Give us your tired, because we have mattresses to move

In a strip mall, on a street corner, online, someone's always trying to sell you a bed.
A record player
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Roadside sales at East Park Drive and Union Deposit Road near Harrisburg.

I just can’t take this lying down.

Seemingly everywhere I toss and turn, I see mattresses.

Mattress Firm, thanks in part to its purchase of Sleepy’s, operates more than 3,500 stores in 49 states, including a new one in Hummelstown. Competitor Mattress Warehouse has 24 locations within 50 miles of Hershey.

But if a chain store isn’t to your liking, then perhaps shopping at a high school cafe will put your mind at rest.

Mattress fundraiser

Last fall in the Hershey/Hummelstown area, signs along major roads promoted the Lower Dauphin High School band boosters’ mattress fundraiser. For seven hours on a November Saturday, the boosters turned the school cafe into a mattress showroom, raising $500 in the process.


Photo: Lower Dauphin Band Boosters Facebook page

Speaking of road signs, maybe you’ve come across one of the handwritten signs I’ve seen at intersections throughout central Pennsylvania. The signs offer queen-sized pillow-top mattress sets for $125. You have to call a local phone number for details.

If you’d like to keep the human contact to a minimum, however, you can turn to an online retailer such as Casper, whose mattresses spring up out of a box and come with free shipping and a 100-day free trial.

Casper also has a coolness factor going for it, as evidenced by its presence at this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

‘Public health problem’

But what’s behind this mattress madness? Others have asked this question in other parts of the country, going back at least several years.

“Why is Charlotte’s mattress business booming?” asked the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina in 2014. Indiana’s North West Indiana Times in 2015: “Why the heck are so many mattress stores opening?”

Considering how infrequently one buys a mattress, it’s hard to believe there’s sufficient demand for all the retail options.

Then again, we appear to be one tired nation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says insufficient sleep is a public health problem “linked to vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors.”

Critics say baseball has a pace-of-play problem, but maybe it’s because baseball players are just too tired to move faster. The Boston Red Sox are adding a sleep room to the home clubhouse at Fenway Park.

Shift to specialty retailers

No doubt, the health benefits related to a good night’s sleep are partly responsible for the bed boom. In fact, while mattress sales are increasing, they’re also more visible as market share has shifted from furniture and department stores to mattress specialty retailers such as Mattress Firm.

“That’s one reason I feel like I’m seeing mattress sellers everywhere: You don’t necessarily note that a new furniture or department store is peddling mattresses,” the Observer wrote. “But you notice a free-standing mattress store with a big sign.”

Other reasons cited:

• Consumers’ willingness to spend more money on mattresses, fueled by advertising by the likes of Sleep Number and Temper-Pedic;
• Pent-up demand in the wake of the Great Recession;
• An industry-funded push to get consumers to replace mattresses every five to seven years;
• The high-margin, low-overhead nature of mattress sales, with markups of 40 to 60 percent;
• The relatively low cost of real estate: Mattress Firm gobbled up many spaces vacated by Blockbuster Video when it went out of business.

Surely this growth can’t go on unabated, you say.

While mattress store expansion continues, there are some signs that the market might be more ‘soft’ than ‘firm,’ ” said Micah Pollak, assistant professor of economics at Indiana University Northwest.

Still, he said that in 2015.

For 2017, the unit sales of mattresses and the value of those units are expected to increase 4 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively, according to the International Sleep Products Association.

But with so many stores, you just know a shakeout is coming one of these days.

Rest assured.


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