Mattress industry news round-up

Partners reviving Eastman House brand

The heads of Dream Makers and Eclipse International have teamed up to bring Eastman House back to retail showroom floors.

The Eastman House name was purchased by a private equity group after it ceased operation 18 months ago. Now Steve Lytell, a founder of retail chain Mattress Discounters and current chief executive officer of Miami–based bedding manufacturer Dream Makers, and Stuart Carlitz, president of Eclipse International, a licensing group based in North Brunswick, N.J., are putting Eastman House beds into production.

The first models have been produced at the Dream Makers plant in Florida and debuted at the fall furniture market in High Point, N.C. The beds are being produced and distributed by Dream Makers and other selected Eclipse licensees. Lytell is serving as president of the Eastman House brand.

Eastman House beds originally were produced by Chittenden & Eastman, a furniture maker founded in 1866 as H. Bailey & Co., in Burlington, Iowa. It changed its name to Chittenden & Eastman in 1899. Eastman House earned a reputation as a luxury brand, and its new owners want to build on that reputation while significantly changing the way the beds are produced.

The new Eastman House mattress sets are being made using cut–and–sew covers and other components imported from China and other overseas suppliers. The parts are then assembled at the Dream Makers plant in Florida and other Eclipse licensees around the country.

The initial five–bed line has suggested retail prices ranging from $999 to $2,999 for queen sizes. The mattresses have foam–encased, coil–on–coil construction, cushioning layers of latex and visco–elastic foams, chenille tickings and embroidered labels. Model names are Pleasure, Passion, Romance, Beauty and Pure.

According to Lytell, the new production process will offer quality control, faster production speeds and better values for consumers.

“We feel we have a product that’s never been offered in the United States from a value presentation, quality and sellability,” Lytell said. “We are definitely not a me–too brand. The product stands on its own.”

About 50 retail stores in south Florida already have begun selling the Eastman House line, and Lytell said sales have been exceeding his expectations.

“Now I have the ability to go after national accounts because we can service national and the bigger regional players,” Lytell said. “With just one factory, I wasn’t able to do that.”

Consultancy offering 1633 audit

Lilly Management Group, a consulting firm based in St. Charles, Ill., has launched FR/PRO AUDIT, an inspection program for mattress producers.

The audit program is based on the same systems and procedures used in the firm’s FR/PRO PROTOTYPING program, which was introduced in 2006. The consultancy says the new program was developed in response to U.S. manufacturers who have requested mock plant inspections, reviews of their 16 CFR Part 1633 recordkeeping and documentation procedures, and quality assurance audits.

“Our original prototyping program was designed to help mattress producers understand and meet the new federal flammability standard efficiently and cost–effectively,” said Bob Sabalaskey, the firm’s president of manufacturing and product engineering. “The FR/PRO AUDIT program is the final step toward complete compliance in that it provides mattress manufacturers with a private, yet ‘real–world’ inspection experience and the opportunity to assess their actual 1633 readiness.”

An audit by the firm can be pre–arranged or unannounced and can be conducted in a single working day. The program includes pre– and post–audit interviews with the plant’s FR management, plus a complete FR/PRO AUDIT report with results and recommendations.

Machine supplier celebrates new plant

Machinery and equipment supplier Atlanta Attachment recently hosted a week–long grand opening of its new 200,000–square–foot corporate headquarters and manufacturing plant in Lawrenceville, Ga., north of Atlanta.

The environmentally friendly building lies directly across the street from the company’s previous headquarters, which had been spread over three buildings. It also is within five minutes of a community airfield, providing visiting customers access to the facility and allowing trained Atlanta Attachment technicians to be airborne and headed for a customer’s factory in 15 minutes, if need be.

Throughout the week of the opening, Chairman Elvin Price, President Hank Little and the company’s 150 employees entertained as many as 50 customers a day from throughout the United States, Canada and Latin America.

With a 16,000–square–foot showroom, the company now has room to operate and display a working example of virtually every piece of equipment it offers. A bedding manufacturer can easily see an entire mattress being constructed, step–by–step, Little said.

“We have a lot of customer visits and that seems to be growing for us,” Little said. “We get a lot of requests to bring product here and make samples and ship them back to their plants and then test the goods. We really wanted a friendly environment that customers would find functional so they would come here. If they know what they are buying ahead of time, it makes things a lot smoother.”

Almost 180,000 square feet is devoted to warehouse, production, and research and development facilities, with the remainder of the building used for administration.

Price wanted to make the building itself “green,” and it was designed to use as many natural and energy–saving elements as possible. For instance, rainwater runoff is collected in large tanks and can be recycled for a number of uses, and the ceilings and walls make generous use of glass so that much of the interior is lighted by natural sunlight. That sunlight also will help defray heating costs during the winter.

