We had the pleasure of interviewing David Farley for the first installment of our mattress executive interview series. Our goal is to dig into issues that consumers face and approach individuals with a deep background in the space to land on interviews that Tuck Sleep users will actually want to read. Let us know what you think and check out the interview below.
Along with this interview, we’re doing a giveaway for a Luxi mattress – you choose the size. Enter that giveaway here!
Introduce yourself and give us a brief history of your involvement in the world of mattresses/sleep products.
My name is David Farley and my experience in the sleep products industry goes back to 1990 when I first started a my own company involved with fabricated urethane foam products for medical applications. Prior to that, after completing my engineering degree, MBA, military and an 8 year stint in Corporate America, I was also a principal in a partnership business involved with urethane foam fabrication. That would pre-date my mattress industry involvement by another ten years or so, but who’s counting. Some of the projects we completed during that earlier period, under contract to Kaiser Healthcare, Tyco and Baxter were technically in the sleep arena, and the products were commodity. But then in 1990 I formed that new business, that was 100% centered on a couple of patents that I held. Let’s call them: “the anatomical uses of foam” patents that were very much exclusively for sleep surface products. As a vendor to a couple of the major brands (SpringAir and Simmons) for mattress components, I participated in the launch of product brands (Conforma and BackCare) that brought to consumers new choices that involved foam that was not “flat” from a load bearing standpoint. There were some earlier products in the industry involving the “posterizing” of mattress components, but my company, then called: “Anatomic Concepts” was there to produce different feeling surfaces as its exclusive purpose. And we used new manufacturing techniques to create “zoning” of elements that not only looked “anatomic” but also functioned to better match the human shape from a load bearing standpoint.
Anatomic Concepts eventually morphed and changed its name to “Anatomic Global”: as the products it produced moved from strictly medical to consumer mattress. We became a quickly growing company specializing in the manufacture and delivery of Memory Foam mattresses during a time period when the popularity of anything and everything Memory Foam was growing. Anatomic Global’s products represented a second echelon product line for mid sized specialty bedding retailers who had room for a lower cost line with a unique “Support Surface Physics” as a key product design aspect.
After the sale of Anatomic Global in 2012 and a brief retirement, I joined my daughter Shannon who has considerable consumer digital marketing experience, in yet another new venture that we named: “LUXI”. We started by countering the positioning of other much better funded startups in the online segment first with the LUXI 3:1 Adjustable Mattress, our answer to the preposterous claim that any one (non-adjustable) mattress could be perfect for everyone. We have subsequently gone on to grow that business and believe we have created a legitimately superior position from which to continue to grow the business both online and as a key driver behind various programs that strive to unite and bridge the current online bed-in-a-box segment with the traditional retail industry. It is our intention to make a difference concerning just what the future of the mattress/sleep products industry really looks like.
Tell us a little bit about how you did the R&D and product development for the Luxi mattress. How did you go about developing Shape-Matching technology?
As I already mentioned, I’ve literally built an entire business (“Anatomic Concepts”) around the idea of “Shape Matching”. Here is what that means …….. from a general business standpoint. LUXI has to be a product that represents a consumer value add, that no one else is interested or capable of providing because they exist in a purely “faster-cheeper” world. With a limitless assortment of urethane foam mattress building blocks, where’s the motivation to go further in terms of the function that can be created by simply cutting and gluing up multiple layers of flat foam stock to achieve a sought after level of softness or firmness. There is actually a limit to the general degree of floatation that can be achieved using these materials and this flat layering approach. And that is a limit defined by the work that can be done within the elastic performance limits of the materials themselves. If there is a desire to go beyond this limit, the supporting materials have to be fabricated, somehow structured to better anticipate the human shape. Our first efforts in this design logic actually put an entire human “print” in the mattress surface, from a load bearing standpoint, and the result was a more specific sink, a more obvious lumbar support and lower interface pressures at the bony prominent ends of the spine (shoulders and hips). The business model aspects here about LUXI come when answering some of the questions that pretty much made Anatomic Concepts a successful medical device manufacturing company with a particular message for the interostomical therapy specialty nursing community.
