Mattress Industry News

US and Canada reach tentative lumber agreement

The United States and Canada have reached a tentative agreement that resolves the long dispute between the two countries concerning trade duties on softwood lumber imported from Canada. Canadian softwood is a critical component in mattress foundations.

Although the agreement has not been formally signed and many details remain to be worked out, it is hoped that the seven–year deal will provide a greater degree of market stability for lumber.

Under the terms of the agreement, the United States will remove existing trade duties on lumber imports, although it may be necessary for Canada to impose border taxes or quotas on lumber exported to the United States if market prices fall below set limits or Canada’s share of the U.S. lumber market rises above 34%.

Italy’s Magniflex hits U.S.

Magniflex, part of Italy’s largest mattress manufacturer Gruppo Magni, made its debut at the spring High Point, N.C., furniture show and announced plans for its commitment to the U.S. bedding market.

The company expects to open a flagship retail store in New York City, is seeking sales representatives throughout the country and will show its products at the Las Vegas furniture market in July, said Irwin Pearl and Henry Burney of Obie LLC, who are managing the U.S. market for the company.

Magniflex drew visitors to its High Point showroom with a glitzy $24,000 queen–size bed with 22–karat gold thread in the ticking, but at the heart of its line are roll–packed foam mattresses that can be shipped to the United States, 600 to a container. Beds at the top of the line have suggested retail prices of about $2,200. (The super–luxe gold bed does sell pretty well in the Middle East, especially in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Pearl and Burney said.)

In addition to its Magniflex brand beds, Gruppo Magni manufactures the Pierre Cardin, Materassi & Materassi, Dormir and Relaxsan brands. All beds are produced at the company’s 33,000–square–meter facility in Prato, Italy.

SPSC launches new Web site

As part of its efforts to promote and educate consumers about safety issues, the Sleep Products Safety Council has created a new Web site to better explain open–flame mattress standards to consumers. The SPSC also hopes the site will be a tool for the media and serve as an accurate resource for them when reporting on the standard.

The site, at www.mattressregulation.org, begins with this message: “The mattress industry is committed to producing and selling products that are comfortable, affordable and safe. The industry is proud to have worked closely with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to develop a new national open–flame mattress standard that may save hundreds of lives each year. This site is dedicated to explaining how the new standard will enhance sleep safety for you and your family.”

The site includes a consumer–friendly explanation of the federal open–flame standard, safety tips, fire prevention tips, and answers to frequently asked questions about the standard, mattress safety and flame–retardant materials.

The SPSC’s main Web site is located at www.safesleep.org. The Web site about the mattress regulations can be accessed through it or directly by typing in www.mattressregulation.org.

Comfor-Pedic expands

Comfor-Pedic has opened a new manufacturing and distribution hub in High Point, N.C., to service its East Coast customers. The facility also has a showroom to display the company’s complete line of specialty bedding.

The company, based in Fife, Wash., near Seattle, celebrated the opening of the facility with a ribbon cutting just before the furniture market in High Point in late April.

“We are very excited to have our own permanent space in High Point,” said company President Jack Squires.

During the High Point market, Comfor-Pedic offered free parking and shuttle service for retailers between Main Street downtown and their showroom about two miles away.

Comfor-Pedic plans to open another manufacturing and distribution hub in Iowa this summer.

Sealy celebrating two anniversaries

Bedding maker Sealy is marking the anniversaries of two major brands—Sealy and Stearns & Foster—with special bed sets.

To celebrate the founding of the Sealy brand by Daniel Haynes in 1881 in Sealy, Texas, the company is offering a 125th Anniversary Limited Edition two–bed collection. The beds, available in plush tight–top and euro pillow–top, feature knit fabrics with tack and jump quilting. Suggested retail prices are $599 and $699, respectively.

“We’re offering a visible value for retailers and shoppers,” said Mark Delahanty, vice president of Sealy brands for the Archdale, N.C.–based producer.

The beds are dressed with special 125th anniversary pillows and foot protectors for floor display. They include enhanced point–of–sale materials and are being supported with newspaper circulars and TV ads in both English and Spanish that will air in advance of Labor Day bedding promotions.

Stearns & Foster is celebrating its 160th anniversary with special editions available in plush tight–top and euro pillow–top. The models have suggested retail prices of $999 and $1,299, respectively.

“Since 1846, Stearns & Foster has built a tradition of craftsmanship and quality,” said Josh Lowe, director of marketing for the brand. They also are being supported by a broad ad campaign that will begin later this summer.

Additions also have been made to the highest end of the luxe Stearns & Foster line. Two Silver Edition beds feature the brand’s foam–encased spring units, the Comfort Bridge layer of foam between the support and comfort layers, and cashmere in the quilt. They start at $2,399 retail.

