ‘safer’ – even though retailers have put stringent hygiene measures into practice for shopping instore.

So, what’s not to like about these bed in a boxes? The first thing to be aware of is that the vast majority of these mattresses are made up of different layers of foam including standard polyurethane foam, memory foam, gel foam or latex foam. If you’re not a fan of the type of feel that foam mattresses offer compared to spring interior mattresses then they might not be for you. There are, however, a few companies who combine the ‘bounce’ of pocket springs with different layers of comforting foam.

Secondly, the majority of these new mattress-in-a-box products are priced at around £500-£600 for a double size. This puts them in the mid-price bracket for a mattress. Clearly if your budget is much lower than £500 or if you want to invest in a top of the range pocket sprung mattress with layers of natural fillings then you’re unlikely to consider these mid-price options.

The new tech companies also claim that their mattresses are suitable for almost all people. How can this possibly be true? Well it’s perfectly possible to construct a mattress that will adequately support users whose weight falls between two given points – say from 8 stones through to 15 stones which would account for the majority of the adult population. However, what you can’t measure is comfort because this is purely a subjective matter. What one person finds extremely comfortable, another may find uncomfortably firm or too soft.

So, are mattress-in-a-box products worth buying or should you spend time visiting a bed store and lying on different mattresses? There’s no doubt that this type of selling is here to stay.

Traditional bed retailers are struggling to cope with the ever-increasing costs of running a store and consumers in the UK are changing their shopping habits – especially following Coid-19. If you’re looking for a reasonable quality, mid-price mattress then the mattress-in-a-box companies might be worth looking at.

But if you’re looking for something very specific and willing to pay good money for it, then a bed specialist is the place to go. The salespeople have a wealth of knowledge and you should receive expert, independent advice. Buying a bed is a fairly long-term investment so it’s worth getting it right.

However, for bed retailers to survive, they need to offer something that the pureplay internet mattress companies can’t. They must create a fantastic, personal shopping environment with plenty of choice, backed up by excellent service at every consumer touch-point to delight the customer.

This post was first published November 2018 and has since been updated.

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