Campbell Mattress restructures after death of longtime owner

Executives at Campbell Mattress Co. are devoting considerable resources to rejuvenating their brand and regaining momentum after the death of Norman Wood, the company’s longtime owner.

The manufacturer, based in Cape Girardeau, Mo., has hired new operational leadership, streamlined the manufacturing process, and restructured and remerchandised its product line. Campbell Mattress executives are committed to anchoring these changes in a culture they believe propelled the company’s success in the first place.

Putting a team together

group shot of Campbell Mattress owners
Campbell Mattress Co. solicits the opinions of workers through a gain-sharing program. Implemented suggestions result in hourly pay raises for everyone. Shown here (from left) Karen Ayers, office manager; Greg Sammons, executive vice president; Carla Smith, scheduler/
router; and Tim Luttrull, vice president of operations.
Campbell Mattress is now wholly owned by Norman Wood’s three children, Matthew Wood, Mark Wood and Cindy A. Wood. The three serve as the company’s board of directors; Matthew Wood is Campbell’s president and chief executive officer.

“Our role is that of facilitators,” Matthew Wood says. “We are cognizant of the needs of the business and ensure it has the means to operate efficiently.”

Defining the three children’s roles came at the end of an intense process precipitated by their father’s death in March 2010. For a while, they considered selling the business and, in fact, received several offers.

“Most of the groups we spoke with planned to bring in their own staff and operations personnel,” Matthew Wood says. “When we reviewed these offers, we were concerned that changes would occur that we could not support. It did not fit with the family’s values to sell.”

Wood family values permeate the company’s culture. Those values actually stretch as far back as 1933, when Manuel Campbell founded the company with the goal of building a better mattress and providing first-class service to retailers.

It was a family business when Campbell ran things and remained so—albeit under a different family—after Norman Wood bought the company in the early 1970s. And Campbell Mattress will remain rooted in family values, Matthew Wood says. Although the company has undergone extensive changes during the past 18 months, those changes are an extension of the core principles of the business rather than a significant shift in strategic direction.

“It’s a progression. This is what Campbell does,” Matthew Wood says. “My father was always adroit at responding to the needs of the market, and that’s what we will continue to do.”

The company has tapped Greg Sammons, executive vice president, and Tim Luttrull, vice president of operations, to lead its efforts. Sammons, who has had a 35-year career in the mattress industry, joined Campbell Mattress in January. Luttrull was hired two years ago to work in the factory and quickly moved up the ranks to production supervisor and then operations manager. Last year, he was promoted to vice president of operations.

“It sounds cliché, but at Campbell we operate as a team, recognizing each other’s abilities and drawing on each other’s strengths,” Matthew Wood says. “I believe this enhances the workplace and the product. This also gives us a calmness and confidence to persevere when times may get tough.”

The team structure was one of the factors that drew Sammons to Campbell Mattress.

“I saw a company that believed in employees, cared about product and had a sound reputation,” he says. “The whole project then just became a matter of re-engagement with retailers.”

Revamping its products

When Sammons analyzed the company’s product line, he found that most of its offerings were in mid-range price points. Prior to the Great Recession, this had served Campbell Mattress well. But in the new post-recession “hourglass” economy, most mattress buying occurs at the high and low ends of the market.

“Campbell had ceded the low end and, with only one foam product, needed to adjust the high end,” Sammons says.

Rather than tinkering with existing collections, the company created a new multicategory line with fresh merchandising and point-of-purchase materials.

Campbell Mattress inside the factory
Table cutter Pat Salvador works in the company’s 36,000-square-foot manufacturing
facility, which was recently reconfigured for improved efficiency.
The Regenerest collection was introduced last spring. It includes three memory foam models and five that incorporate soy-based polyurethane foams or foams infused with gel. Queen-size Regenerest sets have suggested retail prices from $699 to $1,599.

“We nailed the feel and look with this collection and it has been very successful. Five months after its launch, it accounted for 15% of our sales volume,” Sammons says.