The design of products that increase surface interface pressures selectively with the result of both increasing support pressures at those places on the surface and reducing point pressures elsewhere across the surface, is the hallmark of the Shape-Matching approach. Looking at any given flat sheet of foam let’s say with two otherwise identical pieces laying side by side, with one profile cut into our “collapsing column” SBT configuration, the following is obvious. The initial flat sheet works within its elastic limits to compress and create a flotation that generally lowers pressure in an average sense while hammocking out across the full arial extent of the foam sheet. The SBT fabricated sheet however, preforms differently with its highly disrupted surface more quickly and smoothly accommodating the personal anatomical aspects of one’s body shape in a more specific and surface compliant fashion. We refer to the one surface as being “Area Elastic” and the SBT modified surface as being “Point Elastic”. There are obviously some other aspects of the Shape-Matching surface that include the ability to dial in edge support and to open up the full thickness of the element for enhanced air flow. These are all aspects of the Shape Matching technology that make it perfect for foam mattress construction.
Where are Luxi mattresses manufactured and what does that process look like for the proprietary components inside the bed?
The LUXI Mattress is manufactured in a general purpose foam manufacturing facility in Southern California and our current growth may well require that we soon include other facilities further east in manufacturing partnerships. Any number of partner fabricators are available that can follow our specifications, that are, as we are, all made in the USA. Ideally any LUXI Manufacturer would have the same capabilities we have today in Southern California to fabricate and “contour cut” foam components and to quilt and sew covers. That’s the profile of our current operations. All the fabrics are converted from roll goods to finished covers and our foam elements progress from bun stock to fabricated and glued up mattress cores, all under one roof. Certainly the most difficult to accomplish manufacturing step is the contour cutting of our key interior element that we refer to as the SBT (Support Balancing Technology) element, both as to the machine cutting and as your knowing the right shapes (the right cross sectional areas and thicknesses of the individual pod shapes) that produce the desired finished surface feels. Depending on the foam grades used in each build, these “dimensions” of the patterned columnar foam pods is changed in a very unique and experiential / engineered manor. It has been many years of experimentation, for example, that makes it possible for us to know how to contour cut any given raw material, so that the end result is made to enhance the memory foam sensation say, for example.
With growth comes increasing demands around customer service, how has customer service changed for Luxi since launch?
Our whole attitude toward Customer Service has changed dramatically as we have come to understand that with a product that is adjustable and even customizable, that has a specific best sales practice approach that has to be thoughtfully marketed, that the end goal for the business has to come from the engagement with the customer. This chain of perspectives has become very clear to us. Having a good product is a necessity, its the ante in the game. And knowing an effective sales approach and how to market that in all media is very interesting. But the real end game is in the conversations that we’re able to have with our customers. So, given that any adjustable mattress is a bit more difficult to sell and market to the consumer. Conversing about all that with the customer is the big opportunity. LUXI is not the simplest or least expensive alternative in the marketplace. But the conversations that naturally come up about its use and function are rich and rewarding. And I think lasting.
You’ve been helping to inform consumers about the environmental impact of trying and returning mattresses sold online carelessly – tell us what you’ve found and how you’re addressing the problem internally.
Wow! Thanks for asking this question. Every since the violently fired-up flurry in the new bed-in-a-box online segment has begun, I’ve wanted to rant a bit about what I refer to as the “false natives” the segment marketeers are spreading in order to get their work done. We don’t find it generally productive to be speaking negatively about anything that’s going on in the segment. So I have been biting my tongue for quite a while now. But there is one issue that I just can’t get past…….. Not that one mattress can ever be perfect for everyone, or that these online mattress would cost the consumer three times the amount if sold in a traditional retailer store, or that there is somehow some economic advantage that comes from cutting out the middlemen and replacing them with $250 – $400 marketing acquisition costs, etc… (these are some of what I refer to as the false narratives) but that the 100 day free trail makes any sense at all. I mean that it makes any sense if the true social, economic and environmental impact of this convenience is not understood. That’s what I have continued to be concerned about and my concern stems from knowing two things..
