- Mattress Firm stores remained open in New York after Governor Andrew Cuomo closed down all non-essential businesses on Sunday evening.
- In a leaked memo obtained by Business Insider, Mattress Firm General Counsel Kindel Nuno explained that the company was keeping its New York stores open because the executive order exempted businesses with only one on-premise employee.
- Mattress Firm stores are closed in Massachusetts and Michigan, where “stay-in-place” orders didn’t include the one-employee exemption.
- New York has roughly half of all confirmed US coronavirus cases, with more than 30,000.
- Last Wednesday, Mattress Firm began to furlough an unspecified number of employees and cut benefits.
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In New York, all non-essential businesses have been closed since Sunday evening in a bid to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Pharmacies, hospitals, and grocery stores remain open. So are many Mattress Firms locations.
In a leaked memo obtained by Business Insider, Mattress Firm General Counsel Kindel Nuno explained the company’s legal justification for staying open even though it doesn’t fit into the 12 categories that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office has designated as essential.
The company will now only have a single staff member working in all of its New York locations, which Nuno says in the memo will allow it to continue operating. The guidance on essential businesses from the governor’s office said that “any business that only has a single occupant/employee” doesn’t need to be designated an essential business, giving the example of a gas station.
“We have concluded that opening and operating stores and warehouses in New York will not violate the order,” said the memo. “We will single-staff all the retail store locations and will continue to operate the warehouses in the state with the social distancing and sanitation practices that have been recommended.”
This comes as the business has closed all stores in Massachusetts and Michigan as a result of their own “stay-at-home” orders, neither of which have the same exemption for stores with one on-premise employee.
A company spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the memo to Business Insider.
“We are meticulously reviewing the specifications of state and local orders,” the spokesperson said. “At the time Michigan and Massachusetts did not allow for the single staff exemption, while the New York order did. We know the situation and orders are evolving quickly and it is never our intention to ignore a government order. We will continue to work through them as they change to ensure compliance.”
New York has roughly half of all confirmed US coronavirus cases, with more than 30,000, and 6% of all confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide. New York City’s morgues are projected to run out of room next week, while some hospital morgues have already hit capacity, according to a Politico report.
The mattress purchase process is not conducive to social distancing, a Mattress Firm sales associate not based in New York told Business Insider, on condition of anonymity to protect their employment.
The sales associate said that customers have continued to extend handshakes to them while they’re trying to sell a mattress, and noted that customers usually try out multiple mattresses before making a purchase.
That sales associate said that Mattress Firm typically sprays a mattress down with disinfectant spray after someone lays on it, and often uses pillow napkins to prevent direct contact with a pillow.
On March 16th, Mattress Firm CEO John Ecks released a statement outlining steps to prevent coronavirus spread in the company’s stores, including the use of pillow napkins, and enhanced cleaning of all surfaces, including mattresses.
Coronavirus can last up to two to three days on nonporous surfaces like plastic and stainless steel, though there aren’t clear guidelines of how long it can live on porous fabrics.
Last Wednesday, Business Insider reported that Mattress Firm is furloughing an unspecified number of employees and cutting benefits in response to the squeeze coronavirus is putting on retail businesses. Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that Mattress Firm sent a letter to landlords that coronavirus will prevent the company from paying rent on its stores, and requested a temporary suspension of rent.
Mattress Firm filed for bankruptcy in October 2018, emerging in November 2018 having closed roughly 660 stores. Following bankruptcy, it had 2,600 stores and 9,500 employees. It has been owned by South African retail holding company Steinhoff International since 2016.