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Boll & Branch’s Most Luxurious Bedding Collection Was 8 Years In The Making

Scott Tannen, co-founder and CEO of Boll & Branch, with his wife Missy, who is also chief of design, saw an opening in the bedding market for a start-up when Missy couldn’t find decent, affordable sheets anywhere, let alone luxury ones. Tannen said he spent all their savings, sending it to a supplier in India and hoping that he would be sent back textiles.

He was, and they were off and running. Boll & Branch is expected to do $200 million in total turnover this year, and with a $100 million investment from L Catterton, the investment arm of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. The business, which was bootstrapped eight and a half years ago, is well capitalized.

“We’ve been working on the Reserve collection for eight years. At the time they made their investment, we were working on it,” Tannen said, referring to the investor. “They’re very excited about it as well. When L Catterton makes an investment, they’re looking for brands that are going to distinguish themselves as the best in the industry. The Reserve collection shares that belief with them. My wife and I started the company and engineered our own supply chain.”

The Reserve Collection is Boll & Branch’s most elevated collection yet, Tannen said, a bold statement. Tannen backed it up by explaining that everything begins with the cotton. The new luxe collection is made with the top 0.04% of the world’s organic cotton, which is rarer than a flawless diamond, which accounts to 0.05 % of the world’s diamond reserves. And Tannen said the company plans to branch out to other parts of the home, and beyond. He declined to be more specific, saying it’s early in the products’ development.

“Our cotton is about the rarest cotton you can ask for in a bed sheet,” Tannen said, explaining that the process to make the sheets is also different. “It gets a little bit more technical,” he said. “When you take the conventional cotton gin, it’s spun into yarn and typically yarn is spun at a continuous speed. We’re actually spinning our yarn at a lower speed and this is something nobody does. We’re trying to slow it down because that enables us to create a longer and longer length of the fiber.

“When you have longer yarn you have less joints, if you will,” he added. “With yarn, when you join them you can see the joints with your clothing but with our sheets you can’t see that because we also apply a lot of finishes to the product, which I don’t think anybody does. With a flame we singe the edge and twist it into the yarn so you don’t have fuzz on the outside, which over time can pill. Higher quality sheets don’t pill, but we actually singe that off.”

The time it takes to make Reserve is 20% to 30% longer than it typically takes to make sheets and bedding because there’s a lot of handwork involved. “We’re able to make a much more finely-crafted product,” Tannen said. “A similar analogy is that it’s sort of like thinking of mass-produced wine versus something that’s from a very small crop in a specific vineyard and how it’s produced.”

Boll & Branch has a very large media campaign that’s focused more on the brand than the product. It reaches across television, audio podcasts, social media and digital, but word of mouth is king. “It’s pretty 360 degrees,” Tannen said. “Regardless of what we spend on advertising, it’s the power of shared word of mouth.

“If you were sleeping on our sheets and you raved about them and told your cousin or your friend or your neighbor how much better they are, that’s a very powerful endorsement, especially in a category like bedding where most people don’t usually even know what brand of bedding they have, let alone have a strong conviction about it. So there’s a sense of discovery and sharing and shared values when we operate our business in the way that we do. I think I customers feel very connected to the people whose lives we are impacting.”

Boll & Branch has a socially responsible strategy of paying workers a fair living wage. “The way we approach wages among our workers is pretty unique within all of textiles beyond just the home area,” Tannen said. “We’ve done a lot to not just keep people well-paid and employed but also to keep them healthy.”

Tannen said consumers are still willing to pay a premium for luxury items in the face of rampant inflation and talk about a possible recession, if they perceive value in the product.

“That’s why we let then try out the Reserve Collection,” he said. “They can sleep on it, wash it, and if they’re not happy with it, they can get a full refund. Consumers are always willing to pay for quality. That’s why we let people sleep on our product for a month. We feel confident that we’re putting out a really high quality product for people who are looking for the best of everything.”

Higher-priced competitors, such as Frette, have a higher cost of goods and they’re reducing the quality of what they sell, so they can protect their margins, Tannen said. “That’s happening everywhere,” he added. “Then, on the flip side, if you look at Tesla
as an example, Tesla makes a high quality product and they’ve got a 16-month waiting list.” Boll & Branch prices start at $258 for its Signature full sheet set; a Reserve full sheet set starts at $458. A Frette Lux Percalle sheet set was $525, marked down to $263 recently on the brand’s e-commerce site. An Ultimate sheet set was $3,525 to $3,850.

“We try to educate consumers, especially in our retail stores and on our website,” Tannen said, “but at the end of the day what does the customer want? The customer wants the most incredible-feeling cotton so we present the information and make it available, including when you buy the product, there’s a little booklet in there that explains what makes a product so special.”

Tannen is targeting a consumer with a certain mind set, rather than an age. “With people that are investing in their homes and those sorts of things we are a little bit less concerned with an age range and millennial consumers,” he said. “We reach the established suburban customer. My customer may be buying Frette.

“We now have 150-plus employees and we’re smart enough to realize that you need to be bringing in experts if you want to do something like what we’ve been talking about,” Tannen said. “We work with not only some of the most talented artisans around the world, but we’ve built a tremendous team. We also work with longtime textile engineers and scientists. We focus on investing and creating incredible product, not taking it off the shelf with a middleman. We just don’t do things that way.”

Money for luxury items can be harder to come by in a difficult economy. “If we continue to offer outstanding value products and make sure we deliver great service and great product we’ll succeed,” Tannen said. “We put as much in our product as we possibly can. I don’t think any of us knows what the future holds, but it’s companies that make things that are truly valuable to the end user, that are going to thrive, even in down periods.”