First, after interviewing more than a hundred of our customers I have determined that they are not generally concerned about the environment. But we do sell to a lot of Millennials (and this is true for some of the non-millennials also) that for them, just the mention of “landfill impact” raises a very specific response. I attribute this to the Millennials being a generation that has grown up separating their trash (certainly this is not my generation) and being globally concerned about the amount of trash we produce as a society. The second thing I have been taken by is the knowledge the when 100 day trial mattresses are turned over to a collection or disposal company, many of whom claim to make every effort will be made to get used mattress into a chartable channel, that 37.4% of the time that mattress or its ground up components should end up in a landfill. This is happening at a current rate of tens of thousands of mattress every year. LUXI, as a company finds this, in the age when Yvon Chouinard at Patagonia has produced an (144) country international movement that is committed to avoiding landfill impacts, that any of our trial mattresses end up there. We can, in fact, state that from working with our customers over the past year that not one. Not one single LUXI mattress, has to our knowledge, made the trip to the landfill or ended up tossed out by the side of the road.
Talk to us about the 1,000 night pledge and what the sleep consultation process looks like at Luxi
The “1,000 Night Pledge” is really just a play on 99 days, 100 days, 102 days or 180 days, and so on. The point being, beyond the 100 night free trial, that we’re there for any of our customers that are still seeking a great night’s sleep on their LUXI that are willing to interact with us to get there. It makes it possible for us to say we have never refused anyone for missing their 100 day cut off. That’s our goal: “that you get a great night’s sleep, hopefully on your LUXI”. And of course, during the first 100 nights, if we can’t make that happen we initiate the donation and refund process. But what we do for our Pledge Responders are a couple of things …. we first ask questions to be sure we not being asked to participate in the conduct of any act of gross consumer irresponsibility. We make this clear on our website that “chain” mattress trials and multi mattress in-home comparison testing are things we do not support. We also ask questions to insure against efforts to base complaints on a medical condition that their LUXI or any other mattress would ever cure. But assuming we get past these things our questioning goes to having the customer explain their issues in specific support surface physics terms. With such information like: “my hands are numb when I wake up” or “I have persistent low back pain for at least two hours every morning” and so forth, we will provide a standard customization response to be shared intelligently with the customer. And if there is a customization, it is approved at no cost. In terms of our business model is it fundamentally based on: 1.) having a product that is adjustable (even customizable)in the field and then 2.) taking the opportunity (or even being obligated) to engage the customer while systemizing this full circle experience every chance we get.
You were involved in a pretty large charity endeavor involving sleep surfaces – tell us more about that and if there are any efforts Luxi plans on making around philanthropy.
One lesson concerning philanthropy is that big natural disasters represent the big but short lived opportunities to assist. We do believe in doing good, while doing well and historically we have worked in partnership with the Red Cross and WorldVision during the Katrina and Haiti disasters basically making good use our our manufacturing ability by putting what were otherwise byproducts into the building and delivery of over (40,000) sleep support surfaces (emergency, individual field mattresses/mattress pads) to those two disasters with some of these products finding their way into (20 ) other countries worldwide over about an eight year period. We did this both as an internally sponsored effort and we enjoyed the support of many of our industry vendors and competitors. That made it about a 1.5 Million dollar project and we, as a company directly sponsored about a third of that. Today, however, we are merely maintaining a slow-flow of excess mattresses to our corporate charity of choice, AmVets who provide and furnish homes for our returning heroes and their families. Shannon and I are members of a military family and that’s our stated charitable desire. But of course the 100 night free trail mattresses represent a less intended continued charitable effort that we share with our customers. I can state that while finding chartable channels for these trial mattresses has become more and more difficult over time, that we have kept ourselves in a unique position today of being able to say that no one. Not one single mattress from our trial mattress program has been handed over to a “disposal company”. We insist on them all going directly to any non-profit that we and our customers agree to.
If you had one piece of advice for mattress/bedding shoppers, what would it be and why?
Just that they remember the internet is transforming the mattress industry as we speak, and like all else stemming for our leaping ahead technologically, you have to beware. There is really nothing going on that should change the old adage: “Buyer Beware”. Today’s internet marketers are merely the modern day digital reflection of the Madmen of Madison Avenue who, during the 1950’s, with the help of TV, convinced way too many that cigarette smoking was really a good thing.