Another chunk of Campbell Mattress’ sales volume comes from its new Comfort Contour collection, which is divided into three categories of product, each containing a different type of foam-encased pocketed coil unit. The Comfort Form group includes four 9-inch mattresses covered with probiotic-infused fabric. The mattresses range in price from $1,199 to $1,599 at retail. The Ultra Comfort group contains four 8-inch mattresses that retail from $749 to $999. The three 6-inch beds in the Body Form group retail from $599 to $749.

Campbell Mattress created its Posture Form collection so that retailers would be able to offer value-priced mattresses to customers. All beds in the collection’s three groups—Posture Flex, Posture Tec and Regency—contain foam-encased coils. Beds range from $499 to $999.

The new four-model Woods collection was developed to pay tribute to Norman Wood. These two-sided mattresses retail from $599 to $999.

The company’s emphasis on providing many choices across multiple mattress constructions is catching the attention of retailers.

“We can now strengthen a retailer’s position at any price point he wants,” Sammons explains.

Change & more change

The company has made a commitment to training retail sales associates and underwriting event advertising. It launched a new interactive website in August and is considering the best use of social media platforms going forward. An effort also is under way to revitalize the ranks of both the company and independent representatives that make up Campbell Mattress’ sales force.

The speed at which all of these changes are being made has been one of Luttrull’s many challenges. His responsibilities include overseeing production, pricing and delivery. With both the company’s old and new lines in production until the old line is phased out at the end of the year—and with increased orders for dormitory mattresses—Luttrull’s hands are full.
But these are good problems to have.

“When I first took over, we had 50 employees and not much work, so we had some layoffs and implemented a work-share program,” Luttrull says. “We now have 27 production employees and during the summer ran close to our capacity.”

Production efficiency also improved in the 36,000-square-foot manufacturing facility when Luttrull rearranged machinery and removed interior walls to open up the factory floor. But the biggest boosts to efficiency and profitability have come from employee suggestions.

A gain-sharing program solicits suggestions from employees for improving all aspects of the business. The program’s goal is “to get staff and the production crew more involved in the company and to make sure that they have an operational role,” Matthew Wood says.

Implemented suggestions result in hourly increases in everyone’s wages. It’s a popular program that Luttrull believes is having a profound impact on production efficiency, product quality and employee commitment.

Campbell Mattress’ culture of teamwork extends to the way Luttrull, Sammons and Office Manager Karen Ayers work together to pave the way for opening new accounts in an expanded sales territory.

The company currently sells to independent bedding retailers, universities and small hotel/motel chains in Missouri, central Illinois and Arkansas, as well as parts of Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.

“We are at the cusp of expanding our territory farther south and into Kansas,” Sammons says.

Expansion will precipitate even more changes.

“We are looking at new machinery to improve production capacity and efficiency, considering adding a distribution center farther south and hoping to add on new employees,” Luttrull says.

The investment Campbell Mattress has made in product, personnel and infrastructure is beginning to pay off. Annual sales are up 15% year-to-date and sales of dormitory beds have doubled over 2011.

“I expect that we should be able to double our total annual sales in five years without too much problem,” Sammons says.

Luttrull looks five years into the future and sees Campbell Mattress running two shifts, five days a week. When he looks 10 years out, he sees the company adding a second production facility.

Matthew Wood isn’t about to argue with either of them, but he is quick to underscore the company’s core values, saying, “Five years from now, if Campbell is still recognized as a company committed to quality products and one-on-one service, then we will have met our goals.”

Company Campbell Mattress Co.
Headquarters Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Specialty Full-line mattress manufacturer serving retailers, hotels and colleges/universities
Founded Started by Manuel Campbell in 1933
Ownership Bought by Norman Wood in the 1970s and now owned by his three children, Matthew Wood, Mark Wood and Cindy A. Wood
Motto “It’s not just a mattress…It’s our passion.”
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