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John Merwin was doing pretty well with his mattress retail business. After devoting nearly a decade to building a chain of stores in Arizona and Utah, he knew what made customers comfortable and happy. But he also knew that the world was changing. It was 2011, and the recession was in full swing. Brick-and-mortar stores were closing everywhere, with customers buying more and more things online. John got a bold new idea.

He would manufacture beds himself and sell them online. It was a risky time to start something like that, with the economy tanking. Making beds in the U.S. is expensive, and there are lots of competitors who source things more cheaply overseas. But John had an ace up his sleeve.

Amazon gave me the ability to reach hundreds of thousands of customers I could never reach with the brick-and-mortar stores. That’s a big deal, and a big opportunity"

John Merwin, owner of Dreamfoam Bedding

He had learned that on the Amazon Marketplace, everyone was invited to sell. It was self-service, and small businesses were welcome. By getting direct access to Amazon customers without the need to advertise, John could reduce his overhead and offer the beds at a competitive price. “Amazon gave me the ability to reach hundreds of thousands of customers I could never reach with the brick-and-mortar stores. That’s a big deal, and a big opportunity.”

John’s company, Dreamfoam Bedding, invested in new equipment and started making its own memory foam and latex beds, an increasingly popular style that offers customers a better night’s sleep and decreased back pain. Because Dreamfoam manufactured the mattresses themselves, they would have the ability to make them to order and quickly compress them for fast, easy shipping.

John held his breath. “It was a gamble. Buying a mattress is a very personal thing, not the kind of thing that people usually like to buy online.” Only after orders started flowing in on Amazon did John begin to believe that “this could really work.” That’s when he doubled down. He took advantage of Amazon’s direct customer feedback to add a valuable innovation of his own: “We customize the firmness of the mattress for each customer. People really like that level of personalization.”

John explains, “I’d had three or four online sales, and then a customer called in who wasn’t happy with the bed. She didn’t like the firmness. That’s when I realized I could have met her expectations because I can set the firmness of any mattress I manufacture.” Starting with the very next order, he began emailing each customer to determine their preference, using a scale of 1 to 10. Pretty soon, Dreamfoam achieved a consistent five-star rating from Amazon customers and orders started pouring in.

John also credits his strong sales and customer happiness to the fact that all the mattresses he sells on Amazon are made in the U.S. “There’s a shift—we feel it in our retail stores and online—toward buying U.S.-made products.” And Amazon customers are an important contributor to the trend. “I can say that selling on Amazon has already shown the potential to outperform my best store, and that’s a high volume of mattresses.”

Thanks in part to his Amazon sales, John has not only survived the recession but has created a new future for his business. “It’s going well. I see the potential. I’m proud to be a U.S. manufacturer, and I think we’re only at the beginning of where we can get to with Amazon.”

Dreamfoam Bedding is one of thousands of small businesses thriving because of Amazon customers.

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