Today’s results from Eve Sleep make positive reading, as long as you are content to see widening losses.

Welcome news this morning that online mattress manufacturer Eve Sleep has seen a ‘sales spike’ in its first full year as a listed company.

This comes as etailer Silentnight is poised go physical with a store in a UK shopping centre.

Meanwhile, Casper, the online mattress retailer from the US (which started in 2014), is busy opening stores in its home country at pace, and presumably it’s only a matter of time before this is replicated over here.

“The phrase ‘castles in the air’ could be applied to the current performance of many online retailers – it is share price, not profits, that matter and it is this that will generate further funding”

The interesting part, of course, about the Eve Sleep results is that revenues have more than doubled to £27.7m but, being online, it naturally made a pre-tax loss – of £19m. All’s right with the world, then.

Perhaps more to the point is the difference between online and offline as far as basic accounting is concerned.

If you happen to be, say, John Lewis, you will have quite a lot of space devoted in-store to selling mattresses. This will be serviced by ‘partners’, and it seems likely that the return per square foot (mattresses are big things) will not be as high as in many other parts of a full-line John Lewis store.

Yet if a profit is not declared, partners’ annual bonuses are zapped – it’s just happened – and the news take tends to be something along the lines of ‘what lies ahead?’.

Online loss-makers

Contrast this with the online mattress merchants. Most have no shops, supply their shoppers from warehouses (at a somewhat lower cost than showing off the stock in a big store) and do not need legions of staff on standby to help sell the products.

Yet they are allowed to make a loss. Eve Sleep is symptomatic of the prevailing mindset. Apparently, the reason for the losses widening from the previous year was that Eve Sleep has spent money on ‘building the brand’.

All good, except that if this were a physical retailer, things would probably grind to a halt rapidly, management would be questioned and store portfolios might be slashed following a CVA.

The phrase ‘castles in the air’ could be applied to the current performance of many online retailers – it is share price, not profits, that matter and it is this that will generate further funding.

How long this storeless, profit-free state of affairs can continue is a moot point.

Is there just a chance that, for some of the smaller outfits, we may be on the cusp of seeing a few more failures as a cavalier disregard for the very old-fashioned notion of making a profit comes under scrutiny?