Hästens taking super luxury far beyond Sweden

Hästens, a Swedish manufacturer of handmade, standard–setting luxury beds, is aggressively positioning itself for global growth. With its sights set on North America and Asia, the company has placed business development teams in key regions, reinforcing its efforts with technological upgrades and a comprehensive marketing campaign.

Jan Ryde, the company’s owner and chief executive officer, has been steering the family business for growth since taking the reins in 1989. Ryde believes that a reverence for quality and craftsmanship, combined with a passion for innovation and technology, set his company apart.

“Hästens’ culture is very respectful of heritage, but is also dedicated to creating and developing innovative products,” Ryde says. “We are constantly striving to improve our product and to enhance people’s sleep.”

“The Hästens story is an amazing one,” says Scott Link, Hästens managing director for the Americas and Asia. “Jan’s mission has always been to improve people’s lives by giving them the best night’s sleep possible. We’re all working hard toward that goal and we have a lot of wind in our sails right now.”

From saddles to sleep

Hästens was founded in 1852 in Köping by Ryde’s great–great–grandfather Pehr Adolf Janson. It initially was a saddle–making enterprise. Horsehair mattresses were just a sideline of the business until 1917 when Ryde’s grandfather, David Janson, shifted the company’s focus to mattress production. Hästens became the official bedding supplier of Sweden’s royal court in 1953.

From its inception, Hästens has been committed to using natural ingredients. Frames are constructed from Swedish pine. Comfort layers include cotton, horsehair, flax and virgin wool. Springs are manufactured from heat–treated Swedish steel and then individually mounted in fabric pockets.

Hästens’ product line includes frame, continental, adjustable and specialty beds. Frame models, which are most popular among European consumers, have a thick spring mattress for a base topped with a thinner, softer mattress. Suggested retail prices start at $5,750.

The company offers four continental beds. The three–part construction more closely resembles traditional mattress sets in North America: A thick spring base, a supportive spring mattress, and then a soft, thinner TOP mattress for comfort. Beds in this group start at about $9,400. Hästens also manufacturers three adjustable beds (starting at $12,990) and two round specialty models (starting at $29,500).

Until recently, Hästens focused U.S. marketing efforts on its continental beds. The company introduced a new collection of frame beds to the market during the High Point Market in April 2010. The company is positioning the beds, with their lower price points, as options for children’s rooms, guest rooms and second homes.

“Business in the U.S. has been historically driven by continental beds, but in the next couple of months we expect to see 25% of our unit sales come from frame beds,” says Janet Stein, Hästens U.S. country manager.

New highs

With the launch of the continental Vividus, Hästens ratcheted up its own commitment to craftsmanship and quality—and its own price ceiling. It took two years to develop the Vividus. It was released in 2006 and has a suggested retail price of about $69,950. Each is built to the individual specifications of the customer and requires as many as 160 hours to construct by hand.

“With the Vividus, we take everything a step further,” Ryde says. “We set out to create the ultimate bed—a bed with absolutely no compromises—and we have done so.”

The Vividus, like all Hästens beds, is covered with checked cotton ticking, usually in the company’s iconic blue–and–white scheme, but also available in 20 other colorways. The checked motif embellishes Hästens other sleep accessories. Consumers can add headboards, mattress pads, linens, comforters and sleepwear to their collection. Hästens also offers a complete line of beds and sleep accessories for children.

Although the Vividus has sold slowly in the United States, the company is enthusiastic about the positive effect the bed has had on overall sales.

“Sales of the 2000T II, which used to be the most expensive bed, have dramatically increased in stores that have the Vividus,” Link says.

Branching out

Link is charged with creating business development strategies for the Americas and Asia. Hästens has been in both regions for about four years—long enough, he says, to be convinced that they offer strong potential for growth.

The company sells its products at 15 locations in the United States, two in Canada, six in Asia and one in India. Link envisions as many as 125 additional stores in the United States and possibly far more in Asia and India.

“We haven’t done a lot of long–term growth plans for Asia because we’re still in the discovery stage, but we have no competition there,” Link says. “It’s clear that the potential is enormous and the possibilities endless.”

Retail support

But Hästens isn’t in a rush to open new dealers. The company is committed to ensuring that every new Hästens dealer is successful with the brand and it is willing to put time and resources behind that effort.

Link and Stein vet potential retail partners against characteristics they believe foster success. A dealer’s location and experience with luxury brands are among the top criteria.

“The most successful types of dealers are entrepreneurs in other business areas or high–end furniture store owners,” Stein says. Although Hästens will consider partnering with existing mattress retailers, it will do so in the form of a shop–in–shop concept.

“We have a proven record of our brand succeeding adjacent to another mattress store, when we’ve presented in the Hästens–branded environment,” Stein explains.

A design team from Sweden aids retailers in transferring the Hästens concept to new stores and a corporate advertising department helps develop local campaigns. Retailers are required to go to Sweden twice a year for sales training. Part of the initial visit includes direct experience handcrafting a bed in Hästens’ 54,000–square–foot manufacturing facility.

Undergirding growth

In 2008, the company incorporated new business systems software to support its anticipated expansion. Hästens also revamped its advertising and marketing efforts to better reflect its global aspirations.

Visitors to its Web site (www.hastens.com) can request free copies of a 150–page catalog, as well as a DVD showing step–by–step construction of the beds. While on the site, visitors can download “Be Still,” an iPhone app using Hästens’ MindSpa, a tool that helps people achieve deeper relaxation and reduce stress so they can sleep better.

As other mattress manufacturers have found, hotels also have proven to be potent marketing partners. Travelers can find Hästens beds in luxury hotels in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and 14 other countries.

New global leadership

In June, as this issue of BedTimes was going to press, Hästens announced that Nick Braden has been appointed global president of Hästens worldwide.

“Nick Braden brings a breadth of brand development and operational skills that will be invaluable to Hästens as it focuses on growing its sales and profitability worldwide,” says Ryde, who will continue in his leadership role.

In the new job, Braden focuses on creating strategic opportunities and oversees the centralized functions supporting the company’s worldwide operations.

Braden will be based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was general manager of Mars Drinks North America. He also has held posts with McKinsey & Co. in Europe, L’Occitane and Staples.

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