Bed, bath and beyond

Mattresses join the long list of goods which are supposed to be durable, but aren't this time around.  You would think people would need them, at least as safes.  But Select Comfort and Simmons are both in trouble.  Based on my experience, Select Comfort ought to be--I lived in a place with one for a while, and it was not a gigantic improvement over an aerobed.  But Simmons makes a perfectly fine mattress.

Mattresses, however, were part of the great American fad for upscaling ordinary consumer goods into luxury items.  Companies expanded, went private, and levered up in the expectation of steady cash flows.  By the end of this year, sales are expected to be down around 20%, and both manufacturers and retailers are in deep trouble.

Not all consumer durables will fall off so sharply--when your refrigerator breaks, you have to get a new one, even if you don't fancy spending the money.  But mattresses don't break; the only reason you get a new one is either that you're flush, or you've changed your living situation.  But recessions impede new household formation.  People are much more likely to be sleeping on Mom's spare bed than finally moving out right now.

Still, once traditional recession-proof stalwarts like alcohol and mattresses start to slip, what's left for your counter-cyclical cash stash?  Canned goods and ammunition are looking better every day.