21 July 2024, 23:26
By Furniture News Nov 10, 2021

Steve Reid outlines Simba's bed-in-a-box ambitions

With sales, profits and popularity at an all-time high, homegrown bed-in-a-box brand Simba is enjoying a record year – and things can only get better, says co-founder and chief executive Steve Reid, writes Paul Farley …

Co-founded by Steve, James Cox and the McClements family, Simba Sleep’s website went live in February 2016, and the brand has since sold over one million sleep products worldwide, generating over 150,000 five-star customer reviews.

While many champion diversity in sleep surfaces, Simba’s flagship mattress has demonstrated near-universal appeal. The Hybrid, which employs springs and memory foam and was created in line with body-profiling data from over 10 million global consumers, has now been joined by the premium-end Hybrid Luxe, which has already outperformed expectations.

This year has also seen Simba generate more sales in H1 (up +130% YoY) than across the entirety of 2019, making the half the brand’s most profitable to date, despite the re-emergence of offline competition when lockdown measures were lifted in April.

Simba also continues to attract extremely positive consumer sentiment, reaching over 150,000 five-star reviews, and achieving over 90% of both four- and five-star reviews on Trustpilot.

Having outlasted many of its competitors, the London-based business is pushing ahead with international expansion, product innovation and partnerships, conscious that, despite making such impressive gains, its journey has only just begun …

Following two quarters of record growth, how do you expect the rest of the year to pan out? Is there anything that could derail you?

Our investment into R&D, innovation and new premium product development are resonating with the consumer – and we do not envisage this changing. Our growth has springboarded from these pillars – something that we will continue to be tuned into. 

We expect the consumer movement of home and ecommerce to continue on a strong trajectory, but like everyone in our sector we anticipate and indeed hope that we can all continue to resume a more ‘normal’ life. And we understand that, with that, there are more demands on consumers’ disposable income. 

Could that impact trading sales numbers? Of course – but we are ready for it. Simba has a robust operating model, low overheads, efficient marketing spends and resonance with the consumer, so we don’t see anything seriously derailing what is now a solidly profitable and sales growth-led business. 

Just two years ago, Simba was discussing a potential merger with eve sleep. Was there a moment in which it felt like your fortunes turned?

Our financial stability had very much begun to turn positive before the merger had been mooted in the press, so internally we took the reporting of it with a pinch of salt, as it wasn’t ever seriously considered.

We could see that all of the work internally to reshape and refine the business to move to profitability were paying dividends, and that any merger with another brand wasn’t right strategically for Simba. We have remained wholly focused on our own sleep innovation and marketing budgets to communicate with and bring that to the consumer – both in the UK and as part of our considered international expansion plan.

How have your bricks-and-mortar retail partnerships fared of late, and are you keen to expand these in the UK?

Our mission is to improve how the world sleeps, so if a customer can be found via a bricks-and-mortar or ecom-led partner, then we are keen to push that channel as much as our own website – because helping the world sleep better is a mission that should be channel agnostic! We just want as many people as possible to experience our technology.

What supply chain issues have you encountered during the pandemic, and do you think you’ve fared better than the importers?

Like everyone in the industry we have encountered challenges across the pandemic – across all parts of our manufacturing and distribution to end consumers. But we are incredibly fortunate to work with exceptional partners who have been able to support the surge in growth that we have seen for our products. 

We owe them and all of their staff a debt of thanks for what they have done and continue to do for us. 

Have we fared better than importers? Yes, I believe so. But manufacturing locally has always been a key part of our strategy. We are intensely proud of making as much of our product as we can in the UK, for the UK market. We have such talent in the UK, so why wouldn’t we?

Can you give us an idea of how closely you’re working with Belfield Group’s U-Sleep business? How did the manufacturing partnership come about?

Our founding team had long held relationships with Belfield and we knew what a credible, reliable and talented team of people they have. As we continued to expand in the UK market, we needed a partner that could meet both the reliable output we needed, but also the demands on R&D and production line changes to keep pace with us, and U-Sleep fit the bill perfectly. 

We work incredibly closely with them, and are proud to be sole supply. The term ‘partnership’ gets bandied around freely in business, but with U-Sleep we both feel that we have a genuinely positive, harmonious, and continuously growing partnership – which benefits the consumer on every mattress we produce together.

