More than a century after its founding, Gold Bond continues to focus on quality, innovation and value
Although the environment in which it does business has changed profoundly over the course of Gold Bond Mattress’s 115-year history, the company has remained steadfastly committed to the principles upon which it was founded. Gold Bond executives believe that prioritizing the needs of their customers, while offering a product lineup that emphasizes quality, innovation and value, has provided stability for their company in tough times and solid growth when times were good. Staying the course has been good to Gold Bond in the past and it is, they believe, what will ensure the company’s future.
When he insisted upon blending his own cotton and building comfortable mattresses, Gold Bond’s founder, Isadore Naboicheck, set a course that the company has been following ever since. Comfort was an innovation in 1899, when he founded the Hartford, Connecticut-based company, and his decision had the effect of setting Gold Bond’s products apart from those of other manufacturers. It’s a strategy that his descendants believe in to this day.
Bob Naboicheck, who has been Gold Bond’s president since 1997, is acutely aware of the changes that have occurred in both the furniture and mattress industries since the company’s founding.
Regionally-based, independently-owned family businesses, like his own, which had been the norm for generations, have become fewer and farther between, he says. Those that are left face stiff competition from large manufacturers for space on retail floors.
“The retail customer base has changed dramatically too,” says Naboicheck. “Family-owned furniture stores have gone by the wayside, and big-chain sleep stores are not our customer base.”
His 500 retail customers, he adds, “are on the frontlines of the battle between Sleepy’s and Mattress Firm (for market share)” and know that they will never be able to compete on price.
That’s where Gold Bond comes in, Naboicheck says.
“Our customers need to compete on something other than price, and we’re in the business of differentiating them from the giant chains,” he explains.
Gold Bond does that by taking a hands-on approach to everything that it does. The company’s products are hand-built of components that are sourced in the United States. Each piece is made to order at Gold Bond’s 125,000-square-foot facility and takes two to three days to produce.
Vice President Skip Naboicheck came to work for his father, Bob Naboicheck, in 2005.
He says: “The same amount of time, energy and precision goes into every bed we make, no matter what the price point.”
Gold Bond’s customers receive the same kind of hands-on support. It’s a commitment that starts at the top with Bob Naboicheck and moves all the way through the ranks of the company’s sales reps. Naboicheck’s business cards include both his home and cell phone numbers and he insists that Gold Bond’s 10 sales reps are “in front of their customers every two weeks and in the stores every Sunday doing training.
“Retail sales associates don’t want to feel stupid,” Naboicheck continues. “They want to be comfortable with the product, and we’re very good at communicating the differences between our products and (those of) other manufacturers. If they pitch the uniqueness and quality of our product, customers will see the difference and be back again.”
Naboicheck knows his limitations, however.
“We’re not going to be able to walk in the door with a huge advertising check or the ability to buy their inventory so there’s room for us on the floor,” he says. To counter those limitations, Gold Bond offers retailers a co-op advertising program and helps with creating effective print and radio advertisements.
The lack of a national advertising budget also makes opening new accounts outside of the company’s existing region challenging. Gold Bond currently serves customers throughout the Northeast, the Baltimore/Washington corridor, and South Carolina, but wants to expand to the west.
“We are resolving this issue by hiring new sales reps and by bringing our product directly to store owners,” says Skip Naboicheck. “We have a small truck (which I load) with samples and (along with) the local rep drive to the stores. We can show them everything we have to offer.”
Gold Bond’s other channels of distribution include the hospitality and health care industries, government facilities, factory-direct stores, and private label branding for large retailers.
“In the 60s and 70s, hotels were a significant part of our business and we sold some of the highest-end hotels in New York City, including The Plaza and The Park Lane,” Naboicheck says. “Today, they represent about 15% of our business, but hospitality is growing again, and five years from now our sales need to be about 30% higher than they are now.”
