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  • Clint Engel

Levin to Roll Out Mattress Stores

SMITHTON, Pa. - Levin Furniture says it will open a chain of eight to 10 bedding stores in its Pittsburgh-area and Ohio markets, facing competition in a crowded specialty store arena but with the advantage of its name recognition and advertising firepower.
     The move is a continuation of an aggressive expansion for the retailer, which opened its 16th store this month in Greensburg, Pa., and opened a 37,000-square-foot store in Avon, Ohio, in July.
     Levin opened a 3,500-square-foot Levin's Sleep Center in the Pittsburgh market in late 2009 and operated it for about 16 months before it burned down in freak electrical fire. The store reopened in late August as Levin Mattress - the first of what the company now expects to be eight to 10 bedding stores under that name that it will roll out over the next 12 to 18 months, said CEO Robert Levin.
     "We felt the rebranding (as Levin Mattress) would be better and more direct," he said, adding that some people didn't realize "sleep center" meant mattress stores.
     Levin said bedding is an important category. There's a greater frequency of purchases of mattresses than other categories and advertising bedding historically has been a way to drive overall business, he said.
     On top of this, Levin said some customers prefer to shop specialty stores, not full-line stores.
     Also, he noted that bedding stores are the industry's fastest growing business segment, with bedding specialty giants expanding and full-line furniture stores opening shops.
     "Sleep shops are taking a greater share of the market and it seems to be logical for a furniture retailer, if they run them properly, to take back, if you will, some of the share ... or at least arrest the potential decline in share," Levin said.
     Levin Mattress will have the same lineup as its full-line stores' bedding departments, with innerspring and latex bedding from Sealy and Stearns & Foster, memory foam from Tempur-Pedic and gel memory foam with Serta's iComfort line.
     Levin said the company will roll out the stores in greater Pittsburgh as well as in northeastern Ohio. He said the company is in negotiations on "a couple of locations," and hopes to complete at least one deal within six weeks and then open about six weeks after that.
     He said it's too early to say what the retailer's investment will be in the new format, but said the company will spend money on attractive displays so the mattress stores pop. He wouldn't disclose sales projections.
     Levin will face stiff competition from stores including Original Mattress Factory, Mattress Warehouse, Mattress Discounters, Mattress World and others. But Levin said his company has advantages - its name is well recognized in its markets, and its research shows that consumers have confidence in buying bedding from Levin.
     Also, Levin will gain economies of scale in advertising. Whether consumers end up shopping the full-line stores or Levin Mattress for bedding, "you get a bigger bang for your buck" by amortizing the value of the advertising over more storefronts.

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