I would also ask that shoppers consider the specific consequences of their decisions concerning online mattress purchasing. And the distinction I want to make, because I too think convenience if a great thing, is that they consider the “size and scope” of the mattress itself. Just that. It’s not complicated. Compared to Warby Parker and a pair of glasses, or Zappos and a pair of shoes, the relative size and scope of the mattress alone begs for a much different, more responsible consideration. These mattresses are not small items that can be readily transported and reused. The implications are different for these 30 cubic foot, 130 pound difficult to degrade plastic monsters that can’t be legally moved around in interstate commerce. “Tossing” or even prematurely recycling a mattress is really a much bigger issue than might be first thought just simply because of the size and scope issues. I believe some not all, but many consumers would be really upset to know that the mattress they tried out, causally, was disposed of in this way, without their being properly informed.
What is the most common customer complaint you hear about mattresses/pillows and the shopping experience from Luxi customers and how have you addressed it with your offerings?
Something like 70% of our product complaints relate to the mattress not being “soft enough” or “I just can’t get comfortable with it”. We consider both of these responses to boil down to the softness issue. And so we have softened the mattress on a couple of occasions, by slightly tweaking it, and that has had surprisingly little impact on these complaint statistics, so what we have come to realize is that there will always be a portion of the consumer market buying sight unseen, that wants out of the responsibility at some point and the easiest way out is to complain about softness. I’d guess LUXI has one of the lowest return rates among it’s competitors because we have essentially at least three shots at finding a good match. But that’s only for consumers that actually have SOFT-MEDUIM-FIRM related complaints and not with something that’s underlying that bothering them. We believe that the best way to answer these complaints is therefore by interaction. That means putting the potential for post delivery customization into the equation. We have also experienced that by working with our customers who have complaints, by having a vigorous conversation about what they’re actual sleep experience has been, that a minimum offer to provide custom enhancing pieces solves our customer complaints about 65% of the time. We track both our customer dissatisfaction rate and return rate with the goal of closing that gap. We also realize that more needs to be done to systemize the Customer Service approach to include better direction when customization is warranted and on-boarding that system will be one of our major undertakings for the months ahead in Customer Service. We have intentions on making it more of a shared “University of LUXI” experience, taping into the to great customer interaction potential we at LUXI uniquely enjoy.
I’ve noticed you recently launched a pillow and foundation, what new products should our readers keep an eye out for in 2018 from Luxi?
In addition to the pillows and foundation we have already launched our second mattress (“the LuxiOne”) that is constructed using the same SBT (“Shape Matching”) Technology form the Original LUXI 3:1 Adjustable Mattress. Based on overall thickness and class of goods considerations, the LuxiOne fits in at a significantly lower price point creating the opportunity for us to deliver more affordable luxury. As this new product continues to roll out we anticipate separate Customer Service approaches will be developed and we’re right now expecting to hear from several of the mattress review sites that should be publishing their LuxiOne Reviews over the months ahead. I think that for folks that truly like “SOFT”, that the LuxiOne will prove to be a very interesting new product in the segment. We also have another couple of other higher technology mattresses in the design phase and expect to bring one of them to the website later this year. Upgrading our website to allow us the introduction of other more ancillary products is a constant and ongoing activity.
What are the biggest trends you see in the mattress space and what predictions do you have for the next 12-18 months?
I think of the participants in the bed-in-a-box segment (online, catalog and big box) like participants in the Tour De France bicycle race. There are (200) riders, maybe (12) or so are in a breakaway pack and the days for any company in the back group to Market their way to the front are over. There’s going to be attrition in the back group as very few of these companies are profitable. And there’s going to be consolidation and acquisitions up front. So there’s going to be fewer players soon. And there is possibly only another year of segment growth until a zenith is reached beyond which the consumer’s real need to have “choice” and to get a personal feel of the products in the traditional retail setting will have a limiting effect. So, if the segment as I’ve defined it is 17% of the total market today, perhaps that number will reach into the low 20’s but then I believe a backward drift in market share will begin as the reality of the quality and wear life of the products already sold over the past five years may also begin to slow things down. And Amazon and Walmart will be constantly working to commoditize all of the online offerings hurting the back group a lot. So the opportunities online are going to become fewer and more price point limited. It’s going to become harder and harder to sell a quality mattress online above the $999 price point. It is also possible, that at any time, some of the Black Hat and non-credible affiliate and publication associations being created by the current segment front runners will blow up if for example there are changes in search algorithms instituted by Google and FaceBook to counter what are otherwise their unethical and negative short term strategies.