Next up in our mattress executive interview series we’re chatting with the CEO and found of Brooklyn Bedding, John Merwin, about the company’s interesting history, their unique spot in the online space being both a manufacturer and a seller and the incredible new line of mattresses they just launched for specific sleepers. We were also able to get a personal tour of the Brooklyn Bedding factory in Phoenix, AZ and you can check out photos from that visit throughout the interview.
When you finish reading, enter to win a Tuck staff favorite, the Brooklyn Bedding Aurora mattress in the size/firmness of your choice!
The story leading up to the formation of Brooklyn Bedding is more than interesting. Walk our readers through waiting for that first sale of a mattress on Amazon and where it led the business to today.
We listed our first mattress on Amazon after acquiring the ability to roll pack a mattress in 2008. Our first listing wasn’t compelling—the images and copy were poor quality. We were just excited to sell our first bed online. And then we didn’t sell anything right away. We still had to focus on our brick and mortar stores. About two weeks after we posted the listing we honestly forgot all about Amazon.
It was about six months later that I received a notification that one mattress on Amazon had sold. We were all so excited. I followed that mattress through even the most minute details of production. I personally loaded it into the box and onto the truck, delivering the package myself to FedEx. On the way home that night my mind began to race, thinking of the implications. I realized then we had to ramp up, to be prepared to sell hundreds if not thousands of mattresses online.
Manufacturing your own mattress is a huge advantage over other companies in the space, how have you been able to capitalize on this both in terms of design and marketing?
Because we’re vertically integrated, and have so much control over materials, quality and cost, we’re so much more nimble. We can react so much quicker to design sleep solutions specific to our customers. Our corporate offices overlook the factory. Our team can we see what’s happening in real time and adjust as needed.
Sticking with owning your own factory, it would seem to give you the ability to ‘tinker’ with the product quite a bit as well. Last year, a change was made from latex to Titanflex foam. Take us through the reasoning for the tweaks to the bed.
By manufacturing our own products we’re absolutely able to translate customer feedback into new or adjusted designs, quickly bringing those sleep solutions to market. Our decision to create TitanFlex™ foam was the direct result of customer feedback.
First, there are sleepers who love the natural properties of latex, including its buoyancy, pressure point relief and breathability. Second, there are sleepers who love the feeling of memory foam for its ability to react to heat and pressure to provide customized contouring. However, many sleepers’ preferences lay somewhere between the bounce of latex and the heavier feeling of visco-elastic memory foam. We worked with key vendors to develop TitanFlex™ as a latex alternative foam that bridges that gap, providing all the contouring properties of memory foam with the responsiveness of latex; we ensured the addition of a cool titanium gel surface infusion and exposed titanium to moderate temperature and increase foam stability. Cooling and breathability are so critical to the mattress’ performance in delivering a more comfortable night’s sleep—that enhancement put the bed over the top in terms of delivering value.
Our decision last year to make our number one selling bed, the Brooklyn Signature, a hybrid was also directly due to customer feedback—and we believed so strongly in the added value of individually encased springs that we began manufacturing our own coils in 2018.
Of course, we also introduced six new sleep solutions in response to both wholesale and consumer demand at the Las Vegas Market in July, 2018. My two favorite mattresses in that collection are the Bloom by Brooklyn Bedding series (one all-foam and one hybrid version) and the Spartan by Brooklyn Bedding. Each of the Bloom mattresses feature all-natural materials to include Talalay Latex, Joma Wool™ and certified organic cotton. The Spartan delivers active recovery while you sleep using Nanobionic technology, recently registered with the FDA..
What are some of the advantages of pocketed coils for the sleeper?
Individually encased coils provide premium comfort and support. Because they respond independently to the contours of the human body, they provide exceptional, targeted pressure point relief. That independence also results in minimized sleep disturbance—because each coil compresses individually, motion transfer between sleep partners is greatly decreased. Individually encased coils are more durable. They also allow for greater airflow, which means a cooler, more comfortable night’s sleep. As I mentioned, we’ve not only created a number of hybrid beds to deliver the superior benefits of individually encased coils, we’ve invested in our own coil machines to increase our authority in the category.
Is there ever a concern when offering three different mattress options that it could create indecision with the buyer? How should a prospective buyer navigate what Brooklyn Bedding mattress would be best for their body composition and sleep preferences?
We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to sleep. We’ve always featured a larger assortment in-store. We’ve expanded our assortment at BrooklynBedding.com with intention—clearly communicating the distinguishing features and benefits of each mattress to help customers find their perfect sleep solution.
Customers can get started by completing their sleep profile online—eight questions that help them identify a sleep system based on a number of factors, including sleep preferences and budget. We also offer a section called Sleepology to help cover the basics of buying a mattress.
How much has the business benefited from having the number of showrooms across the country to feature your products, to allow people to physically try out the lines of mattresses?
