Why buy a mattress anywhere else? If you’re of our vintage, you remember this catchy jingle from the Sleep Country Canada adverts that ran on radio and TV for years. Now, with the Vancouver-born company celebrating its 25th anniversary, we quizzed (and found ourselves somewhat celeb-struck by) the star of those ads, Sleep Country co-founder Christine Magee, about what’s changed in the “business of sleep” in the last two-dozen-plus years—and got the low-down on her nightly bedtime routine. —Noa Nichol
Hi Christine! How did you first become involved in the business of sleep? How does it feel to have been in business for 25 years?
Yes! We are celebrating 25 years this month, which is incredible. We—myself and my business partners, Stephen Gunn and Gordon Lownds—started this business after we had a unique opportunity to look inside the sleep industry as it existed back then, not only on the manufacturing side but the retail side, as well. We created a plan and approach to service that we felt didn’t exist; we felt there was an opportunity to go in and offer something new in the Canadian market. We took an unconventional approach, with the goal of not only providing great products and service but also creating brand awareness at a higher level, so when you woke up in the morning after a note-so-great night’s sleep, you knew the name Sleep Country and you knew where to go.
What have you observed to be some of the biggest changes in the sleep industry over the last quarter century? How have you and Sleep Country kept up with these changes?
There have been so many changes, from mattresses that conform to individual sleepers, to cooling aspects to weighted blankets—these all address innovations in sleep, and I really feel we’ve led that process. We started to innovate from the very beginning, at our first four store in Vancouver, seeking out products that dealt with specific sleep issues that our customers were telling us they were dealing with. We’ve also heard so much about the importance of sleep to our health, what we’ve come to realize through it all is that it’s not just a mattress and a box spring, it’s an entire sleep system, right down to the pillows.
"Disruption" is a big buzzword in business these days (and not a bad one!); do you feel Sleep Country has "disrupted" the sleep industry in any way? If so, how?
We really disrupted the retail landscape that existed 25 years ago, and along the course have continued to innovate—maybe not disrupting, but leading the industry in terms of where service should go, from the in-store experience to delivery to picking up and taking away your old mattress for donation or recycling.
Tell us more about the donation program.
Mattress donation is something we’ve been doing from the very beginning, and something we’re very proud of. When we started our company we learned quickly that when someone replaces their mattress, it can still be in great shape. The natural question that came out of that was, “What can we do with an old but still useful mattress?” We had the opportunity to ask various local agencies if they’d be interested in receiving gently used mattresses—and they were! So, last year alone we diverted 160,000 mattresses and box springs from landfill by either donating or recycling them. From the beginning we felt that this was very important, this ability to not only protect the environment but do a variety of work within our community. I know that our team members feel good about working for a company that gives back, too.
What can customers expect when they walk into a Sleep Country store these days?
Not only do we have that variety of “matt and box,” but we’re also understanding better and better the importance of your pillow and your foundation, and the opportunity to buy your linen, mattress pad, weighted blankets and other accessories in one shop. What you see now is a team that continues to be very consultative and very informed, not only when it comes to your mattress but your sleep system as a whole, and can consult you on what’s going to work best for you. We’re careful to source wonderful product and offer it at a great value—product that really will improve your quality of sleep when you snuggle into bed at night!
What about the online experience?
Well, our “bed in a box” concept Bloom launched in 2017 and has been doing great. We’re also going to be launching our new ecommerce site soon; it promises to be best in class in terms of purchasing and also information about sleep and our products.
What would you say are the top trends in sleep today? Any new innovations you are particularly excited about?
People are understanding there is a holistic approach to sleep—several factors one needs to take into consideration when they’re investing in their sleep system. From cooling systems to weighted blankets, it all reaffirms the importance of a good night’s sleep, as does the larger dialogue around your routine—making the environment darker and quieter, turning off our devices, reducing the amount of stimuli we’re exposed to before bed.
What do you love best about being in the business of sleep?
I love that for 25 years, I hope and think we have made a difference in the lives of our consumers in the quality of their sleep. I have also loved the opportunity to serve our customers, and to work with our 1,500-member team.
We remember you so well from the Sleep Country ads (along with the jingle!). Did you gain a certain celebrity status from starring in them?
After a career in banking, when I agreed to be spokesperson it was totally out of my comfort zone, but we felt it was important to put a name and face to the brand that appealed to our target market of women 25 to 54. Anecdotal evidence certainly told us that this worked, but in real life I didn’t get recognized that often! People would see my card and say, “Oh, you have the same name as the woman in the Sleep Country ads,” and, depending on the day, I would either admit to the truth or not! But that—celebrity, or being recognized—is really not why we did it and, personally, I always felt I was simply representing my company and I wanted to make sure I did really well.
Finally, we are dying to know: what's your nightly bedtime ritual?!
Admittedly, I am not a poster child for sleep; I recognize that quality and quantity is important but I definitely need to work on my routine! If I don’t get my seven hours I certainly try to the next day! I’d say my current nightly bedtime ritual is aspirational!
Win! A $164 Snuggable Weighted Blanket From Sleep Country Canada!
We have a winner! Congratulations Lauren A. of Toronto, Ontario, who won a $164 Snuggable Weighted Blanket from Sleep Country Canada!