Mattress Warehouse Success: The Winning Formula Behind the Second-Largest Independent Mattress Retailer

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The second-largest independent mattress retailer in the United States has found its winning formula.

Bill Papettas became the president and CEO of Frederick, Maryland-based retailer Mattress Warehouse in 2018.
TAKING CHARGE Bill Papettas became the president and CEO of Frederick, Maryland-based retailer Mattress Warehouse in 2018.

What’s large, yellow and has a several-foot-wide smile? It’s Matty, Mattress Warehouse’s mascot. And Matty is the first thing visitors see when they pull into the parking lot at 7315 Grove Road in Frederick, Maryland. Right away, they know they are in the right place. 

The location is one of three Mattress Warehouse stores in Frederick, also home to the company’s headquarters. But to discuss where Mattress Warehouse is today — the second-largest independent mattress retailer in the United States — and how it has achieved its winning formula, we must first return to the past.

In November 1989, John Ahern and Dena Henry founded Mattress Warehouse with just one store, a 1,200-square-foot space in Frederick. And the warehouse? Well, that was a nearby self-storage locker. Although it would take time for the business to grow into its name, it eventually did, through a combination of technological investments like Kingsdown’s BedMatch diagnostic system, multichannel advertising to drive traffic and a comprehensive merchandising mix from value- to high-end price points.

By the early 2000s, Mattress Warehouse boasted 100 retail locations. Now, with 315 stores (and counting) across the United States and an average store footprint between 3,000 to 7,000 square feet, it’s safe to say that Mattress Warehouse won’t be slowing down any time soon. But what are some of its keys to success? We spoke with Bill Papettas, Mattress Warehouse’s president and CEO to find out. 

The right mix

FIT FOR A KING Options abound on the showroom floor inside Mattress Warehouse, including product selections from Kingsdown and Tempur Sealy.

One of the most noticeable things about the Grove Road location — after Matty and the abundance of brands on the store floor — are large posters hanging on the wall with sleep facts, such as “Studies show that quality sleep can boost your immune system,” and “Children who get a better night’s sleep perform better in school.” These fun tidbits remind shoppers that selecting the right mattress offers benefits beyond comfort, style and a good night’s sleep. 

Matty, Mattress Warehouse’s mascot, greets customers outside one of the retailers’ stores in Frederick.
STANDING TALL Matty, Mattress Warehouse’s mascot, greets customers outside one of the retailers’ stores in Frederick.

As one of the largest mattress outlets on the East Coast, the showroom spans an impressive amount of space, but it’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. As shoppers mill around and chat with sales associates, orders are taken out of a set of doors, behind which the “warehouse” part of the company’s identity is housed. With retail price points ranging as low as $99 (yes, really) for Mattress Warehouse’s private-label brand to as high as $15,000, the retailer offers something for everyone. Although that location boasted a range of brands and styles, customers at every Mattress Warehouse will have a slightly different experience, with product selections tailor-made to each location.

“Even though we have a lot of stores, we do take time to look at the right mix of product in that store,” Papettas says. “We try to be mindful of having the right SKU at the right price with the right value proposition for the consumer.” Staple brands in Mattress Warehouse’s merchandising mix include Aireloom, King Koil, Kingsdown, Stearns & Foster and Tempur-Pedic.

The art of selling

Perfecting the merchandising mix, however, is just one facet of the company’s success. “Some retailers are more merchandise-focused and other retailers are more real estate-focused. For us, the focus is the consumer and then our team,” Papettas says. That mindset has been part of Mattress Warehouse’s culture since Ahern and Henry founded the company.

To cultivate this sense of community, there’s a full-time head of learning and development and regional sales managers who oversee the training of the company’s approximately 700 retail sales associates. Papettas notes that having the right people in supervisory and district manager roles is critical to keeping sales associates enthusiastic and
engaged. “I think we have great people. I know everybody says that, but I really do think that they’re the differentiator for us,” he says. According to Papettas, new RSAs undergo a nearly monthlong training before working directly with shoppers. The company also offers paid management training for those interested in growing their career into a supervisory position. 

Let’s get “phygital”

Using 18 factors, diagnostic tool BedMatch helps shoppers identify the best mattress.
PERFECT FIT Using 18 factors, diagnostic tool BedMatch helps shoppers identify the best mattress.

Another way the company sets itself apart from the competition is with BedMatch, a diagnostic sleep system. When a potential customer comes into one of Mattress Warehouse’s brick-and-mortar locations, they can lie down on a technologically integrated mattress that uses 18 factors like height and degree of lumbar curve to determine the best mattress options for each shopper. 

For those who want to shop online only, the company’s website offers a virtual BedMatch experience via a diagnostic quiz. Website visitors can fill out measurements like preferred sleeping position, height and age. The system will then share up to six mattress recommendations. After that, customers can decide if they want to finish shopping online by checking out directly on Mattress Warehouse’s website. 

Or, for a more “phygital” shopping experience, (that is, one that blends the physical and digital realms), shoppers can choose to visit a nearby retail location to test out the recommendations before completing the sale in person. In another sign of the company’s savvy, it was one of the first retailers to partner with pioneering e-commerce bedding brands, such as Casper, Nectar and Purple, which are carried both in-store and on Mattress Warehouse’s website. 

The right message

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE Mattress Warehouse was one of the first retailers to partner with bedding brands like Purple.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE Mattress Warehouse was one of the first retailers to partner with bedding brands like Purple.

“We have spent the past 34 years building the brand through our large warehouse assortment, low warehouse prices and our investment in technology. We are a warehouse of solutions for any sleep issue, every body and every budget,” says Tracy Jones, chief marketing officer for Mattress Warehouse. Another key advertising message? Mattress Warehouse’s price match guarantee. The company tells shoppers that they are getting the best price possible and if they find a better price somewhere else, up to one year later, Mattress Warehouse will match it. The company also focuses on its supply chain management so that its products are in stock and ready for next-day delivery, another appealing piece of messaging to potential consumers.  

The future is bright

Clear signage inside the showroom directs shoppers to a lineup of Tempur-Pedic mattresses.
EYE-CATCHING Clear signage inside the showroom directs shoppers to a lineup of Tempur-Pedic mattresses.

By the end of 2024, Mattress Warehouse plans to expand to as many as 360 locations, all on the East Coast. According to Papettas, the team is mindful of “careful, calculated growth.” Behind every new opening is lots of data analysis, centered on creating a strong infrastructure. To prioritize a robust supply chain, Mattress Warehouse invests in its distribution centers first, then builds store networks around them. “That way, from Day One, we’re giving the consumer a fabulous experience,” Papettas says. The company recently added a distribution center in Orlando, Florida, to serve most of the Sunshine State and also in Columbia, South Carolina, to support its goals of serving the Carolina coastline and eastern Georgia. Ultimately, Mattress Warehouse’s growth goals run from Florida to New York. By 2027, the company aims to have 500 stores. 

Although the retailer has expanded its footprint over the past several decades — and will continue to grow — one thing that won’t change is the company’s commitment to the culture set forth by its co-founders. “We focus our energy around the consumer, we focus on energy around our team, and everything else just kind of works from there,” Papettas says.