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Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Company co-founder: "Made in America is not a marketing gimmick for us."

We need a new mattress at my house.

Our old mattress is lumpy and springy at the same time, neither in a good way. I wake up often in the middle of the night, and I regularly wake up with pain in my lower back; it takes me about five minutes of stretching each morning before I work all of the kinks out.

Yes, the old mattress is wearing and weighing me down. So I set out to find a new one.

But that’s easier said than done, man! A quick Google search can get you a cheap mattress for a cheap price – but my chronic back ache demands I hunt for higher quality. And when you do that, mattresses get expensive, fast.

All was lost. But then! Someone told me that a Kardashian had recently bought a new mattress, and it came shipped to your front door in a box, and this mattress in a box was reportedly of high quality, and buying one wouldn’t break the bank, and it was American-made.

That sounded nuts, so I googled that. And voila: Casper, a New York City-based start-up that has sold a lot of mattresses since it opened for business in April 2014.

As luck would have it, Casper was hosting a “Snooze Bar” right here in Washington, DC that very week. To make up for its lack of retail locations – the company exists mostly online – it had rented a space in Georgetown for a few days to give potential customers a chance to test out its product.

So I headed over.

 

A photo posted by Casper (@casper) on

 

Casper has a very slick website that explains how its mattresses come together. The mattress is foam -- therefore, you can fit it through any door frame and it comes shipped in a box. But while pleasant, the site suggests you’re looking at a pretty pricey product until you consider a Casper mattress (queen size) sells for $850, which, while nothing to sneeze at, is very reasonable when matched with comparable options.

At the Georgetown Snooze Bar I met Luke Sherwin,  a company co-founder, who explained its lack of showrooms is what keeps the costs down:  

It’s not like Casper is doing highly disruptive pricing economics on the supply chain, or making materials for much less money. Our actual costs are actually higher than the rest of the industry, simply because we’re a smaller company. It’s literally the inefficiencies of selling a mattress through a commissioned show room.

(In show rooms) you’re looking at two-thirds markups, consistently, and that’s for the higher-end mattresses you’d want to own, and the alternative – and you can certainly get mattresses cheaper than a Casper – you’re looking at purely commodity material mattresses from a major big box store. And those are all imported.

Not Casper. The fabric for its mattresses come from South Carolina and Illinois, and its latex- and memory-foam components are poured in Pennsylvania and Georgia. Only a small part of the lining comes from a company in Belgium.

Delicious waffles.

“The fact that people were close and we could go visit them … while perhaps not the most economic version of starting a new mattress, it was a huge advantage for Casper,” said Sherwin. “When we have material or marketing shifts, or get a lot of press, we can talk to the different factories in our supply chain and ramp things up on a dime pretty quickly. If you were to do this overseas you’d never have that flexibility.

“I think for a startup, that flexibility and the ability to iterate on design and packaging is super awesome.”

I'll vouch for this seriously comfy bed.

The Snooze Bar was legit. Upon your arrival, I traded in my shoes for slippers. There were a couple of dudes behind a makeshift bar slinging cocktails (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), a guy making customized pillow cases, and another on a waffle iron cranking out snacks. And there was also the main event: A few beds in which you could crash.

I tried it out for about 20 minutes. I’d give it a thumbs up, and I’ll take the plunge, eager to support an American-made product.

But while the company makes no secrets about where its mattresses are made, Sherwin, who serves as Casper's creative director, made note of its specific marketing angle. “Our brand is about sleep,” he said:

It’s not about where it’s made or how it’s made, it’s about making a perfect mattress that’s great for sleep. Made in America is not a marketing gimmick for us. It was the best thing for us to do and we’re proud of that.

It’s not something that we proselytize about as a core element of our business, simply because we think it’s wonderful that it’s sustainable and economically viable to manufacture in America. We didn’t make an inefficient choice simply for a marketing angle.

We’re proud to have a modern, integrated supply chain that’s all made in America. No aspect of our decision making was informed by a marketing message.

Making it in America, for Casper, made the most sense. That’s probably the best endorsement of American manufacturing you can get. Check out the company here.