National Bedding Co. to manage Serta, and more news

National Bedding Co. takes control of Serta brand

National Bedding Co., Serta’s largest licensee, has taken control of Serta Inc., a move NBC says will allow it “to more effectively handle the servicing needs of Serta’s U.S. network.”

Serta’s seven U.S. licensees finalized the agreement on Sept. 10, giving National Bedding Co. responsibility for managing Serta’s entire U.S. organization, including national advertising, merchandising, public relations, accounting and national account sales. National Bedding Co. also will manage international licensing agreements and Serta’s hospitality business. National Bedding Co. is led President Bob Sherman and Dick Yulman and Burt Kaplan, who are co–chairs of the board.

“This new structure will make Serta even stronger and more competitive,” Sherman said. “By streamlining Serta’s operations, Serta now has the resources, skills and experience to provide the best service in the industry to our retailers, as well as to our licensees.”

In particular, the new arrangement will allow Serta to “make quicker, timelier decisions,” Sherman said.

Within the next three to six months, National Bedding Co. will consolidate Serta’s headquarters in Itasca, Ill., with its headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Ill., Sherman said. The company has plans to build a new Serta headquarters in Hoffman Estates, though a timetable for construction has not been announced.

Already, some top Serta executives have left the company, most notably President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Lilly and Chief Brand Officer Susan Ebaugh, but Sherman said “it is too soon to say” if there would be other major personnel changes.

“Most of the 50 people working from the Itasca location are providing services that will be valuable to Serta’s continued success,” Sherman said. “National Bedding Co. is evaluating these services, as well as the services it currently provides, to ensure that Serta provides the best possible support to our licensees and retailers.”

About 65 people work in the Hoffman Estates location.

National Bedding Co. declined to provide information about other changes it may have planned for Serta’s operations, saying that more specifics would be provided “after the transition is complete.”

National Bedding Co. became a Serta licensee in 1989 and, since then, has regularly acquired additional Serta licensees.

Under the new deal, National Bedding Co. will continue to own and operate 19 of the 26 Serta manufacturing plants in the United States. The company says it has no plans to purchase additional Serta plants, but is in the process of building a 232,000–square–foot facility in New Baltimore, N.Y., and a similar–size plant in Moreno Valley, Calif.

Susan Ebaugh led Counting Sheep campaign

Susan Ebaugh, the chief brand officer, who has been credited with leading Serta Inc.’s Counting Sheep advertising campaign has left the company. Though a replacement has not yet been announced, National Bedding Co. has indicated that it would name someone to oversee the campaign by the end of the year.

“Serta’s popular Counting Sheep campaign has significantly increased consumer awareness of Serta, and NBC will build upon this success to support its licensees and dealers,” said Robert Sherman, National Bedding Co. president.

Ed Lilly lauded for leadership

Ed Lilly, president and chief executive officer of Serta Inc. since 1990, has left the company. The company made the announcement the same day it announced that its largest licensee, National Bedding Co., had assumed responsibilities for Serta.

Richard Yulman, co–chairman of National Bedding Co., complimented Lilly for his leadership. Under Lilly’s guidance, Serta became the second largest–selling mattress company in the United States and the third largest consumer brand in the home furnishings industry, he said.

“Ed did a phenomenal job combining the strengths of 20 independent, entrepreneurial licensees,” Yulman said. “Under his leadership, Serta grew over 200%. This is an unbelievable accomplishment.”

Lilly has long been active in the International Sleep Products Association, most recently serving on its board and its Executive Committee.

He has not ruled out a return to the bedding or home furnishings industries, but says he plans to take some personal time before deciding what to do next.



Atlanta Attachment buys American Automated Sewing

Machinery supplier Atlanta Attachment has acquired American Automated Sewing Machine Co. of Lebanon, Pa. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Atlanta Attachment is moving the assets of the newly acquired plant, including all castings, patterns and intellectual property, to its facility in Lawrenceville, Ga.

Larry Putney, American Automated’s owner, is joining Atlanta Attachment’s research and development department as a senior design engineer. During his career, Putney has produced automated machinery for the apparel, automotive and furniture industries.

“The addition of Mr. Putney to our engineering staff will give us the ability to produce a complete sewing machine head specifically designed for operations that relate to bedding,” said Preston Dasher, Atlanta Attachment senior vice president of research and development. “This approach will allow us to develop a machine which will outperform and be simpler to operate and maintain.” The company says it expects to introduce several new machines in the first quarter of 2005.

Hassan Group unveils Fire Break

Textile and bedding components producer Hassan Group has introduced Fire Break, a nonwoven barrier material designed to help mattress manufacturers comply with open–flame standards like those contained in California’s Technical Bulletin 603, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2005.

The company is touting Fire Break’s “soft, luxurious hand” and the fact that it “demonstrates an impressive ability to char in place without shrinking, melting or dripping.” The white material is suitable for use in borders and panels and can be used with a variety of mattress tickings, according to the company, which has headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey.