How advanced are your international expansion plans? Have they deviated much, given recent events?

Very advanced. We took a capital injection from Cartesian Capital in late 2019 in order to expand Simba’s technology into international markets in a diligent, disciplined yet fast-paced way, and not even Covid has resulted in any deviation from our plan. 

We continue our growth in France as a continental territory opportunity for further growth into Europe. The Canada market is beating weekly sales records every week, and remains a great opportunity in its own right – but also for the USA in due course. We also remain very focused on the China market, where we have also been recording record sales weeks and have expanded and strengthened our team in Shanghai significantly this year, as we push for high growth.

In terms of mattress, do you think hybrid is the future? Can you discuss any new product/material directions?

We believe hybrid mattresses are the bedrock of a good night’s sleep, which is why we are so committed to them. But the fact we produce solely hybrids isn’t what makes a great mattress – it’s the technology within our hybrids that does. Our patented Aerocoil springs (cooling and supportive) and patented Simba-Pure foam are both unique in the market.

We take the same hybrid (combined technology) ethos across our sleep system – the Simba Hybrid Pillow is a huge favourite amongst our customers, combining intricate tiers of Stratos technology (inspired by space suits worn by astronauts) for heat regulation with Nanocubes, for tailored firmness and support. 

The Simba Hybrid Duvet combines Stratos, too, with our new duvet fill called Simba-Renew, which gives the comfort and warmth of down, but is 100% made with fibres from recycled PET bottles.

We are passionate about pushing the boundaries of sustainability in the sector. Simba mattresses are now 100% recyclable, we use eco factories with zero-waste policies and we are members of the BRC Climate Action Roadmap.

More people appear to be buying your premium products. How long has it taken this mindset to come about, and have you encouraged it?

 We have nurtured continuous innovation from day one, and consumers appreciate it. Within a week of launching the Simba Hybrid Pro Mattress in 2019, it had reached over 15% of the mix of our product – and then, when we launched the Simba Hybrid Luxe in April 2021, within a week it was also 15%. 

Both premium mattresses now account for over 50% of sales, affirming where we believe we sit in the market, which is at the accessible luxury end of a mass market, with products engineered to bring innovation normally used at the high-price ends of the market – at a price that much of the market can afford to invest in.

What do good user reviews mean to your brand? What factors are most crucial to maintaining a high score?

It means everything. If we’re not getting great feedback, then how can we reliably believe that we are helping our customers, both in their purchase experience, but fundamentally to sleep better?

Every bit of feedback is used in our business to help us improve – whether it’s on customer service, delivery, or the product itself. We remain with what we understand to be industry-leading NPS, CSAT, TrustPilot and 5-star reviews, and the pursuit of this positive feedback and improving on it remains central to the DNA of everyone at Simba. 

We don’t work to maintain a high score, we work hard to satisfy and ensure all Simba customers are delighted with every interaction to do with our brand and product. Great feedback tends to then, naturally follow.

You’ve said that Simba is “focused on disciplined growth” – how have you gone about things differently to your less-successful rivals? 

It doesn’t matter what industry or sector you are in, if a business continually makes a loss, something isn’t working. Our mantra from launch has been that if we engineer truly brilliant, cutting-edge products, at a price point attractive to the consumer, then customers will understand why Simba is a great investment in their future sleep. 

Differentiated and patented products are the heart of our business. We have always been fascinated by unique raw materials that complement each other to enhance sleep performance. It’s that energy that carries us forward – especially when the feedback underpins that they are satisfying the sleep needs of our customers.

But when we talk about progression and forward thinking at Simba, it runs far deeper than the product, too. You have to continuously work on improving, evolving and shaping healthier business practices, supplier relationships and sustainability responsibilities.

We are profitable, and in no small way this is thanks to us amassing an organic following of consumer advocates, happy to recommend us to others. We are in a position where we don’t have to pay for a significant proportion of our customers, which is important.

What’s your next step? Does Simba have any ambition to explore areas beyond sleep?

We know sleep really, really well, and we are focused on engineering optimal sleep for as many people as we can, in as many countries as possible – as quickly as is sensible. Our mission is to help how the world sleeps, and we are only just getting started on that journey, with much more impact to come. So, the bedroom is very much our sole focus.

This interview was published in October's issue of Furniture News magazine.

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