Eclipse honors 3 licensees

Bedding maker Eclipse International has given top honors to licensees in China, Taiwan and Korea.

Eclipse of China, operated by President David Chen and Vice President Truman Huang, earned the 2005 Constellation Award for Creative Marketing. The award is given to the Eclipse licensee that has demonstrated the most unique and effective marketing plan.

Eclipse of China operates more than 50 exclusive Eclipse galleries, mostly in southeastern China, but has plans to expand production with two additional factories to service a growing customer base throughout the country.

The 2005 Saturn Award for Sales Growth was presented to Eclipse of Taiwan, led by President Benny Fang. The award is given to the Eclipse licensee that demonstrates the largest international sales growth for their region during the year.

The 2005 Eminence Award, the company’s top accolade, was given to Eclipse of Korea and its president, K.S. Suh. The award recognizes the greatest overall achievement by an Eclipse licensee. Eclipse of Korea, the first overseas licensee for Eclipse International, recently lost its plant when it was destroyed by fire. Within six months, Suh had rebuilt the facility and had returned to normal production rates.

“I want to congratulate all of our partners in the Far East for their achievements. We at Eclipse International are proud of our licensees in China, Korea and Taiwan,” said Stuart Carlitz, chief executive officer of the licensing group, which is headquartered in North Brunswick, N.J. “I wish them all the best for 2006 and look forward to an even better year as the success of our company continues to work its way around the world.”

Janesville plant earns Simmons award

Simmons has presented its Janesville, Wis., manufacturing facility with the 2005 Tony Saliture Award for Operational Excellence. The annual award recognizes a Simmons plant that achieves superior performance in the areas of safety, quality, customer service, cost and productivity. It is the highest honor given to a plant by the Atlanta–based bedding maker.

“The Janesville plant’s success is directly tied to its work force’s continual drive for improvement,” said Rob Burch, Simmons executive vice president of operations. “Although many of our plants achieved high performance levels in 2005, the Janesville plant recorded unprecedented achievements, setting a standard that all our plants can strive to attain.”

The award is especially significant to the Janesville plant because it is named after the facility’s former manager, Tony Saliture, who opened the plant in 1980 and retired in 1998. The award and its evaluation criteria were developed in 2001 to replace Simmons’ annual quality award, which had been presented to the Janesville plant for seven consecutive years. This marks the second time that the Janesville facility has won the Tony Saliture award since its creation. The plant also received the award in 2004.

Natura offering more than beds

Natura, a maker of specialty bedding, is encouraging its retailers to sell the entire sleep experience—from comfortable, supportive mattresses to restful music.

To that end, the bedding maker has put together the Natura Essentials collection of Natura–branded products—candles, lavender and chamomile room sprays, CDs of soothing tunes, cushiony slippers and thick cotton robes.

“We want Natura to be the total sleep solution for retailers and consumers,” said Ralph Rossdeutscher, president of the company, which has headquarters in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Retailers can stock and sell the items or use them as gifts for good customers, he said.

The Natura Essentials collection debuted at the spring High Point, N.C., furniture market.

Largest Verlo store opens in Wisconsin

Verlo Mattress Factory Stores of Appleton, Wis., has opened its new $3.5 million facility, a relocation project begun last fall.

The new factory direct is located in a busy retail area, across from a Barnes & Noble bookstore and near Ashley Furniture and American furniture showrooms.

At 14,000 square feet, the retail showroom and factory is the largest in the 62–store national franchise, which is based in Whitewater, Wis. The Appleton showroom features a wide variety of specialty bedding, futons and day beds.

Jake Stanek has operated the Appleton franchise since June 2003 and also owns a store in Oshkosh, Wis.

“We’re pleased that our volume has doubled since that time. We’re thrilled to introduce our new facility to this area. And it definitely will accommodate our growth more efficiently,” he said.

Sealy creates sleep-oriented site

Sealy has created a new Web site dedicated to helping educate people about the importance of sleep. The site, www.sleepsoundly.com, was created in partnership with the National Sleep Foundation and provides advice regarding sleep.

The educational information, tips and data on the site come from the NSF and some links take visitors back to the NSF’s main Web site. Content at www.sleepsoundly.com is divided into four sections tied to people’s life stages: children, teens, adults and seniors.

“Sealy has been successful throughout its 125–year history because we have focused single–mindedly on helping people get a great night’s sleep,” said Philip Dobbs, senior vice president of marketing for the Archdale, N.C.–based bedding producer.

Though Sealy is operating the site, the company says its goal is not to overtly push mattresses or Sealy product. The site is only “slightly branded,” featuring a small Sealy logo at the bottom of each page, which, if clicked, takes visitors to the company’s main Web site, www.sealy.com.