After eight difficult years, during which the company cut its workforce by 25% and eliminated all middle management, Gold Bond’s sales have begun to grow again. Annual sales in 2013 exceeded $15 million, which Naboicheck says is about a 2% increase over the year before.
Future sales projections look significantly brighter, however.
“I can see a 50% increase in our business over the next 10 years,” says Naboicheck. “We think that we’re going to outperform the industry because our retail customer base is looking for options and our message is being heard loud and clear.”
Some of that growth will come from broadening the company’s international reach, he believes. Gold Bond currently sells product into Japan, England and The Netherlands, and is focusing more resources on expanding into Asia.
“I’m not interested in licensing,” Naboicheck says. “We’ll continue to make the product here and ship.”
Currently, two-thirds of Gold Bond’s annual sales come from the mattress category and another third comes from sales of futons. The company has been producing futons for more than 20 years, and 10 years ago they contributed 66% to total annual sales.
“We helped to create the futon industry by focusing on comfort and offering consumers additional features which made them identical to our mattresses,” Naboicheck explains.
Gold Bond currently sells 18 constructions of futon mattresses under its own brand to about 300 retailers in 40 states and internationally. It also provides private label futons for Verlo Factory Direct stores, Pottery Barn and L.L. Bean.
Retail prices for full-size futon mattresses range from $99 for a 4-inch, all-cotton promotional model to $399 for an ultra-premium model constructed with viscoelastic, innersprings and cotton. An innerspring model at $249 is the company’s best-seller.
Gold Bond also offers four solid-oak futon frames and two hardwood frames. Oak frames range in price from $399 to $549 and hardwood from $279 to $299.
The Naboichecks believe that it is their core mattress business that will propel future growth, however, and have revamped their product lineup to meet retailers’ evolving needs.
“In the last four years we have reinvented both our conventional and specialty products,” explains Skip Naboicheck. “We also realized that the look of the product was as crucial (as the construction) and changed everything.”
Gold Bond’s line opens with the eight-model Classic collection and tops out with the six-model Latex collection.
The single-sided Classic collection, which retails from $399 to $599 in queen size, was introduced last year to answer retailers’ requests for lower-end models.
“Most of our mattresses are two-sided and we’d never produced at this price point before,” says Skip Naboicheck. “The mattresses still include semi-flex box springs and edge-to-edge steel, however. They look like more of a value and have a much higher margin for retailers.”
The Latex collection includes two 10-inch mattresses made from Dunlop latex. The two-sided Platinum model retails for $2,199 and the one-sided Gold model for $1,899. Gold Bond’s four-model Natural Latex collection is constructed of Talalay latex foam laminated to a poly-foam base. It is available in four surface feels and sells from $1,599 to $3,199.
Gel-infused latex is a component in some models in the Smart Series hybrid collection. Foam-encased or pocketed coils and gel-infused visco-elastic foam are other components of the five-model collection, which retails between $1,099 and $1,600.
In an effort to appeal to millennials, Gold Bond has expanded and redesigned its EcoSense Visco and Cool Response Gel collections.
Both collections will now feature highly stylized performance-fabric ticking in bold colors and patterns. The company is also offering the beds at a more aggressive price point than previously, with a price-point range that starts at $899 and runs to $1,299.
The one-sided Comfort collection and two-sided Chelsea collection are also value-priced. This six-model, innerspring collection also features updated ticking and ranges in price from $699 to $999.
The 10-model Comfort collection offers a variety of comfort choices at prices that range from $599 to $1,199. Construction components include latex, specialty foams and micro-coils.
Sacro Support is Gold Bond’s best-selling collection. The two-sided, seven-model collection features foam-encased coils and a variety of comfort options. Prices range from $899 to $1,499.
Private-label manufacturing is also a significant part of the company’s business. Skip Naboicheck reports that this category currently accounts for 15% of annual sales and is growing steadily.
Although Bob Naboicheck does not hesitate to confirm how difficult the recession years were for his company, he is confident that the future of his family’s business is bright.