Austin has grown through the years – more people, more traffic – and with that growth has come lots and lots of mattress stores. If you ever make the drive on Anderson Lane in North Austin, you know there is no shortage of places to buy a mattress.
That proliferation got Vannezsa Smith wondering, so she asked our ATXplained project: “Why does Burnet Road and Anderson Lane have a gazillion mattress shops?” She wasn’t the only one. Austin’s mattress store glut spurred multiple questions from multiple listeners.
It’s easy for the casual mattress-store-observer to lose track of just how many there are. On Anderson Lane alone, there are almost a dozen places to buy a mattress, but the stores are not just concentrated around there; they’re seemingly everywhere. In fact, there are more than 200 stores where you can buy a mattress around Austin – and that doesn’t even include online options.
The biggest one of them all – in terms of numbers – is Mattress Firm. In the Austin metro area, there are 76 Mattress Firm locations.
To put that in perspective, there are 93 Starbucks in the same area. There are 94 7-Eleven stores. You might go to either of those a handful of times a month, but most Americans will buy a mattress only a handful of times over a lifetime.
How did they blanket the Austin market? Acquisitions.
Mattress Firm was founded in 1986. It grew from a regional chain in Houston by gobbling up other stores – going after not just the little guys, but bigger regional chains, too. By 2016, it had more than 3,500 stores from coast to coast, and those sold $3.5 billion in mattresses, box springs and bed frames. The company was then bought by Steinhoff, a South African furniture retailer that took the company private.
But in all of that gobbling, the company does something unconventional: It keeps most of the stores open.
Initially, the company might keep the old store’s name up, so customers think they’re shopping around. But they’re really walking from a Mattress Firm to another store owned by Mattress Firm. In the last few years, the company has changed tactics in Texas, giving its stores tiers: Mattress Firm, Mattress Firm Final Markdown and Mattress Firm Clearance.
In a statement to KUT, Mattress Firm’s VP of communications, Casey Zuber, said the company's presence helps keep the company top-of-mind when Austinites are looking for a new mattress.
Our real estate strategy is to have stores in highly-trafficked intersections and shopping centers in our key markets, including Austin, to maintain visibility. This results occasionally in having Mattress Firm locations in close proximity. Our goal is to deliver a superior shopping experience regardless of what store you shop at, so that you can find the perfect mattress that will give you a better night’s sleep.
Mattresses are sort of in the blood of Anthony Jasinski, who owns Mattrezzz Guys on Burnet Road.
“Sealy started in Sealy, Texas, and moved to Brenham in 1967. My dad, godfather and uncle started when the [Brenham] plant opened up. My uncle stayed, became plant manager, put in 46 years with Sealy," he says. "That’s kinda where I started from an early age of 16. From there, I moved to Houston, worked for one of the largest out there now, Mattress Firm, which is really where I got my training.”
He says Mattress Firm’s strategy in the market is simple.
“They’ve opened – let’s see here, real quick – one, two, three, four, five, six, about eight stores," Jasinski says. "And I’m talking about a small little radius, a couple of miles, if that. They do that just to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.”
But he’s not worried about being the little guy in this scenario.
“I mean, what does rent cost for 76 stores?" Jasinski says. "A lot! Having one store has huge, huge advantages because I don’t have their overhead.”