Avery Dennison offers new fastening system

Avery Dennison has introduced a handheld fastening system that attaches the foam layers in pillow–top mattresses without spray adhesives or hot glues. The system also can be used for fastening pocketed springs to foam and for attaching flange materials and quilted panels.

The tool, which weighs less than 2 pounds, inserts nylon extra–heavy–duty T–End fasteners through multiple layers of foam. The fasteners are available in 14 sizes. An adjustable needle stop allows users to change the insertion depth so that only one tool is required for various foam thicknesses.

The product is offered through the Fastener Division of Avery Dennison Retail Information Services, based in Framingham, Mass.

Spring Air Partners NA emerges from bankruptcy

Spring Air Partners North America, Spring Air’s largest licensee, has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, six months after it filed a voluntary petition for reorganization.

“The company’s ability to successfully accomplish its reorganization in six months reflects the strength of our brands, the ongoing support and confidence of our suppliers, customers and licensor, the Spring Air Co., and the tireless efforts of hundreds of employees and managers at our plants across the country,” said Les Ayers, president and chief executive officer of the New York–based company.

Spring Air Partners North America manufacturers and distributes Spring Air and Chattam & Wells mattresses through seven U.S. facilities. H.I.G. Capital LLC, a private investment firm with $1.5 billion of committed capital, is the company’s majority owner.

“With a sound financial structure and the leadership provided by Les Ayers, its CEO and president, and Robert Thompson, its CFO, we believe that the company is now poised to fully realize its growth potential while simultaneously enhancing its status as an industry leader,” said John Black, H.I.G. managing director.

Jim Nation, president and CEO of Spring Air Co. in Elk Grove Village, Ill., expressed support of the licensee.

“The company, as the largest licensee of (Spring Air Co.), has been a strong contributor to the overall success and brand presence of the Spring Air portfolio of products,” he said. “We believe the financial strength of H.I.G. Capital…will allow Spring Air to continue its trend of double–digit growth.”

Spring Air Chelsea settles into new digs

Spring Air Chelsea has opened its new manufacturing facility in Chelsea, Mass. The company says the 75,000–square–foot building allows it to streamline production, institute better controls and improve production capabilities.

“This move increased our manufacturing capacity by 40% with future growth planned with the addition of a second shift,” said Ed Bates, president of the Spring Air licensee.
In addition to its production plant, the facility includes a 4,000–square–foot showroom that can display 35 bed sets.

The company is particularly proud of how quickly it opened the new building. The company purchased the structure, completed a $500,000 renovation and moved in within 80 days.

Restonic signs two Canadian licensees

Rosemont, Ill.–based Restonic has expanded its presence in Canada, adding licensees in Quebec and British Columbia.

Matelas Mirabel Mattress Inc., located in Laval, Quebec, opened its doors in 1975 and has grown from four employees to 62. Operating as Restonic Quebec, it will serve eastern Ontario and Quebec provinces and the Maritimes (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island provinces).

Jordan Mattress Ltd., with headquarters in Surrey, British Columbia, began producing mattresses in 1999, supplying private–label products to local retailers and growing to become a regional player. Operating as Restonic British Columbia, it will serve that province.

Restonic has more than 30 plants worldwide, including facilities in North and South America, Asia, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

Restonic receives UL certification

Restonic has received Underwriters Laboratories certification for products manufactured in accordance with California’s open–flame standard, Technical Bulletin 603, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2005.

“Restonic is proud to achieve UL certification in compliance with California’s TB 603,” said Kevin Toman, president and chief executive officer of the Rosemont, Ill.–based bedding producer. “Everyone recognizes the integrity and the reputation of UL, and for Restonic to have UL certify our products shows forward thinking and industry leadership.”

Underwriters Laboratories, with headquarters in Northbrook, Ill., tests mattresses for compliance with TB 603 using a dual–burner device designed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and will award its certification to manufacturers whose products pass.

Tempur–Pedic building New Mexico plant

Tempur–Pedic has started construction of a $90 million, 750,000–square–foot manufacturing facility in Albuquerque, N.M., to serve its customers in the western United States, Mexico and South America. The plant is expected to be completed in summer 2006 and will employ between 250 and 300 people.

“Constructing this new plant should allow Tempur–Pedic to keep up with the growing demand for our revolutionary mattresses and pillows,” said Tom Bryant, president of North American operations for the bedding manufacturer, which has headquarters in Lexington, K.Y.

The Albuquerque facility will be the company’s second U.S. plant. Its first, in Duffield, Va., opened in September 2001 and was expanded in 2003. The company also is expanding its plant in Denmark to meet demand for its products in Europe and Asia.

Tempur–Pedic earns Good Housekeeping Seal

Tempur–Pedic has earned the ability to display the Good Housekeeping Seal on its mattresses and says it will begin doing so this fall.

“We are honored to have earned this excellent and highly trusted consumer icon,” said Dany Sfeir, senior vice president of marketing for the Lexington, K.Y.–based bedding maker. “This emblem strongly validates our own stringent quality–control standards.”

