- Mattress Firm is the largest specialty mattress retailer in the United States, with around 3,400 stores.
- It has increasingly come under pressure as new startups such as Casper innovate the experience of mattress shopping and take market share.
- The company plans to close 175 stores in 2018, and analysts say it’s likely more will follow.
Mattress Firm has commanded the American mattress market for years, but it has increasingly come under pressure as new startups like Casper find ways to improve the experience of shopping for this high-ticket item.
With 3,400 locations in total, the company is frequently criticised for being overstored in the United States. Parent company Steinhoff Holdings, which is currently being investigated after it reported “accounting irregularities” in its year-end results, said that Mattress Firm would be closing 175 stores in 2018.
“Management is focused on optimising its store estate in an effort to right-size the overall estate and reduce the number of underperforming stores,” the company wrote in its unaudited quarterly update in March.
But analysts say it’s likely more closures will follow.
“Considering the accounting irregularities at Steinhoff and the operational troubles at subsidiary Mattress Firm, we believe there is a high probability that Mattress Firm will close significantly more than 200 stores announced in December,” analysts at Wedbush wrote in a note to investors in February.
It continued: “Our base case is now 600 store closures in 2018, with potential for as many as 1,000 closures out of the 3,400 store base.”
We tested the experience of shopping it its stores. Here’s what it was like:
We visited a Mattress Firm store in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighbourhood. From the outside of the store, the focus seemed to be on luring shoppers in with deals and financing options.
While our visit to the store was in the mid-morning on a Wednesday — definitely not prime mattress-shopping time — the store was noticeably empty.
In January, a Reddit thread that accused the store of being a front for money laundering went viral. Reddit users claimed that Mattress Firm’s stores are often empty, which they claimed could be a sign of something more dubious. Mattress Firm has denied these allegations.
We also visited two other Mattress Firm stores in New York and found that each one was completely empty during the day. It was almost impossible to go unnoticed, and we were instantly approached by a pushy salesperson who asked lots of questions and was reluctant to leave us to browse.
While some shoppers might find this helpful, their persistence was a little off-putting.
Each mattress was laid out on a bed frame for shoppers to test out. The mattresses were colour-coded by firmness, which made it easy to shop.
The mattresses were expensive — some cost over $US5,000 for a king size — but shoppers were constantly reminded of the financing options available.
Despite the available financing options, these mattresses are considerably more expensive than the options at bed-in-the-box retailer Casper, where a king-sized mattress, for example, can cost from $US725 for a standard mattress and go up to $US2,250 for a more technical piece.
The salesperson reassured us that there was a large discounted section on the lower floor.
Discounted mattresses were stacked up in piles for customers to buy then and there.
This is because the company offers a 120-day return period for customers to trial its mattresses. Returned items are then offered to other customers, often at a 50% discount.
These mattresses were still expensive, however. Some cost as much as $US700.
The store was huge, and there were areas of unused space. In some parts, you could find boxed-up inventory on display.
There was a second desk area for salespeople downstairs, but no one was present.
Dotted around the store were various sleeping accessories, including specialty pillows.
There were pillow shields available for customers to test out the bedding, which was a nice touch.
We were impressed by the cheap bedding. These sheets were being sold for $US10.
These mattress covers came with a 10-year warranty.
It’s clear that the company is taking its new competition seriously: there were signs discouraging customers from shopping at bed-in-a-box companies.
Mattress Firm launched its own version of the bed-in-a-box, called Tulo, in October. Costing between $US375 for a twin and $US800 for a California-king-size mattress, these products are aimed at millennial consumers.
The store was easy to shop and well laid-out, and there were a ton of options to try. Still, the stores we visited were very empty, which was surprising given how many stores the chain has in highly concentrated areas. Even with the sales and discount signs, customers didn’t seem to be biting.
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