It’s one thing to make something as small as an iphone and ship units all over the world. It’s quite another to manufacture thousands of large items and rely on retailers to sell them. That’s why mega-stores such as Wal-Mart and Sam’s carry many products that you can’t find under the same model name in other stores. When a manufacturer makes the same product and sells it under different names at different retailers, that is called private labeling.
The reason for private labeling is that retailers want to make as much money as possible from each item. If Wal-Mart signs a deal with Sony for a certain television with a unique-to-Wal-Mart model number, for example, then it becomes impossible for consumers to find the exact same Sony for less anywhere else. Wal-Mart will be the only company that sells the “TV6240”. This kind of deal benefits Sony and Wal-Mart, of course, but the consumer loses out because there can be no true comparison shopping.
Mattress manufacturers are among the largest industries that frequently create private labels for specific stores. Sealy, for example, has hundreds of different model names for Posturepedic® mattresses: Miranda, Proclamation and Majestic, just to name a few. Serta has different kinds of Perfect Sleeper®. Simmons offers multiple versions of the Beautyrest®. In short, the “Big 3,” as they’re known in the industry, all private-label many of their mattresses.
The other labeling strategy major manufacturers’ use is to create different names for single mattress lines that are sold to various major chains. For example, the Big 3 all have several lines of mattresses with 10 to 15 models in each. In a given city, they may sell the same line under a different name to different stores. So Mattress King, Mattress World and Mattress Discounters may all be selling the exact same product made in the same factory; but the consumer would never know.
When a manufacturer uses private labeling or has different lines of mattresses, there is no practical way to compare prices for the same model at different stores, particularly when you include online stores.
Near the higher end of the mattress market, there’s no shell game going on. Manufacturers selling higher-quality mattresses such as Tempur-Pedic® or Hastens® establish specific prices which all their retailers are required to follow. So in every store, the set price will be the same. Local offers such as free delivery, free setup, free pillows, or old mattress removal may vary—but the mattress prices do not.
In the organic mattress industry, Savvy Rest®, Green Sleep®, and some others have followed this model of not discounting mattresses. They—like Tempur-Pedic® and Hastens®—are promoting their brand’s quality, rather than using “price wars” to attract buyers.
The organic mattress leaders do not private label or sell different lines to different stores. Instead, they build their brands by promoting top-quality materials, consistency, durability, and superior customer service.
In the mattress market, what’s in a name is a question worth asking.