Sustainability Premium Must Be Earned

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BSC research says many consumers are willing to pay more for a sustainable mattress, but an industry effort is needed to raise awareness.

Hands holding leafy dollar sign.

Exactly how much more will consumers pay for a mattress made with environmentally sustainable practices or materials?

That was the question that a major mattress retailer posed to me the other day when we were discussing important new Better Sleep Council research that looks at mattress sustainability issues. The research reveals that two-thirds of consumers say they would pay more for a sustainable mattress, specifically:

  • 5% of consumers would pay greater than 20% more for a sustainable mattress.
  • 22% of consumers would pay from 11% to 20% more for such a mattress.
  • 37% of consumers would pay from 1% to 10% more.
  • 36% of consumers would not pay more for a sustainable mattress.

As my retail friend contemplated those percentages, he wondered how they might play out on a mattress sales floor. And that led him to wonder how those sustainability premiums would translate into actual sales dollars.

I’ve thought a lot about that question and the answer is now clear to me: There is no automatic sustainability premium at retail. It must be earned by the industry, which means the combined efforts of industry groups, suppliers, manufacturers, and, perhaps most importantly, retailers, to provide compelling reasons why sustainable products are better. 

The BSC sustainability research presents the broad outlines of a significant opportunity for retailers. The fact that two out of three consumers say they would pay anywhere from 1% more to greater than 20% more for a sustainable mattress is great news.

But how will the industry help educate consumers about the importance of sustainable mattresses? And how will retailers, who must close the sale, tell sustainability stories in their advertising and on their sales floors?

The BSC leads consumer research and education for the International Sleep Products Association. ISPA is proud to be playing a leading role in boosting awareness of sustainability issues.

ISPA’s first Sustainability Conference, held last fall in Charlotte, North Carolina, attracted almost 200 industry players and demonstrated that the industry is eager to learn more about sustainability. And it sparked an ongoing dialogue that will be critical to raising consumer awareness of those issues. Greater consumer awareness, ultimately, will drive higher mattress sales tickets.

The sustainability research identifies key demographic groups that savvy mattress marketers will want to target with sustainability messages. It shows that Gen Z consumers and millennials say they are willing to pay more for a sustainable mattress than their older counterparts.

For example, 40% of adult Gen Z consumers (ages 18-24 last year when the survey was conducted) said they would pay 11% to 20% more for a sustainable mattress, and 3% said they would pay greater than 20% more. The figures were even higher for millennials (ages 25 to 40 last year), with 41% saying they would pay 11% to 20% more, and 12% saying they would pay greater than 20% more.

In contrast, only 20% of boomers (56 and older last year) said they would pay 11% to 20% more, and just 2% said they would pay greater than 20% more.

One challenge for the industry here is that younger consumers say they are willing to pay substantially less for a new mattress than older consumers. While Gen Z consumers are willing to pay an average of $683, boomers are willing to pay an average of $1,074 – almost $400 more. That suggests the sustainability premium for Gen Z consumers might be significantly less than the sustainability premium that boomers are willing to pay. 

The prices that consumers are willing to pay for mattresses are influenced by many factors, including age, income level, education level and location. And that’s before mattress-specific issues like sustainability enter the equation.

The BSC research paints an encouraging picture of many consumers receptive to paying more for a sustainable mattress. It is up to the industry to present sustainable messages in a powerful way, one that can command higher prices.