The building was finished off with decorative items Price picked up on buying sprees in China with Bill Frech, a commercial and residential designer who helped create the building.

L&P goes on tour to sell sleep

Get out of the business of selling mattresses and into the business of selling sleep. That was the primary message to bedding retailers from supplier Leggett & Platt’s first cross–country Spring Alive educational tour.

Representatives of the Carthage, Mo.–based company hit the road for a week in September, making a stop each day at cities throughout the United States. Leading the tour was Mark Quinn, L&P group executive vice president of sales and marketing. With him were Craig McAndrews, a partner in the Innovative Retail Group in Glendale, Ariz.; Kurt Ling, president of Customer Kinetics in Atlanta and, for one leg of the trip, Rubin Naiman, an Arizona–based clinical psychologist specializing in integrative sleep and dream medicine.

The team stopped first in St. Louis, speaking to an audience of Mattress Firm sales representatives. Next up was Fort Atkinson, Wis., the new headquarters of VyMaC and Verlo Mattress Factory Stores, where they addressed about 30 Verlo franchise holders.

The team moved onto Cleveland to speak to an audience of sales associates from Original Mattress Factory and then to Dallas to meet with Mattress Giant employees. The tour concluded with a seminar in the Los Angeles area for employees of the Sit ‘n Sleep chain.

Quinn hoped the team was able to convey to the attending retailers that most consumers’ mattress–buying decisions are made on an emotional basis, but many sales associates continue to talk about beds using technical information.

“There’s a disconnect,” he said. “If we can talk about the things that are truly important to the consumer then we can really help them understand the significant role a mattress can play in their life. At the end of the day, it is all about how a mattress can help them improve their sleep, which can help them improve their quality of life.”

Although the tour name was Spring Alive, the focus of the presentations was on the importance of quality sleep and not on innersprings, of which L&P is a leading supplier.

“We wanted to talk about innerspring, which we did, but we didn’t want to make it the central focus of the tour,” Quinn said. “Our strategy was to raise the level of awareness for the industry on selling the benefit of sleep vs. too much of a logical approach. Then, we, as an industry, sell more beds. So there’s benefit for us at Leggett & Platt, as well as the rest of the bedding brands and retailers out there.”

Quinn and his entourage posted comments, observations and videos daily on a blog at www.leggettsleep.com. A free DVD of the tour is available to any bedding retailer who requests it through the Web site.

Latexco opens facility

More than 180 dignitaries, company executives, community leaders and employees were on hand Sept. 25 for the grand opening of Latexco’s new 100,000–square–foot latex foam plant in Lavonia, Ga. Latexco, a major latex foam producer, is based in Tielt, Belgium.

The new plant is on a 17–acre site one hour from Greenville, S.C. Located along Interstate 85, it is within easy reach of various shipping ports that can deliver raw materials for latex production, said Kevin Callinan, Latexco vice president of sales. The plant eventually can be expanded to 250,000 square feet.

The facility, currently with 38 employees, began test pouring on Sept. 1 and was in full production by the time of the ribbon cutting with one line running. Callinan said the plant will offer a full range of natural and synthetic latex foams, as well as numerous foam blends. About 90% of the foam will be targeted for the bedding industry.

Spring Air closing Ala. plant

Bedding maker Spring Air has announced that it will close its manufacturing facility in Birmingham, Ala., by the middle of the month.

The regional sales force based in Birmingham is relocating to Spring Air’s facility in Atlanta.

Some 26 administrative positions throughout the company also are being eliminated. The positions are mainly finance, information technology and marketing posts and corporate positions in Chicago, Tampa, Fla.; Los Angeles; Phoenix; St. Louis; Carrollton, Texas; Chelsea, Mass.; and Lacey, Wash. None of the positions being eliminated affect sales or customer service and support functions, the company said.

Spring Air, headquartered in Elk Grove, Ill., reorganized its structure earlier this spring and bedding industry veteran Bob Hellyer joined the company as chief executive officer. Other key executive positions also have changed.

“Even though our merger was predicated on growth, we’ve found pockets where we had too many people doing the same work or people who were in positions we no longer needed to effectively service our customers,” Hellyer said. “While losing colleagues you have worked with…is difficult, the merger created new corporate realities that our management team needed to address early on. We believe the steps we are taking today put us in the right competitive position.”

Hellyer said the company does not expect “any further layoffs or plant closures for the foreseeable future.”

Eclipse signs Africa deal

Eclipse International, a manufacturer and licensing group based in North Brunswick, N.J., has signed a licensing agreement with Majestic Bedding to supply bedding to much of Africa.

