Monday, November 9, 2009

Maddening Mattress Market

The mattress industry in pretty interesting from an economic perspective. If I want to buy a new car, a new appliance, or some other sort of major purchase, it's pretty easy for me to compare products across manufacturers and across retailers. Ever tried to do this when buying a mattress? It's nearly impossible. First, there's a bunch of gibberish used to describe all the different attributes of a mattress. More importantly, manufacturers tend not to sell the same mattress to different retailers. While the functional attributes of a particular mattress will be the same across retailers (assuming you could ever figure that out), there will be some sort of minor change along with a different product name to make it extremely difficult to comparison shop.

Aside from the frustration of trying to buy in this market, it's interesting to think about why these obfuscation practices persist. Sure, I see that it helps retailers keep margins higher. But, why doesn't some low-cost competitor step in and offer straight-forward pricing that would appeal to consumers (maybe such a company is out there, but I didn't see it)? And why does this practice persist in the mattress industry but not other home products? I suspect part of it has to do with the limited number of manufacturers. Hmmm.

26 comments:

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  2. Same with Tires - the "clubs" sell michelins, but the model # / features are different.

    I first saw this at military "base exchange" stores.

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  3. I believe Nike operates on the same principle. You will not be able to comparison shop at a mall because slightly different shoes with different names are sent to different retailers.

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