The word mattress derives from the Arabic word matrah, which means "something thrown down" or "place where something is thrown down" and hence "mat, cushion". During the Crusades Europeans adopted the Arabic method of sleeping on cushions on the floor, and the word materas eventually descended into Middle English through the Romance languages. The oldest known mattress dates to around 77,000 years ago.
In the first half of the 20th century, a typical mattress sold in North America had an innerspring core and cotton batting or fiberfill. Modern mattresses usually contain either an inner spring core or materials such as latex, viscoelastic or other flexible polyurethane foams. Other fill components include insulator pads over the coils that prevent the bed's upholstery layers from cupping down into the innerspring, as well as polyester fiberfill in the bed's top upholstery layers. In 1899 James Marshall introduced the first individually wrapped pocketed spring coil mattress, now commonly known as Marshall coils. That is how old pocketed spring mattresses are.
Things have not changed much since for the base spring structure. The next big change was foam technology, which made spring mattresses more comfortable. Memory foam and high density foam came about in the late 70s.
So now you know that spring mattress technology is very dated. There has been no significant new material technology change or discovery. What did change, however, especially in the later half of the 20th century, was advertising technology. Television changed the way mattresses were being sold. Branding psychology became incredibly important. Soon after in the 21st century the internet has replaced TV as the medium for advertising. Mattress technology has however basically remained constant.
High end branding and TV have allowed mattress makers to improve the markup of the mattress manyfold. This high markup continues to exist, especially in Asia. In the US the markups for mattresses are coming down very quickly, because the internet has made the marketplace more transparent. The average price of a Sealy mattress is under USD$2000/- in North America. Many models are even under a thousand. The typical Sealy mattress sold in Singapore is significantly more expensive.
The Actual Cost of a Mattress
The manufacturing cost of a proper innerspring mattress in China or Malaysia is about RM$300 to RM$800. The RM$800 factory cost is for a very premium mattress that will sell for about RM$3000 to RM$6000. At the lower end a RM$300 factory cost mattress will retail for RM$2000 to RM$3000. In order to get at these prices, however, you have order by the hundreds at the very least. A manufacturer told us that any spring mattress costing more than RM$800 would not improve comfort or longevity.
Factory-to-Warehouse transportation cost is also very costly especially for uncompressed mattresses, which are big, bulky and awkward. Costs range from RM$30 to RM$150 per mattress.
On top of that, Warehouse-to-Home transportation cost is a another large cost. This ranges from RM$60 to RM$450. Large uncompressed king mattresses are also nearly impossible to deliver for new apartment developments. They have to either be squeezed and shoved into lifts, or failing that manhandled and dragged up many flights of stairs.
Showroom costs also consume between 15% to 30% of a retailer's revenue. This cost usually exceeds the cost of the goods themselves. Salesman commissions and salaries are the highest in the mattress industry. The cost range from 10 to 12%.
Additionally, advertising costs take up another 5% to 15% of a retailer's revenue. Advertising for mattresses is expensive even when done digitally. As more companies see the potential in internet sales, Google Adword keywords advertising costs are escalating very rapidly.
The current dominant business model makes for very expensive mattresses.
The New Player
Inkagu is the first in the Malaysian market to launch a low cost high quality spring mattress. We were able to do so by reinventing the traditional mattress business model.
1. We cut cost by having only one showroom at IMM for the entire island. No chain store approach.
2. We compress and roll mattresses into small packages. This reduces volume by more than 80%. Transportation is minimized through the entire supply chain. Transport cost plunges 80%. Warehousing cost is also reduced. This does not affect quality.
3. They use only do digital advertising. No expensive newspaper ads.
4. Their website is e-commerce enabled. All information is available on the website.
5. They outsource home delivery to reduce customer services and delivery cost.