Michael Rothbard, president of Sleep Studio, is a third generation home furnishings entrepreneur. He founded his first specialty sleep company, Comfort Sleeper, at the age of 25. From that point on, he has dedicated most of his 25-year career as an entrepreneur to offering the true luxury of better sleep.
A few months ago, Rothbard, along with co-founder Chris Ann Ernst and creative director Susan Burks, opened the first-ever Sleep Studio showroom—a 3700 s.f. flagship in New York’s Soho neighborhood—offering beds, bedding, loungewear and accessories.
Interior of the new Sleep Studio showroom in Soho
This reporter caught up with Rothbard about the business of sleep, how it’s evolving, and his vision for the company.
How has the "sleep" business evolved over time?
The sleep business in the US is slowly becoming more like the sleep business in most of Europe. What I mean by that is that people are becoming more interested in the science of sleep and the performance of their bedding. As a result, the specialty sleep category has been the fastest growing category and the luxury end of the market has shown steady growth while the lower priced categories have fallen flat.
How have consumers' perspective of sleep changed?
There is growing awareness of the importance of sleep and the many benefits that better sleep can offer. As a result people are more interested in learning about the latest technologies and how they can benefit from them.
What's your vision for the new store?
We say “sleep beautifully” on the front door, and it’s our vision to help everybody who walks through those doors to sleep beautifully in every sense of the word. This can mean anything from a beautiful bedroom, fabulous sleepwear and relaxing bath and body products to the finest sleep systems, cashmere throws and Siberian goose down.
How have you at Sleep Studio addressed the changing needs of the market?
The Sleep Studio concept was born from the need to create a more enjoyable shopping experience for the bedroom. We decided to offer a comprehensive assortment of beautiful, high quality products for the bedroom in an environment that is relaxed, luxurious and educational. Our approach to sleep is to offer a highly personalized experience. The best example of this is our bespoke bed, rather than confuse consumers with too many options we feel the best bed is one made just for them.
What are the key components of getting a good night's rest?
A good night’s rest means different things for different people. Some people need more sleep than others. However, a good average is eight hours a night. The key components to a good night’s rest are the right environment and the right bed. This means a cool, dark, quiet space and a bed that offers the right comfort and support as well as good air circulation. Then a person needs to address sleep as an important part of the day and not just a speed bump. This means taking time to wind down, physically and mentally preparing for sleep.
To you personally, what does it mean to get a good night's sleep? Do you have any tricks?
I have three kids including twins who just turned one, so sleep has been in short supply the last year. I need eight hours, but am happy to get six these days. I have no problem falling asleep at night, but then often find myself up in the middle of the night with my mind buzzing. My trick is to not panic, but focus on clearing my head by imagining a blank screen in a movie theater. If that doesn’t work, I get up and have a banana. For some reason that always does it for me.
How do you do your market research, do you do sleep studies?
We do behavioral sleep studies as well as physiological sleep studies. We’ve even tested our sleep materials for heat retention at a university using what is called a “sweaty mannequin.”
Where are the products made and how are they tested?
Our bedding and furniture is made mostly in Italy. Our sleep systems are made here and in Germany, where our unique foundation is manufactured.
What's your most popular/best selling item(s)?
We just opened a month ago so it is way too early to tell, but visitors to our store have purchased everything from sleepwear to furniture. We have a beautiful assortment of very light cashmere/silk blend throws that have been very popular even on the hot summer days.
Who is the main buyer—designers, consumers?
We believe our offering of bedding and furniture will be most popular with the designer community. Meanwhile, our sleepwear, bath and body products and sleep systems will be very popular with consumers.
Are you looking at new markets/new showrooms—where?
Yes, we have plans to expand to similar markets in the near future. Potential locations are being considered in Miami and West Hollywood.
Any Sleep Studio products in hotels?
Yes, we are in the process of creating dream suites in a new luxury hotel being constructed in Midtown. In the near future, we will be looking to expand our relationship with the design community and luxury hotels.