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Posh+Lavish thrives by focusing exclusively on brick-and-mortar retailers

Posh+Lavish thrives by focusing exclusively on brick-and-mortar retailers

In 2015, when brands like Casper, Tuft & Needle and Purple were disrupting the industry with online sales of boxed beds, Posh+Lavish — founded by industry veterans Kurt Ling and Steve Baumberger — took a different approach by providing premium mattress products that can only be purchased through brick-and-mortar retailers. 

Kurt Ling

Ling was recruited by Simmons to be the vice president of Beautyrest in 1999 around the time that the company released the revolutionary no-flip bed. He stayed with the company until it was bought by private equity and years later found himself as the CEO of Organic Mattress Inc. and went on to Pure LatexBliss, which is where he met Baumberger. 

With a family background in retail, Baumberger brought a unique perspective to the brand, and because he and Ling got along so well and agreed that two heads were better than one, they joined together to form Posh+Lavish. 

Unlike other luxury brands in the market that used more coils, polyurethane foam and polyester fiber than their mainstreamed price point parent brands used, Posh+Lavish mattresses, toppers and pillows are made out of top-shelf components like latex, wool and cotton.

This resulted in major growth over a short amount of time. 

Steve Baumberger

In 2016, the company introduced its latex hybrid collection called the Pocket Sprung Collection. There were many hybrid mattresses in the market by then, but this line, which features a pocket coil with exclusively latex upholstery, was new to the market. The next year, the company introduced a new line with latex cores and memory foam upholstery, and this has become the signature feel for the brand. 

In 2018, the company exploded in growth after doing consumer research and launching its Split Head Queen and Split Head King Size mattresses.

“Many of our retailers fully embraced and committed to split-head displays and the sales process which provided them unique opportunities to sell something different than all their competitors in town,” explains Kurt Ling, co-founder of Posh+Lavish. Split-head mattresses were not only a silver bullet but a stealth weapon in retailers’ marketplaces. Between 2020 and 2021, we shipped well over 95% of our orders from retailers within one week of order placement during Covid. Our retailer acquisition grew in record numbers as a brand that both stocked products for immediate shipment and could fulfill orders in a single-week turnaround when larger brands were at multiple weeks and some even multiple months.”

While taking a risk by only selling to brick-and-mortar stores, it turns out their business model was exactly what retailers were looking for. The company’s wholesale proposition to retailers by itself is even more important in today’s retail environment than anything else. Ling says it is the real reason for the company’s growth surpassing others in the industry.

“We are a brick-and-mortar brand because we believe a luxury mattress consumer wants to experience the mattress,” he explains. “We do not sell online ourselves in a direct-to-consumer model or to online retailers. We know how to design mattresses and we work with retailers who know retail. We are clear about our role in a relationship with a retailer and think it is a better model for our retail partners, which makes it better for us.”

In addition to the exclusivity of the product, Ling also says that premium strategy is important to brick-and-mortar retailers — especially in more challenging economic times when tiers of the industry are so different. 

“It is probably fair to say right now the high-end producers are up double digits,” he says. “The middle guys are down 10% or 20% and the price-point-driven guys are down more than that. Having a luxury strategy is everything at retail. Retailers have to have the right brand with the right story that feels amazing.”

And regardless of your business model, every company needs to evolve in a changing business landscape. Ling says it’s important to try to listen to consumers for unmet needs and evaluate what is the greatest need by retailers. Unique brands are important today, but even more so is a brand that isn’t available on the internet or at every storefront in a town. 

“To be able to provide a consumer a better experience at retail, thriving retailers are un-commoditizing both the products they sell and the experience itself,” Ling says. “The luxury category is becoming more and more important as every month goes by.”

With years of experience under his belt, we asked Ling what many brands in the industry do wrong when it comes to mattress sales. He says both manufacturers and retailers have to offer something unique and different to thrive. Anything else is just surviving. 

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“We have to offer a unique product that is supremely comfortable and easy to sell with a simple story,” he says. “And, we have to have a business model that is relevant today. Anyone selling the same product that everyone else does will only survive. That means same-old, same-old or knock-off products as manufacturers and that means the same thing that everyone else in town offers as retailers. Manufacturers and retailers that sell something unique that their competition does not have will thrive. And, as a mentor and good friend taught me long ago, there are riches in the niches.”

Strategically, he says it’s helpful to choose lanes and not attempt to be everything to everybody. “One size fits all has never proved to be the best approach at marketing,” he adds. 

Of course, there are many things our industry gets right, and one that Ling thinks is special is relationships. 

“It is what makes our category one of the greatest industries I know,” he explains. “The mattress business is not easy but it is simple. At the end of the day, when Posh+Lavish gets an order today it is because there was a consumer (who was a human being) who trusted a retail sales associate (who was a human being) in a store owned by a store owner (who was a human being) that trusts us and that we also trust who was licensed by one of our reps (who was a human being) and Posh+Lavish (owned by human beings) fulfilled their orders. We make mistakes and always try to make it right, but ultimately this is a business of people and trust.” 

Ling became a mattress guy in 1999 when mattresses were known as two-sided, Tempur-Pedic commercials aired in the wee hours of the morning, and you had to dial an 800 number to order one. Sleep Number stores were branded Select Comfort stores and adjustable beds were shown in the back corner of a retail store in twin size with a wired remote for people with limited mobility.  

But since then, everything has changed and will continue to change. 

“More will change in the next 25 years than changed in the last 25 years,” he says. “Anyone in the mattress business doing business the way they did it then will not thrive. They may survive but I don’t think they will do anything beyond that. There are new business models in the mattress industry and all of the manufacturers and the retailers have to find the right one for them.”

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