There are a number of customers who still like to kick the tires, so to speak. Having showrooms allows that type of shopper to spend time laying on a mattress, speaking with a sleep expert, and exploring all the sleep solutions available. What’s interesting is how much that in-store feedback from the customer guides future innovation. For three years, the Brooklyn Signature (aka #thebestmattressever) was our number one selling mattress online—due to the fact that we packed so many premium features into it but sold it at a highly competitive price. We developed the Brooklyn Aurora as a luxury hybrid with advanced cooling technology, initially offering it at brick and mortar only. One would expect cooling to a be a premium feature in Phoenix, Arizona but, as sales of the Brooklyn Aurora grew exponentially, and as positive reviews began to accumulate for that model, we realized it had tremendous relevance to a national audience. It’s a higher priced model but the distinctive benefits are clear at BrooklynBedding.com—the Brooklyn Aurora is now as popular as the Brooklyn Signature.
Customer feedback at our store locations also led to the development of the Bloom and Bloom Hybrid by Brooklyn Bedding as well as the Spartan by Brooklyn Bedding. Both the Bloom Hybrid and the Spartan have recently been added to BrooklynBedding.com as an integral part of our sleep solution offering.
We touched earlier on the changes to the mattress lines, do you foresee additional changes/additions to the product line on the horizon as machinery and components continue to evolve?
We will continue to evolve as technology evolves. Because we are so vertically integrated, we have extremely high quality relationships with suppliers and vendors. They often come to us first to test new ideas and innovation. We often get first crack, for instance, at a new foam that can be compressed and recover faster, or new equipment that empowers us to put a thicker mattress with more features in a box.
There are quite a few sleep accessories also available at Brooklyn Bedding, including two pillows. How would you recommend a customer decide whether the latex or shredded foam pillow is best for them?
People who purchase a latex pillow do so for its natural properties. Specifically, our Talalay Latex Pillow material is derived from the sap of the Hevea bresiliensis, or rubber, tree and produced using eco-friendly methods. Latex is known to be hyper-responsive, immediately contouring to the head and neck. It’s also inherently more breathable and hypoallergenic. We recommend the high loft version for side sleepers and the low loft version for stomach and back sleepers—each type of position requires a different approach to achieve proper spinal alignment.
The Premium Shredded Foam Pillow is really designed for sleepers who want to be able to customize their sleep. The insert allows you to remove foam to achieve just the right amount of loft for your sleep position. A shredded combination of gel memory foam and latex alternative foam provides a “just right” balance between responsiveness and contouring with added cooling properties.
You offer a 10-year warranty on your mattresses. Many people frankly aren’t sure exactly how old their current mattress is. What are some signs either with the mattress, or physical aches and pains that indicate that it is time to start mattress shopping?
We are proud of our 10-year warranty—and even prouder that Brooklyn Bedding has been around to honor it longer than most online mattress companies have existed.
There are four top telltale signs that it’s time to replace your mattress. One of the first signs is that you get a better night’s sleep at a hotel, or in another person’s guest room. Chronic morning aches and pains, especially in your shoulders and back, are a very good indication that you’re no longer getting the support and pressure point relief you need. While some signs of sinkage can be normal, any dip that exceeds four inches in the center of your bed or where you normally sleep is a good sign your mattress is past its prime. Rips and tears, in addition to uneven wearing or lumps, are also signs of a mattress going bad.
Philanthropy is a big part of Brooklyn Bedding, and your cause is looking after our youth. Take us through how that decision was made and how you have been able to impact kids in a positive way.
Brooklyn Bedding works directly with qualified organizations in local communities that help improve the quality of life for children, providing new bedding and sleep accessories to young family members in need. We call the program Tuck Me In. We focus on foster care prevention and reunification, helping prevent the removal of children from their families due solely to a lack of basic needs and resources; we also help those in transitional housing who may have suffered from domestic abuse, homelessness or human trafficking; when there’s an unreasonable risk for harm to a child in his or her current home, we provide basic sleep needs to foster families who step in to help provide a safe living environment.
We started the Tuck Me In program when my girls were pre-school age—when my wife and I recognized how fortunate our family was, and recognized that every child deserved to be tucked in each night in a loving, safe home environment. Some of my favorite times with my own children came when I was putting them to bed. Of course, they didn’t want to go to bed or go to sleep. I would lie in bed with them while they talked about absolutely anything and everything to avoid turning the lights out. It may seem like a small thing, but those moments have monumental impact on a child’s life and your relationship with them.
Is your oldest daughter, Kayli, still angry about the fact that the company is named after your middle child, Brooklyn? On that same topic, there has to be some people in NYC think they can stop in to your warehouse. That has to make for some nice stories.
Kayli is 16 and mad at me about everything.
We certainly do a brisk business in New York. I love the city. While there has been confusion on occasion, people respond very positively to our start-up story, how the name originated, and why we have roots in Phoenix, Arizona. We could very well have a showroom in New York City one day.
Having been in the mattress business for well over 20 years, I’m sure you have seen plenty of changes as well as progression. That said, this bed in a box space has exploded over the last five. Where do you see the industry headed over the next two to three years?
In my opinion, in the next five years, nearly every single mattress is going to be put in a box. It’s simply a delivery method. I can take just about any mattress now, deconstruct it, make a couple of tweaks, compress it and put it in a box.