Italy’s Magniflex conquering the globe

As Magniflex, Italy’s largest mattress manufacturer, celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, its owners are planning for the future. Ahead for the company: significant investment in the development of innovative, environmentally friendly products; increased penetration into Asian and North American markets; and the expansion of its retail chains into other European countries.

Magniflex, which specializes in foam mattresses but produces a variety of sleep products, was founded in 1962 by Giuliano Magni. It’s headquartered in Prato, a city about 11 miles north of Florence and the ancestral home of the Magni family for more than four centuries. Today, the company is wholly owned by Magni and his three sons, Alessandro, who is president; Fabrizzio, who serves as director of development; and Marco, who is the company’s global sales director and president of Magniflex USA.

“My father started by producing 20 to 30 mattresses a day. He was always focused on improving the quality of sleep and quickly developed strong relationships with furniture stores,” Marco Magni says.

sons of Magniflex founder Giuliano Magni sitting on bed
Fabrizzio (from left), Alessandro and Marco Magni—all three Magniflex executives—are sons of company founder Giuliano Magni.

Moving beyond its borders
Although Prato is within striking distance of four of Italy’s largest cities, during its first two decades, Magniflex’s growth was limited by the ruggedness of the local terrain and its narrow, winding roads. Realizing that it was easier to transport its products by boat than truck, Magniflex looked to the export market to fuel expansion.

In the early 1980s, the company began selling into northern Africa, Cyprus, Malta and Spain. By 1990, it had expanded into Russia and, by 1995, Magniflex was exporting mattresses to Japan.

“Entering the international arena was really difficult. We had to develop new product, country by country, and adapt our marketing to each culture,” Marco Magni says. “It was difficult, but it was also the start of real change for us.”

The expansion was aided by the innovative vacuum-packing system that Giuliano Magni patented in 1986. His goal was to reduce the size of mattresses so that consumers could easily carry them home from stores themselves, but the impact of vacuum packing on the company’s future proved to be more significant.

By adopting vacuum-packing technology, Magniflex was able to reduce the size of its mattresses by as much as 90%, resulting in dramatic savings in shipping and warehousing costs. With those expenses reduced, the company was able to look even more seriously at the potential of the export market.

“This technology meant that we could ship 10 times more at the same cost and that enabled us to open up a worldwide market,” Marco Magni says.

Giuliano holding vacuum-packed mattress
Giuliano Magni started Magniflex in 1962. Vacuum-packing mattresses has allowed the company to expand widely to other countries.

Magniflex exports about 80% of the products it manufactures and now sells into 76 countries, including, most recently, the United States and Canada. Three years ago, the company opened a showroom in New York and set out to establish its brand throughout North America. Today, it has nearly 140 accounts in the United States and Canada and the company expects that number to grow significantly in 2012.

“We currently have pilot programs with several mattress retailers who have multiple locations,” says Stephano Marescotti, North American sales director. “By the end of this year, we will have partnerships with three multilocation chains in the West and Northeast (of the United States).”

To accommodate the growth, Magniflex set up North American headquarters and a second showroom in Miami’s design district in December. It also has begun to rethink how it ships product to North American retailers.

“We have a dedicated warehouse in our Prato plant for U.S. and Canadian mattresses. If an order is part of our quick-ship program, it is available to customers for delivery within five to seven days,” Marescotti says. “By October, we hope to keep models that cost more to ship on hand in Miami and Toronto.”

Magniflex is applying the same model that it used to successfully open markets in other parts of the world to its efforts in North America.

“We learned that we have to adapt to the culture of each area and offer products that fit consumers’ needs,” Marco Magni says.

Tailored product mix
Three collections, which are distillations of several groups offered in Europe, currently are available to retailers in North America. The eight-model Classic group features mattresses made from Memoform Magnifoam, an open-cell visco-elastic; Waterlatex, a blend of latex and water-expanded polyurethane; or a combination of the two. Suggested retail prices for queen sets range from $1,599 to $3,999.

The licensed Tonino Lamborghini collection includes 12 models, which range in price from $1,799 to $4,999. The Monte Carlo mattress features a stylish red and black cover made with natural carbon fiber; the Silverstone features a sleek cover incorporating silver fibers.