That primary Web site also has gotten a fresh design with the consumer in mind. On the main pages, visitors are encouraged to “Choose Wisely,” where they’ll find product information about the Posturepedic, TrueForm and SpringFree brands; “Shop Easily,” where they’ll find dealers in their area; and “Sleep Soundly,” where they’ll find warranty and care information.

Simmons focuses on dealers at HP market

Simmons used the spring furniture market in High Point, N.C., to focus on dealers that will be using its new specialized sales support. Simmons recently created a dedicated team known as Centralized Dealer Services to better meet the needs of part of its dealer base.

The CDS team consists of retail account managers who are trained to provide comprehensive retailer support including merchandising, marketing, advertising and promotional programs. Eleven CDS reps handle 2,100 accounts divided into seven districts across the United States, said Jim Sharkey, CDS director. The company also has a staff of strategic account managers, regional account managers and other sales representatives, he said.

“In recent months, we have taken steps to increase our effectiveness through a sales realignment, which included the creation of the CDS team. The dedication of the High Point market to our CDS accounts is really just part of our ongoing plan to improve client service by streamlining the sales process,” said Steve Fendrich, executive vice president of sales for the Atlanta–based bedding manufacturer.

Advertising information available to retailers in High Point included Simmons’ print ad campaign for summer and early fall, co–op advertising guidelines, and support and point–of–sale materials for the company’s revamped “bowling ball” campaign. Among the merchandising aids available was a guide to merchandising floor space based on the number of Simmons beds a retailer shows. Sales training materials were available in print and DVD versions. Soon the company will be offering sales training materials through a Web site.

“With the CDS program, we’re offering retailers flexibility. This market is set up to show them all the tools that are available to them,” Sharkey said. “We know retailers like their reps coming into the store, but we also know (those visits) can be hit–or–miss.” For instance, with the toolkit retailers can begin training new sales associates on selling Simmons products without waiting for a sales rep to arrive, he said.

Bemco offers Dream Sales

Because of the success of its Dream Sales pocket booklet and support materials for retail sales associates, Bemco says it’s extending and expanding the program for this year.

New elements include a consumer brochure, point–of–sale folder and a Dream Sales audio CD. The materials focus on Bemco’s Ultra Premium Posture Collection and emphasize the link between health and sleep.

“These new consumer education pieces support product knowledge, help retailers educate consumers and, ultimately, promote increased sales of premium bedding,” said Daryl Tarbutton, president of Bemco, a licensing group with headquarters in Des Plaines, Ill. “They facilitate both the selling and buying process.”

High Point draws 95,000

With a new universal badge in place allowing better tracking, officials with the furniture market in High Point, N.C., say the spring show attracted 95,000 people. Past attendance figures from the market have shown attendance at about 70,000. Market officials say they suspect the higher numbers for the spring show come, not from a significant increase in traffic, but from a more accurate count than former attendance estimates provided. Attendance figures are not broken down to show the specific number of buyers, exhibitors, media, etc.

Tornado doesn’t stop Verlo store

On the evening of March 12, a tornado blasted through Springfield, Ill., damaging several businesses including the Verlo Mattress Factory Store, which suffered shattered windows and incoming rainwater that damaged beds. To make matters worse, the storm coincided with the factory direct’s biggest promotion of the year, the March Mismatch Sale. Owners Rich and Diana Keitzman used the storm damage as a chance to renovate and update their facility. The new showroom opened less than a month later—and the Mismatch promotion continued. “We know we’re not the only ones in the community who have suffered from the tornado,” Rich Keitzman said. “We’re grateful no one was hurt. We’re also indebted to this community for all of the support provided to us.

L&P on Fortune 500

Supplier Leggett & Platt comes in at No. 404 on this year’s Fortune 500—the only company in the furniture industry to make the compilation of the world’s largest companies. The Carthage, Mo.–based company also is featured in a short profile that looks at its strategy regarding China.

Trinity makes first acquisition

Trinity Investment Partners, a private equity firm led by veteran bedding executive Ron Jones and others, has given $4 million in growth capital to Harvey Electronics, a New York City retailer and installer of home theaters. “This initial investment in Harvey only underscores the commitment of our firm to invest in attractive opportunities within the interior furnishings industry,” said Jones, retired chairman and chief executive officer of Sealy.

CEOs support immigrants

American chief executive officers support a process of legalization for the 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States, according to a recent survey conducted on behalf of Chief Executive magazine. CEOs’ proposals for helping illegal immigrants become citizens range from granting amnesty to requiring an earned citizenship based on things such as learning English, paying taxes and having a clean criminal record. Only a small number of CEOs support immediate deportation of illegal immigrants without possibility of amnesty or eventual citizenship.

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