WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The area around Hanes Mall Boulevard and Stratford Road is becoming a showcase of both national and local mattress stores.
National retailers Mattress Firm and Sleepy’s are building stores across the street from each other on Hanes Mall Boulevard. Mattress Firm and America’s Mattress each have an existing store nearby on Stratford Road.
Local retailers in the area include Mattress Shoppe and Mattress Center, both with stores on Stratford. Mattress Center also has a store on Hanes Mall Boulevard.
Many furniture stores in the Hanes Mall Boulevard/Stratford Road area also sell mattresses.
Shoppers can find mattress prices ranging from under $100 to about $10,000, depending on the retailer.
Grady Thompson, the co-owner of Mattress Shoppe, has been in the mattress industry for 35 years, including as a former sales rep for several major mattress manufacturers. He opened his store in 2008.
“It’s hilarious, and there might be more coming,” Thompson said of all the competition around him. “Since I opened up, there’s been 10 new stores that opened up in the past seven years. They’re still here.”
This proliferation of mattress stores in an area of a city is not unusual, said Jerry Epperson, the managing director of Mann Armistead & Epperson, based in Richmond, Va. Mann Armistead & Epperson is an investment banking and research firm that specializes in the furnishings sector.
“You’ll find that these chains have different ways of selling but sell the same sort of master list of brands — the TempurPedics, the Sealys, the Sertas and the Simmonses,” Epperson said. “They’ll sell the similar brands but they will sell different variations on those brands.
Recent business for mattress firms has been good.
In the United States, shipment sales from manufacturers rose 2.1 percent in 2013 to $6.96 billion (wholesale prices) compared with the previous year, Epperson said. In 2012, shipment sales rose 8.7 percent to $6.82 billion over 2011.
He said that a big driver of the sales increase is information flooding consumers about sleep.
“You don’t pick up many publications weekly that don’t have some sort of article about the benefit of sleep and the importance of sleep and how it affects your health, productivity and everything else,” Epperson said.
Nancy Truesdale of America’s Mattress, a national chain with one store in Winston-Salem on Stratford Road, said that consumers are more aware of “the significant positive impact between quality of sleep and quality of life.”
“Specialty sleep shops are equipped to help customers make good decisions, balancing comfort, support and value, when making a mattress buying decision,” Truesdale said.
David Woodson, Greensboro West District Manager for Mattress Firm, also believes that the mattress industry overall is experiencing pent-up demand following the recession.
“People put off investment purchases like mattresses because it’s the kind of item they feel like they can get by with even if they know it really needs to be replaced,” Woodson said.
Adam Blank, Sleepy’s chief operating officer, said that improvement in the housing industry is also helping the mattress industry.
Specialty stores currently account for about 45 percent of mattress sales while furniture stores make up 35 percent of mattress sales, Epperson said.
With the increased competition from national chains, people might wonder about the effects on local mattress retailers.
Paul Smith, co-owner of Mattress Center, said that the market could become over saturated at some point, but for now, the growing number of mattress stores has not affected his sales.
“The biggest reason that I attribute that we haven’t seen a whole lot of drop in business is we are locally owned,” Smith said. “We pride ourselves on our prices. We have really good prices because our overhead is lower. We’re owner-operated.”
He also said that customer service is important, and he never tries to pressure people into buying a mattress.
Thompson said he tries to make buying mattresses simple for customers.
“I just simply tell you, if you can’t tell the difference in the way they feel, don’t spend the money, because basically there’s not that much difference.”
Epperson said that in most cases, other stores that sell mattresses tend to benefit when mattress chains come into a city.
“They are very aggressive in their advertising, and they end up increasing the awareness to the consumers in the area about the importance of bedding and get people to look more at mattresses,” Epperson said.
With more than 1,300 stores in the United States, Mattress Firm is the largest of the mattress chains, followed by Sleepy’s, which has 958.
Blank said that Sleepy’s has always been a growth mode.
“We’re adding every day,” he said.
So how often should people buy a new mattress? The answer can get confusing because manufacturers, retailers and available data provide different answers.
The Better Sleep Council, a nonprofit organization and consumer education division of the International Sleep Products Association, which is supported by the mattress industry, recommends that people evaluate their mattress every seven to 10 years.
“If you’re waking up with aches and pains or you’re tossing and turning, then that’s the time that you might want to consider looking at a new mattress,” said Mary Helen Uusimaki, a spokeswoman for The Better Sleep Council, based in Alexandria, Va.
Dr. Allston Stubbs, an orthopaedic surgeon at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, said there’s not a formal medical standard, at least from the orthopaedic community, for when to change a mattress.
“I think that from a standpoint of a physician’s opinion, it’s probably going to be dependent on the individual,” Stubbs said.
He believes that an individual’s reason for changing a mattress will most likely be based on comfort, hygiene and functionality.
Beth Sorentino did a lot of research and visited numerous specialty mattress stores and furniture stores before buying about a week ago a $1,300 conventional innerspring Queen mattress from Smith at Mattress Center.
“I’ve very happy with it,” she said.
Sorentino, who lives in Waynesville and is a director of client services for healthcare at Inmar Inc. in Winston-Salem, had waited 15 years to buy a new mattress.
“I was waking up painful,” she said. “I knew it was time.”
Mattress retailers apparently still see sales opportunities in the Winston-Salem market.
“Given that the majority of people are sleeping on a mattress that’s between nine and 20 years old, there’s a tremendous amount of growth opportunity in the mattress industry,” said Woodson of Mattress Firm. “As long as we feel that growth in the market is helping us to better meet the needs of customers who want a better night’s sleep, Mattress Firm will continue to expand in the market.”
As far as the overall mattress industry, Blank of Sleepy’s is excited about its future.
“There are a lot of opportunities moving forward with innovations and even with technology,” Blank said. “I think we’re going to see a lot better products. It’s already out there, and I think it will continue.”