Liberty Threads among fast growers, and more news

Inc. magazine has named industrial thread supplier Liberty Threads to its list of the 500 fastest growing privately held companies. The company, based in Winsted, Conn., comes in at No. 471.

The Hegan family started Liberty Threads in March 2000 to service the mattress and quilting thread industries. Robert Hegan Jr. serves as president and chief executive officer, Robert Hegan Sr. as vice president and Frank Hegan as chief financial officer.

The company produces mattress threads for both chain–stitch and lock–stitch machines and services more than 350 customers, from small independent manufacturers to large, multifacility corporations, Robert Hegan Jr. said.

He attributes the company’s growth, in large part, to customer service.

“From the very beginning, every one of Liberty Threads employees agreed that giving our customers the best available quality, service, price and delivery would be the key to our success,” he said. “We have treated all of our customers with the courtesy and respect they deserve–not just as a customer, but as the people and friends that have made our success possible.”

Hegan also gave some credit for the company’s success to its membership in the International Sleep Products Association. ISPA’s EXPOs, in particular, have helped Liberty Threads “grow from no customers and a limited group of vendors to over 350 customers and a virtually unlimited choice of suppliers,” Hegan said.

Liberty Threads does all its production, warehousing and shipping from 15,000 square feet in one plant, where it runs three, eight–hour shifts a day during the week and one weekend shift. The company recently purchased new equipment in anticipation of further growth, Hegan said.

Inc.’s list appears in the Nov. 22 issue of the magazine and on the publication’s Web site at www.inc.com. To compile the list, Inc. contacted more than 500,000 businesses and reviewed the financial statements of qualified applicants. New members of the list must have an operating history of at least four years. Inc. 500 alumni are measured over five years. All companies are ranked according to their average annual sales growth, according to the magazine.

Bodet & Horst opens N.C. plant

Textile supplier Bodet & Horst has opened a $2 million plant in High Point, N.C., where it will produce mattress tickings. The facility employs about 10 people and by the end of the year will run 22 jacquard circular knitting machines.

Bodet & Horst Chairman Gerd–Hermann Horst said his company invested in the plant in order to better serve its U.S. customers by delivering American–made tickings and shipping fabrics more quickly than it can from its company headquarters in Elterlein, Germany.

“I’m excited about the prospect of a growing market for knit mattress tickings in the U.S. and am pleased to be working with the American textile industry,” Horst said.
Sam Rankin Jr. has been named general manager of the plant.

Sealy’s on-site FR lab set to open

Sealy expects its new research and development test center for fire–retardant products to be open by the end of the year.

The 5,500–square–foot facility is on the campus of the company’s headquarters in Archdale, N.C. It includes a control room and two labs, which will allow the company to test between 12 and 18 beds each day. The facility will be staffed by a full–time engineer and technician.

In its efforts to design and produce beds that will meet the requirements of California’s open–flame standard, Technical Bulletin 603, Sealy says it has tested approximately 1,580 beds. In addition to saving the company testing fees to outside labs, the in–house facility will allow Sealy to bring new FR products to market more quickly.

“It’ll take just 48 hours from the production plant to completed FR tests,” said Bruce Barman, Sealy senior vice president of research and development.

The facility and research staff also will improve Sealy’s “ability to partner with suppliers to develop new (FR) solutions,” Barman said.

In a media briefing during the High Point, N.C., furniture market in October, Barman said that beginning next year Sealy will test products manufactured in its own plants “on a random, audit testing basis” and also will test competitors’ products purchased at retail “to ensure a level playing field.”

In October, Sealy began shipping California retailers beds designed to comply with TB 603, which goes into effect Jan. 1. The company says all of its 17 U.S. manufacturing plants will be able to produce FR–compliant products in early 2005, allowing it to provide flame–retardant beds to retailers in other states, as well.

Manufacturer issues Snooze Report

Sealy has published its first Snooze Report, a marketing and education publication featuring news of interest to consumers and retailers. The inaugural issue, released in mid–October, included the results of a poll asking “Which presidential candidate puts you to sleep?”

Future issues of the piece, produced in conjunction with the Mullen public relations agency, will contain news “both serious and light” and will be sent to media outlets and others, said David Evans, Sealy vice president of marketing.

Serta takes TV viewers behind the scenes

Viewers of the Discovery Channel in Canada had a chance to see how a mattress is made when Serta Vice President Bob Malin took them on a tour of Serta’s Vancouver plant on the program, “The Secret Science of Everyday Things.”