The territories include South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and the Indian Ocean islands of Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles and Comoros.

Majestic Bedding is led by Chief Executive Officer Iqbal Bam. The company also holds a Simmons license for South Africa.

“With the Soccer World Cup being held in South Africa in 2010, Majestic Bedding is optimistic about the potential and value Eclipse International will bring to the local bedding market,” said Ahmed Omar, Majestic Bedding director of sales and marketing.

The company is a major supplier to the hospitality industry in South Africa.

Therapedic Sleep Products has licensee changes

Therapedic Sleep Products, a manufacturer and licensing group headquartered in Princeton, N.J., has some opportunities to reposition itself in the U.S. retail market, said Gerry Borreggine, Therapedic president and chief executive officer.

One of its key licensees, International Bedding Corp., in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., had a change of ownership and leadership last spring and no longer has a Therapedic license. IBC had been supplying California, Arizona, Nevada and Florida.

“That has afforded us the opportunity to recapture those territories,” Borreggine said.

Another licensee, Therapedic Mid–Atlantic in Bluefield, Va., stopped production of Therapedic beds in late July. That opens up Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

“So there’s a significant transition taking place right now,” Borreggine said. “And it’s an exciting time for the group. We are in a position to be very selective of who our new domestic partners will be.”

Natura, Brick teaming up

Bedding manufacturer Natura World has entered into an agreement with home furnishings retailer the Brick to open a Natura World gallery in the Brick’s newest enhanced Brick Sleep Shop in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

The 3,500–square–foot store opened in mid–October. Natura World occupies 700 square feet, which allows it to display one model from each of its mattress lines, as well as pillows and other accessories.

“We are excited to be partners with the Brick,” said Larry Klein, vice president of sales for Natura World, which is based in Cambridge, Ontario. “We have had a close, long–time relationship with them and are honored they chose us.”

The gallery is a test. The program could be extended to the Brick’s 25 existing sleep shops and the additional 75 the retailer hopes to build.

Dow unveils RENUVA

Dow Chemical has introduced RENUVA Renewable Resource Technology, a proprietary process used to produce bio–based polyols.

The technology produces bio–based polyols that are virtually odor–free and can be customized to deliver enhanced performance in an array of applications, according to the company. The polyols can be used in bedding and furniture.

“For Dow, RENUVA technology provides an opportunity to decrease dependence on petroleum–based feedstocks,” said Doug Warner, Dow Polyols global business director.

“For our customers, it allows them to create ‘green’ products that contain high levels of renewable content while at the same time delivering the performance their customers want.”

Dow said RENUVA technology uses up to 60% fewer fossil fuel resources than conventional polyol technologies.

OSHA recognizes Simmons

Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration invited executives from Atlanta–based bedding maker Simmons to Washington, D.C., to recognize the company’s efforts in safety and health management. Edwin G. Foulke Jr., the head of OSHA, met with Charlie Eitel, Simmons chairman and chief executive officer, and Jonathan Dawe, Simmons director of safety, health, wellness and workers’ compensation, at OSHA headquarters. At the meeting, OSHA officials singled out Simmons as a safety and health management leader.

Chiropractors tout new beds

The American Chiropractic Association recommended replacement of old mattresses as part of National Chiropractic Month in October and said investing in a new sleep set can improve overall health. The association cited the Oklahoma State University study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine earlier this year, in which study participants reported benefits such as reduced back pain after sleeping on a new mattress.

Execs gather for EBIA meeting

Some 125 bedding industry executives met recently in Dubrovnik, Croatia. The focus of the European Bedding Industries’ Association meeting was the state of the industry throughout Europe. Highlights of the conference included a discussion of country–by–country mattress sales figures, efforts to expand overall consumer demand for mattresses, consumer and bedding research, and regulatory developments. For more information, check the EBIA Web site at www.europeanbedding.eu.

Heart disease linked to sleep loss

People who don’t get enough sleep are more than twice as likely to die of heart disease, according to a British study. A 17–year analysis of 10,000 government workers showed that those who reduced their sleep from seven hours a night to five or fewer faced a 1.7–fold increased risk in mortality and more than double the risk of cardiovascular death. Researchers said lack of sleep appeared to be linked to increased blood pressure.

Therapedic aids homeless veterans

Mark Corvese, president of Therapedic New England in Brockton, Mass., and his wife, Joanne, recently sponsored a successful fund–raiser for Massachusetts veterans. The Moonlight Serenade event was held in Worchester, Mass., and included dinner and swing dancing. Proceeds benefited the Veterans Homeless Shelter of Massachusetts. “It was an honor, and very rewarding, to be associated with such a worthy cause,” Corves