“This collection is more appropriate for stores with a dedicated area to display it and customers who are brand conscious,” Marescotti says.

The Geoethic Naturally Magniflex collection showcases the company’s commitment to environmentally friendly products. Components incorporate soy, corn, bamboo, organic cotton, linen or marine algae. These natural materials “are breathable, fresh and improve the quality of sleep,” Marco Magni says. Prices range from $1,699 to $4,400.

“We’re working with our suppliers to offer new fabrics that the mattress industry has never seen before,” he adds.

At the high end, Magniflex also offers its limited edition gold mattress in North America. The gold filament isn’t just eye-catching: It’s bacteria resistant and helps to reduce inflammation and stress, he says. With a retail price of $39,900, the mattress clearly is intended for select consumers of super-luxury products.

The Magniflex ethos
Magniflex manufactures its mattresses at a 360,000-square-foot facility in Prato—a plant capable of producing 10,000 pieces a day over two shifts. The company also pours its own foam and manufactures pillows at a 3 million-square-foot facility in Milan.

Magniflex factory
Magniflex can produce as many as 10,000 mattresses a day at a factory in Prato, Italy. It also has a plant in Milan.

Magniflex executives say the company is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and to producing the purest products possible and has earned Oeko-Tex certifications. It also has made a major commitment to research and development, an effort that Marco Magni says is deeply ingrained in the company’s culture.

“We invest a lot of money in research to find out what we can do better,” he says. “We brothers are deeply involved in making the best product for sleeping.”

The company touts its commitment to craftsmanship and service, too.

“Our competitors have different companies for different countries. We are one global company that has a Tuscan identity that includes the importance of family and Italian quality,” Marco Magni says. “Ninety percent of our customers talk directly to me or to my brothers.”

Moving forward
Magniflex recently formed a strategic alliance with Kingsdown Inc., based in Mebane, N.C. The agreement gives the company the right to manufacture and distribute select Kingsdown products, including MySide mattresses and bedMATCH diagnostic technology, in Italy. The two companies also will be working together to create a co-branded bedding line.

Magniflex expects to add the Kingsdown brand to stores in its chain of Materassi Materassi sleep shops in time for this month’s anniversary celebrations. Giuliano Marco opened his first shop in 1995. There are now 40 franchised shops and 30 company-owned locations scattered throughout Italy.

In addition, Magniflex owns five Magniflex-branded shops, including a concept store in Milan.

“These are higher-end stores, and we’re pushing to open many more of them in the future,” Marco Magni says.

The company aggressively pursues multiple channels of distribution. In Italy, its bedding is sold through furniture stores, by mass merchants, in supermarkets and on an Italian home-shopping TV channel. Magniflex claims a 70% market share for bedding sold through mass merchants in Italy and a 15% share for bedding sold by furniture stores and sleep shops, he says.

In 2011, the company posted $130 million in worldwide sales and, Marco Magni says, “We hope to push sales to $300 million in the next few years.”

Magniflex plans to reach that goal by continuing to extend its geographic reach, expanding product offerings and opening retail stores throughout Europe.

“We hope to be in over 100 countries and to offer everything related to sleep,” he says.

Meanwhile, the family plans to pull out all the stops in celebration of 50 years of in business. Festivities will take place in both Prato and Florence and special anniversary products have been developed.

“Our team works very hard to bring the best products to every country that we’re in,” Marco Magni says, “and we want to honor that commitment and our Tuscan heritage.”

BRIEFLY
Company Magniflex
Specialty Vacuum-packed foam mattresses, but also produces innerspring mattresses, bed bases, pillows and other sleep accessories.
Headquarters Worldwide headquarters in Prato, Italy. U.S. headquarters in Miami.
Facilities A 360,000-square-foot mattress manufacturing facility in Prato and a 3 million-square-foot facility in Milan where the company pours its own foam and produces pillows. Showrooms in various other countries.
Founding Started by Giuliano Magni in 1962.
Ownership Privately held by the Magni family.
Learn more www.magniflex.com