8 December 2017 Courier Weekly

The intense competition among mattress startups.

PLUS: London retail – Fashion seasonality — Venture jobs — Email startups

Sleepwalking into ‘peak sleep’.

With news of ‘duvet-in-a-box’ startup Buffy launching this week, just how crowded can the direct-to-consumer sleep market get?

Slick websites, celebrity-heavy marketing, 100-day trial periods and bucket-loads of VC cash have made the startup mattress space rather ferocious.

In the US, market-leader Casper launched in 2014, selling almost £600,000-worth of mattresses in 28 days and hitting its annual target in just two months. In 2016, the company saw more than £154m in sales.

Other competitors include Nectar, Helix, Tuft and Needle, Leesa, Saatva, Purple, Keetsa, Hyphen, Lull, Yogabed, Avocado, Nest, and Bedaga.

In the UK, it’s largely a battle between Simba, founded in 2015 and promoted by footballer Gareth Bale, and Eve, which told Courier it sold 25,000 mattresses in its first 18 months after launching in 2015.

Can such a niche category continue to support more competitors? One unresolved question: how big can this market be if young consumers are mostly tenants, so are not motivated to buy their own mattress?

To branch out, and stand out, some companies are turning to secondary products — pillows, sheets and even dog beds. Others are trying to market ‘sleep as lifestyle’.

Case in point: Casper’s new print magazine, Woolly, which this week got profiled by the New Yorker.

Shaftesbury’s plans to snap up London properties.

Shaftesbury, the property company which owns vast swathes of London’s West End, including Carnaby Street and Seven Dials, is raising £265m to buy even more properties across the city.

This week it spent £92m on a property scheme in Soho.

Many in London have been uneasy with the dominant hold super-landowners like Shaftesbury, Grosvenor, Land Securities, British Land and The Crown Estate have over big chunks of retail space. They claim their ownership allows for an interesting mix of tenants, including independent retailers, as they can take a longer term view and have more flexibility.

Shaftesbury says it currently has over 300 retail units in its portfolio, a significant number of which are let to independents.

We previously spoke to Papersmiths (pictured), a stationery retailer, about the process of approaching the likes of Shaftesbury for commercial space.

Fashion brands turning away from seasonal schedules.

Acne Studios is the latest fashion brand to ditch the usual Autumn/Winter, Spring/Summer schedule for its collections.

Acne said it will run its women’s ready-to-wear shows at the same time as the couture schedule.

This trend has in part come from startup fashion brands questioning the value of operating within the traditional fashion calendar. The American direct-to-consumer brand Everlane releases new items individually on an impromptu basis. Seven-year-old fashion brand Babyghost releases new designs each month.

The trend for ad-hoc ‘drops’ has been a core component in the playbook of streetwear brands.

Old-school fashion houses like Rodarte and Proenza Schouler have also decided to run an alternative schedule.

Business grads want to become venture investors. 

The Financial Times reckons working in venture capital has become the most attractive job for a business graduate.

It used to be the case that MBA schools were little more than academies that churned out graduates who went on mainly to work in management consulting and investment banking.

That’s been changing of late. At Harvard Business School, 23% of this year’s graduates went into management consultancy roles. The more dynamic space of backing fast-changing companies and sectors enticed almost 20% this year. It was just 10% in 2013.

Harvard’s own publication, Harvard Business Review, published a report recently which hinted at the broader fetishisation of startup. It showed evidence that startups which used the fashionable language of ‘disruption’ received 1.7 times more investment funding than companies which didn’t.

Good news for ambitious newsletters.

My Little Paris, a startup that’s grown from a scrappy email newsletter filled with Paris tips to a lifestyle brand valued at £175m, has been profiled in the Financial Times.

The company now counts four million subscribers to its flagship newsletter.

Meanwhile, The Skimm, a daily newsletter with a base of around six million readers (80% of whom are women), is reckoned to be an acquisition target for big media groups. It’s been criticised for patronising its readers with dumbed down current affairs, but nevertheless has been raking in advertisers as well as over £10m in funding. It was set up in 2012.