After four years of explosive growth, executives at Fabrictech International, a Cedar Grove, N.J.-based producer of bed protection products and pillows, believe they have solidified their place in the bedding arena. With that accomplished, they plan to extend their message of health and wellness to new products, distribution channels and even other markets.
Challenges from the start
Fabrictech was founded in 1972 by Sam Chase, a furniture industry veteran who was seeking a bedding fabric that would ease his son’s allergy problems. After working for several years with global business conglomerate 3M, Chase ventured out on his own, but it wasn’t long before Fabrictech began to founder. In 2005, Chase asked Arnold Hershbain, Fabrictech’s current chief executive officer, to partner with him.
“Sam was in debt, had no office, no infrastructure and no customer base,” Hershbain says. “He just had a product, but it was a product that I believed in.”
From his days as a Sealy sales representative, however, Chase also had one real advantage: a solid relationship with mattress retailing giant Sleepy’s. The sleep chain was interested in a product that did more than protect a mattress from stains, but had concerns about Fabrictech’s ability to supply its stores and provide point-of-purchase materials and sales aids.
The retailer gave Fabrictech one week—the period between Christmas and New Year’s—to prove it was up to the task. The challenge set Arnold Hershbain and his son David Hershbain, who is now Fabrictech’s chief administrative officer and executive vice president, into motion.
Friends and other family were pressed into action, assembly lines were set up and the team worked around the clock to create an in-store sales and marketing package for each of the 480 stores that were then on Sleepy’s roster.
“We had to create everything from display cases to mattress buns to printed point-of-purchase materials from scratch,” Arnold Hershbain says. His proudest creation was a collection of 900 Mason jars filled with flour.
“We cut up our competitor’s product and ours and covered lidless jars with them to show that since flour came through the competitor’s product, dust mites could too,” he says. Dust mites are a prime allergen.
Hershbain’s jars did more than secure the Sleepy’s account: They shifted the conversation about mattress protectors. Now the focus was on protecting the sleeper from allergens and dust mites, rather than simply protecting the mattress from stains.
“Almost overnight, we were doing 60% to 70% of Sleepy’s protection business,” Arnold Hershbain says. “Having their account was fabulous, but it was also risky.”
The company found out just how risky when Chase died shortly after signing the Sleepy’s account. Chase, Arnold Hershbain says, “was the idea man,” while his own strengths lay in organization and logistics.
“Sam’s passing left a big hole in our organization and Sleepy’s was worried,” he says.
Creating an executive team
To fix the problem and to build a platform for more secure growth, Arnold Hershbain set out not only to find a new “idea man,” but to field an entire management team.
Additional muscle was added to the operations side when son David officially joined Fabrictech in 2007. It took two more years to find a visionary compatible with Fabrictech’s mission and goals.
When mutual friends introduced Arnold Hershbain to Jeff Bergman, he knew he had found his man. Bergman had more than 30 years of mattress industry experience, most notably as vice president of sales and marketing for Spring Air Phoenix, where he had grown sales from $2.5 million to $27 million during his 17-year tenure.
Jeff Bergman signed on as president and chief operating officer in 2009. The senior management team was completed the following year when his son, Sean Bergman, came aboard to lead sales and marketing efforts. Sean Bergman is now the company’s chief marketing officer. Fabrictech is wholly owned by the Hershbains and Jeff Bergman.
Going for growth
Jeff Bergman instituted a four-point plan to grow Fabrictech sales.
“Because it looked outdated, we changed the appearance of our packaging,” he says. “Then we methodically went after the best independent sales reps and the best customers, targeting sleep shops and furniture stores. I used my network of contacts and, in the first year, we began selling to Sit ‘N Sleep, Mattress Warehouse and RC Willey.” The strategy worked. Sales grew 250% from 2010 to 2011 and are estimated to increase 100% by the end of 2012.
Embedded in the company’s business plan, which emphasizes change and reinvention, is a question Jeff Bergman asks himself almost daily: “How do we take this product to the next level?”
When he took the helm, Fabrictech had three products: a total encasement, a five-sided protector and pillow protectors, all made from OmniGuard, Chase’s original fabric innovation. By the end of his first year, Jeff Bergman had added a cotton terry protector at the low end and instituted a good/better/best program.
