A while back I wrote a very important blog post asking why there are so many mattress stores in my hometown of Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Since then some clues have emerged, and I want to give those of you who are deeply invested in this crucial story an update.
Some people commented that they thought the stores might be fronts for organized crime, as Mayfield has been home to some colorful characters in the past. And lo and behold, supporting that theory, a Mayfield mattress store employee recently was charged with embezzling $675,000 from a local retail mattress and bedding company.
While I’m tickled by the idea of a new generation of pezzonovante greenlighting a series of illicit mattress joints, that explanation does not seem plausible. Opening a very public and very visible business concern takes some doing, and the preponderance of such stores draws attention to them. To what? Launder money? Move stolen goods? In this day and age when there is more money to be made by stealing online or through drugs? Does not seem worth it, unless the mafia is less ambitious than it used to be, opting for a more locavore criminal experience.
As it turns out, Mayfield is not the only city in America experiencing an explosion in sleep stores. Houston, Charlotte, Boise, Tucson, New Lenox, Ill., Schererville, Ind. and Chicago, to name a few, are also experiencing a boom. People are noticing.
“Seriously New Lenox…how many mattress stores do we need?!?!?! There are 5 within 1 mile of one another,” wrote one New Lenox Patch FB commenter. “Can we get some other shops or restaurants please???”
So, what’s with all the mattress stores?
Over at The Straight Dope, Cecil Adams answered a reader question about my favorite business topic of mattress store clusters.
His responses, in a nutshell:
- The Internet has not disrupted mattress sales. (People still shop for them in person, so brick and mortar stores are viable in a way bookstores are not.)
- Running a mattress store does not cost much. (Ever been in a mattress store? It’s a big room with some lights and a desk. That’s it. It’s what the Apple store would look like if the Soviets won the Cold War.)
- Mattress purchases are proof that we are coming out of the recession. (Mattress sales dipped when the economy tanked.)
- The markup is insane. (Profit margins on a mattress run a whopping 30-60 percent.)
There are other theories floating about as well.
- We notice mattress stores in a way we don’t notice other stores because their signs are huge.
- Wave after wave of research has confirmed the importance of sleep for good health, so people are making good sleep a priority.
- Mattress stores cluster near pedestrian foot and auto traffic, near a Wal-Mart or other large store or row of shops, so it makes sense that so many of them would be located in the same space.
Sorry to spoil everyone’s dream of a Sotto Capo di Serta running card games and stolen minks out of the back of a Mayfield mattress store, but it looks more like some heady entrepreneurs have gone to the mattresses.