The company plans to incorporate the Good Housekeeping Seal into all print, television, radio and direct–mail advertising. The company’s mattresses will be listed in the print and the online versions of the magazine as part of its Good Housekeeping Seal directory.

The seal carries with it the promise of a replacement or a refund to buyers of any product if the product proves to be defective within two years of its purchase.

Eclipse inks deal with Mideast maker

Eclipse International has added Baynouna Sleep Products as a licensee. The company, based in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, will do business as Eclipse of Mideast and will service countries including United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain.

“This represents a great opportunity for Eclipse. The Mideast was one of the markets that we specifically targeted for growth. We are very excited about having a quality group like Baynouna join our Eclipse family to service this area,” said Stuart Carlitz, chief executive officer of Eclipse, which has headquarters in North Brunswick, N.J.

Marwan Abu Saleh, Baynouna general manager, said the partnership with Eclipse will allow his company “unique growth opportunities, especially in the higher–end bedding lines.”

Eclipse has 14 licensees around the globe and 11 U.S. factories.

Saval Spring purchased by L&P

Saval Spring & Wire Co., a family business started in 1959 in Taylor, Mich., has been purchased by Leggett & Platt of Carthage, Mo.

“Due to the difficult economic times and the globalization of the marketplace we decided to join Leggett & Platt Inc.,” said President Paul Saval. “This provided us with greater opportunities and resources, allowing us to remain a viable supplier of bedding components to our loyal customers.” A sale price was not disclosed.

The company will keep its name but will be dissolved as a corporation at the end of the year, he said. Its assets and operations have been shut down and moved to other Leggett & Platt plants.

“All remaining employees were either placed with other L&P facilities or provided opportunities with other local businesses,” he said.

Joseph A. Saval and his son, Joseph M., began the company in a small barn, making box springs, upholstery coils, seat–cushion coils and sofa beds. The company expanded its manufacturing capacity with the purchase of four Wells slanted assembly machines and enlarged its facility in the mid–1970s. The company under took additional expansions in the 1980s and 1990s, eventually increasing the plant to 22,000 square feet.

Joseph A. Saval died in 1992; Joseph M. Saval is now semi–retired. Over the years, a number of other family members have been involved in the business, including Joseph A. Saval’s wife Margaret. Joseph M. and Theresa Saval, who began as an office worker and later was named secretary/treasurer of the company, had six children and most of them worked in the plant at one time or another.

Paul Saval began working for the company full time in 1991. His sister, Theresa M. Porter, joined the company in 1997 as administrative assistant; brother Daniel Saval became company vice president in 1998.

The company has employed about 18 people, on average. Its customers have included Spring Air and Sealy.

“Over the years there were many highs and lows in the business,” Paul Saval said. “Hard work and perseverance kept us going. We also had some great, loyal employees who worked hard for us. We will never forget them.”

Youth shelter receives beds from Araam

Araam Inc. has donated 40 mattresses to the Youth Emergency Shelter in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

“We are both proud and honored to support the Youth Emergency Shelter,” said Farhan Chatur, president of the Edmonton–based bedding producer. “We believe it is extremely important that the business community does its share to help worthwhile organizations. Further, we more than anyone know how important it is to have a good night’s sleep. Giving the Youth Emergency Shelter some quality beds will hopefully help our struggling youth to face a new day with a fresh new outlook.”

Araam manufactures mattresses for the medical and hospitality sectors, markets beds under its Sova, Sova Select and Sova Element brand names, and produces Hypnos beds for sale in Canada.

Spring Air revamps Web site

Spring Air has relaunched its Web site, www.springair.com.

New features include improved navigation that allow customers to find products more quickly, faster Web access, customer–friendly content and bolder graphics that incorporate flash design.
Consumers visiting the site will find a Recommended Beds icon that will help them determine which mattress collection is most suitable for their sleep preferences and lifestyle. The site also includes sleep tips and information about the latest sleep technologies available from Spring Air.

“We’ll continue to add best–in–class features that will make our site easier to use,” said Jim Nation, president and chief executive officer of the Elk Grove, Ill.–based bedding maker. “Our goal is to provide a great online experience for customers researching mattresses.”

Verlo sells Chicago–area properties

Verlo Mattress Factory Stores has sold a Chicago–area factory and four showrooms to franchise owners Stuart and Robin Lazarus. The factory is located in Mundelein, Ill., and showrooms are in nearby Wheeling, Arlington Heights, Gurnee and Round Lake.

The Lazaruses, who previously owned Burger King franchises in the Milwaukee area, are expected to open two additional Verlo showrooms within the year, according to the company, which is based in Whitewater, Wis.

Verlo, which has 35 franchise owners and showrooms in 11 states, has been seeking to expand its concept nationally.

“We’re very excited about our push to become a national franchise concept,” President Dave Young. “We are thrilled with our recent successes both in the retail arena and the new franchise growth. Already, 2004 has broken our previous growth and development expansion records.”

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