- The husband-wife duo behind the pajama brand Desmond & Dempsey saw increasing sales last year.
- The sleepwear market is expected to grow substantially, even after the pandemic subsides.
- The founders discuss rising in the industry and managing the brand through the pandemic.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
There are two types of people in the world: those who wear old T-shirts to bed, and those who don’t.
Joel Jeffery, 33, and Molly Goddard, 29, the millennial duo behind the London-based luxury pajama brand Desmond & Dempsey, don’t mind if you’re part of the former.
Eventually, Jeffery said, people come around. Some of the investors they first pitched claimed to not wear two-piece pajamas, forcing the duo to revise their presentation, calling pajamas “something you wear to the breakfast table.”
Goddard’s old boss also wasn’t a believer. Then, they gave him a pair. “Now he’s on our VIP customer list,” she said.
Desmond & Dempsey, which sells pajama sets for about $150, saw sales skyrocket during the pandemic. It sits in a privileged position at the intersection of two multi-billion-dollar industries. First, the $10 billion self care industry. Second, high-end sleepwear, or as Brandi Neal wrote for Bustle the “fancy pajamas you usually only see in movies.” This category also encompasses nightgowns, robes, and slippers, and market researcher Technavio expects the market to grow by $19.5 billion between 2020 and 2024.
And Jeffrey doesn’t expect the momentum to stop anytime soon.
The brand was in the right place, at the right time
It’s hard to pinpoint how many people actually sleep in pajamas.
In the United States, meanwhile, a 2018 report stated nearly 69% of people sleep partially clothed, while 31% sleep fully clothed. Then there are those, of course, who sleep naked. What is known, however, is that luxury sleep and loungewear are associated with comfort. And the idea of comfort (including meditation apps, organic diets, and face masks) is especially popular among millennials.
It’s this comfort, Jeffrey says, that people sought during the pandemic as the world fell into precariousness. Last year, the Washington Post, citing the Adobe Digital Economy Index, reported pajama sales increased over 140% in April 2020, compared to the month prior.
Last March and April, Desmond & Dempsey saw a 400% increase in sales. Its best-selling items were the two-piece pajama set. The company was able to deal with an increase in consumer demand because it decided to still place the orders that wholesalers canceled, restocking its top items and then selling direct-to-consumer.
Launched in 2014, the brand was named after Jeffery’s and Goddard’s grandparents, respectively. In its early days, Goddard used to personally email each customer asking for feedback, then send a code that would give them free monogramming if they told their friends about the company.
That referral program helped generate interest in the company at the start, and a similar strategy helped it get through the pandemic. It started an initiative that allowed people to nominate a friend to receive a pair of Desmond & Dempsey pajamas. All the person had to do was explain why their friend deserved it.
“People needed comfort and that’s what those pajamas provided,” Goddard said. “People were vulnerable and really suffering, and it gave them something to make them feel a little more creative.”
The market is expected to grow, Desmond & Dempsey is ready
The pandemic, in a sense, has helped accelerate the normalization of self-care and comfort.
Andreas Lenzhofer, cofounder of the Zurich-based sleepwear company Dagsmejan, told Insider he expects interest in the category to rise, and the focuses on personal health, wellness, and comfort are here to stay.
Adobe Analytics found that November pajama sales were up 200% compared to the year prior. NPD Group told Insider last year’s sales for pajamas costing $50 or more increased 3 times faster than average-priced pajamas, accounting for 17% of the pajama market.
Meanwhile, social media is helping these niche brands build an audience. Desmond & Dempsey has over 80,000 followers on Instagram alone. Other luxury sleepwear brands such as Lunya (whose sleep set goes for $232) and Olivia Von Halle (whose pajamas can cost nearly $600) have over 233,000 and 102,000 followers on the platform, respectively.
Dagsmejan told Insider it also ended 2020 with massive sales growth, seeing over three-times what it saw in 2019.
“People realized there was life to have,” he said. “[They] readjusted their spending patterns, and focused on where they could make a positive impact on their personal wellbeing.”
Now, with an influx of customers, Desmond & Dempsey’s next mission is now fighting out how to make the consumer demand stay, Goddard said.
But that might not be too hard. As the remote work trend continues, rumors have been swirling that office life will never be the same. Even designer Misha Nonoo previously told Insider she was preparing to make comfort dressing the new power dressing, as Zoom meetings slowly becoming part of everyday life.
Already, Desmond & Dempsey has collaborated with H&M and has expanded into slippers, nightgowns, robes, eye masks, and even diapers. To date, it has partnered with over 30 wholesale retailers, including Bergdorf Goodman, Selfridges, and online retailer FarFetched, and in October it will officially launch a kids collection.
Jeffrey and Goddard even want to open a store one day, and further expand their presence into the United States. The market might be crowded but if anything, but they are ready.
“We just have to change the spelling of pyjamas,” Goddard said.