The “Bedtime Stories” episode aired in late October and early November.
“The Secret Science of Everyday Things” is a documentary series that explains the science and technology of common objects, focusing on the relationship between viewers and the objects surrounding them every day.

“We provided several humorous yet powerful examples of the strength and resiliency of a Serta Perfect Sleeper,” Malin said. “People don’t realize all it takes to make a comfortable, supportive mattress that will last.”

Spring Air debuts TV spot

Three bears do the talking for Spring Air in a television commercial that debuted in October and will run throughout 2005 in the United States and Mexico.
The spot supports Spring Air’s 4–year–old “Just Right” campaign that promotes the theme: “A mattress so comfortable, so just right, that you can’t bear sleeping on anything else.”

The plot of the commercial centers on three bears entering a cabin, only to find a little girl sleeping. One bear bounces on a Spring Air bed and growls in an attempt to wake the girl. Finally, the bear realizes how comfortable the bed must be and crawls in to fall asleep.

Charity gala celebrities take home Tempur-Pedics

Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry, Beyonce Knowles, Faith Hill, Josh Groban and Jay Leno were among the performers, presenters and honorees at the 2004 Carousel of Hope fund–raising gala who received gift certificates for Tempur–Pedic mattresses in their thank–you gift bags.

Tempur–Pedic donated the Deluxe Swedish Mattresses–available to the stars in the size of their choice–and provided a bed set for the gala’s silent auction, which was held Oct. 23 in Los Angeles.

Over the years, the Carousel of Hope Ball has raised more than $70 million for the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in Denver, where more than 5,000 children receive specialized diabetes care.

“The Carousel of Hope Ball is one of the biggest fund–raising events in Los Angeles and is supported by a spectacular crowd,” said Dany Sfeir, senior vice president of marketing for the bedding maker, which has headquarters in Lexington, Ky. “People attend this event to show support for Barbara Davis and for the work she is doing to help children with diabetes. We were very prepared to help Mrs. Davis and support her efforts in this worthy cause.”

Kingdown revamps its logo

To better reflect the direction Kingsdown has been taking with its products, the company has redesigned its logo with new imagery and a “Sleep to Live” tagline.

The logo’s fresh look is tied into new marketing materials and in–store retail displays that feature a complementary tagline, “Wake Up To a Better Life.” The accompanying imagery is energetic and active, with photos of people dancing, driving and frolicking on beaches.

“We’re not just selling beds, we’re selling sleep and how to get better sleep,” said Kingsdown’s Tom McLean.

While eager to incorporate new lifestyle messages, Kingsdown also was sensitive to maintaining the company’s visual link to the company’s long history, said Julie Swanner, marketing director. (Kingsdown is celebrating its centennial this year.)

Culp restructuring ticking plants

An announcing a major restructuring of its upholstery fabric operations that includes closing two plants and eliminating 250 jobs, Culp Inc. also made public planned changes for the mattress ticking side of its business.

The announcements came in late October as the High Point, N.C.–based company announced fiscal second–quarter earnings.

“While we have continued to realize meaningful gains with key customers in our mattress fabrics segment, we believe there are areas for margin improvement,” said Robert G. Culp III, chairman and chief executive officer.

To reduce manufacturing costs, Culp said the company will consolidate ticking production in two plants: Quebec, Canada, and Stokesdale, N.C. Some mattress fabric production had been done in Graham, N.C.–a plant that will now be devoted to upholstery production under the restructuring of that segment of the business.

The company will move ticking looms from Graham and purchase faster, more efficient looms to replace some existing equipment. The company plans to spend $7 million this year and next to make the improvements, Culp said. The consolidation project is expected to be complete by August 2005.

“We believe these changes in our manufacturing operations will significantly enhance our globally competitive cost structure in this segment,” Culp said. “We anticipate the company will realize approximately $4.5 million in annualized savings as a result of this capital project. We look forward to the opportunity to strengthen our competitive position in the mattress ticking business.”

In its upholstery division, the company is closing a weaving plant in Pageland, S.C., and a yarn facility in Cherryville, N.C., eliminating 250 jobs. The company also is reducing raw materials and SKUs and reducing “selling, general and administrative expenses,” Culp said. Together, the restructuring efforts are expected to save the company $14 million a year.

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