The next step was to launch the PureCare brand, which includes protection products made from the company’s second-generation OmniGuard Advance fabric enhanced with either silver ions to protect against bacteria or Celliant fibers.
“Celliant is a mineral, which absorbs energy from the body and releases it back into the skin and deep muscle tissue, stimulating blood flow,” Jeff Bergman says. “This oxygenates the blood and helps to reduce pain and promote healing.”
From the beginning, the company has worked closely with research professionals to develop and test products. For instance, Dr. Philip M. Tierno Jr., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, continuously evaluates Fabrictech products to certify that they are anti-bacterial and bedbug-, allergen- and dust-mite proof.
Fabrictech’s current protector lineup opens with StainGuard, a promotionally priced, one-sided product available in cotton/terry or cotton/tricot that retails between $49 and $79 in queen. The OmniGuard Advance collection includes pillow protectors, five-sided protectors and total encasements. Mattress protectors retail from $99 to $129.
“OmniGuard Advance is our flagship product and accounts for the biggest percentage of our protection sales,” Sean Bergman says.
Fabrictech tops out with the PureCare brand in which five-sided protectors and total encasements are made from OmniGuard Advance fabric enhanced with either silver ions or Celliant. Total encasements range from $149 to $199. All OmniGuard Advance and PureCare products feature trademarked Mite Tight seams.
Rounding out the line
The company began its expansion into other products in January when it introduced its first line of PureCare Plush pillows. All pillows have a sealed inner lining and feature dust mite and fungi-resistant covers that have been treated with an application of silver ions.
Pillows, with suggested retail prices from $79 to $109, are available in latex, memory foam and down fill. A fiber-filled body pillow is called CuddleMe. In November, the company debuted a gel-lined memory foam puff pillow called SootheMe and plans to add two more gel-enhanced pillows in January.
“This year, pillows will represent about 13% of our overall volume, and I expect big triple-digit increases in pillow sales next year,” Jeff Bergman says.
Bergman also is enthusiastic about the current pipeline of Fabrictech products, including PureCare Aromatherapy protectors and toppers that will debut in January.
Fabrictech also offers a successful private-label program to retail chains with 10 or more stores.
“We don’t just take their logo and slap it onto existing products,” Sean Bergman says. “We immerse our products into the retailer’s brand using its color palette and images.”
The company has taken the same approach to the Menu Program it offers retailers.
“We created a totally customizable program based in three packages: Allergy, Bedbug and Health & Wellness,” Sean Bergman says. “We work with retailers on the price point they need and the presentation that’s appropriate for their market.”
Fabrictech’s 55 independent sales reps work closely with retailers to develop training and sales strategies that fit each retailer’s needs.
“We all worked in retail for years, so we come with an understanding that every retailer is different,” Jeff Bergman says.
Fabrictech sells its products to furniture stores and specialty mattress retailers throughout the United States and Canada. South Korea’s huge Shinsegae department store chain also carries Fabrictech products, as do retailers in Australia, New Zealand and Chile.
All of Fabrictech’s production occurs in five factories in China that are Oeko-Tex and ISO:9001 certified.
The company is preparing to move into a new 28,000-square-foot headquarters in Fairfield, N.J. In addition to office space, the building will include a showroom and warehouse.
Jeff Bergman estimates that Fabrictech now produces 25% of all protection products sold through furniture
and specialty mattress stores in the United States.
With that marker met, company executives are considering what comes next.
“We feel the future is not just in the bedroom, but in the entire home,” David Hershbain says. “We want to turn the home into a healthy environment and when you consider that, the possibilities are endless.”
Jeff Bergman endorses the idea and has five years of product concepts already lined up. But he offers one caution: “We can never rest on our laurels. We must always remain innovative and make sure that our product never becomes a commodity.”
|Headquarters||Cedar Grove, N.J.|
|Specialty||Protection products for mattresses and pillows, as well as a pillow line|
|Roots||Started in 1972 by Sam Chase|
|Motto||“Take back your bedroom”|