Optimistic AW Industries Expanding Lineup

Bedding producer adds Silentnight brand to its Serta and Sleepwell products as mattress sales rebound

AW Industries has set the stage for a busy October — and a busy 2021. This month, the Landover, Maryland-based bedding producer and distributor will have a big presence at the Fall High Point Market, exhibiting in three showrooms in the Main wing of the International Home Furnishings Center. The company will show its Serta line, which it produces as a licensee for the mid-Atlantic region (in showroom M-510), and its own Sleepwell bedding line (in M-508). It also will debut a Silentnight collection, which it is offering to U.S. retailers as a licensee under a new agreement with the bestselling British brand (in M-531).

We have a lot of exciting new products to share with our retailers in High Point,” says Paul Kahl, vice president of sales for AW Industries. “All three showrooms are adjacent, making it very easy to shop each space.” The furniture and bedding market in High Point, North Carolina, is Oct. 13-21.

In the Serta showroom, the big news will be the updated Perfect Sleeper line. Introduced during a virtual trade show held in September from the Atlanta headquarters of Serta Simmons Bedding LLC, the new beds will be shown in person to retailers for the first time by AW Industries in High Point.

In the Sleepwell showroom, several new models will be introduced. They include an updated version of the brand’s popular Cherry Blossom collection, featuring an upgraded innerspring and a Repreve cover from Culp Inc. made of recycled plastic; Day Lily, an adjustable-base-friendly innerspring with an 8-inch-tall pocket coil unit; and a new hybrid bed collection with a zippered cover that incorporates lavender phase-change material.

In addition, the October market will mark the U.S. debut of Silentnight, ranked in an annual survey as a U.K. Superbrand for 14 years in a row. In the United States, AW Industries will manufacture and sell Silentnight’s Eco Comfort, a collection of eco-friendly mattresses made with recyclable fabrics and natural flame retardants, as well as other models.

“Silentnight is the most trusted bedding brand in Britain,” Kahl says. “There’s a growing market for eco-friendly sleep here in the U.S., and Silentnight provides a high-quality offering at an affordable price point that will fit in well with our current lines.” Kahl says a key price point for AW Industries’ initial Silentnight introduction is a $999 queen. 

“We expect to have a strong High Point Market,” Kahl says, adding that SSB also will show its new lines during the Nationwide Marketing Group’s PrimeTime exhibition Oct. 27-29. The annual event is virtual this year.

“We’re excited about the results we generated in June and July following the two months we lost during the spring when the pandemic hit and so many stores had to close,” Kahl says. “Sales momentum is beginning to build again, both because of the considerable pent-up demand, as well as the many steps we’ve taken to strengthen and expand our lines.”

Kahl says that he expects a good turnout in High Point. But for retailers unable to attend, the company offers a showroom browser tool on its Sleepwell.com website that allows up-close viewing of its new models.

AT A GLANCE

Company

AW Industries

Headquarters

Landover, Maryland, where the company operates a 225,000-square-foot plant and distribution facility, employing 250 people.

Specialty

Licensed producer of Serta bedding in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding states of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Also produces its own line of mattresses marketed under the Sleepwell brand.

History

Founded by Abe Krupsaw as American Bedding in 1931. Became a Serta licensee in 1947. By 1950, the business had expanded to include wholesale distribution of appliances, consumer electronics and floor coverings, but in the 1990s, the company shifted its focus to mattress manufacturing.

Ownership

Family owned by a fourth generation of descendants of Abe Krupsaw’s sons-in-law Seymour “Sy” Wolf and Tom Privot, who took over leadership of the company after the death of Krupsaw’s son, David Krupsaw, in 1960.

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Deep roots

AW Industries was founded in 1931 by Abe Krupsaw as American Bedding, when Krupsaw left the employ of Eagle Bedding that year following a Depression-era layoff and set out to make mattresses on his own. American Bedding expanded into wholesale distribution of floor coverings, home appliances and consumer electronics during the 1940s and changed its name to American Wholesalers. Late that decade, the company became a licensee of the Serta brand. In 1967, American Wholesalers moved out of Washington, D.C., into a facility in Landover. Six years later, it enlarged that facility to its present 225,000 square feet. For the company’s 50th anniversary in 1981, it changed its name to AW Industries.

AW Industries continues to be family owned by descendants of Krupsaw’s sons-in-law, Seymour “Sy” Wolf and Tom Privot. Wolf and Privot took over the business in the early 1960s after the tragic death of David Krupsaw, Abe Krupsaw’s son, in a plane crash. Sy Wolf died in 2005 after nearly 40 years as chair and chief executive officer of the company. Today, the company is led by a fourth generation — Alan Privot, chair, and Douglas Wolf, secretary — as well as Stuart Bannett, CEO, chief operating officer and president. 

“Our company culture is built on the values set out by our founder and continued by every generation since then — quality, craftsmanship and highly personal customer service,” Kahl says. “We go out of our way to satisfy our customers, and that’s why we have such a loyal base of retailers, as well as consumers. We have many retailers who have worked with us for decades.”

The cornerstone of AW Industries’ business has been the Serta brand, its licensing partner for more than 70 years. The capacity of AW’s Landover plant is 2,000 pieces per day in two shifts. The plant employs 250 workers and has had a stable relationship with Workers United since 1977. AW services Serta dealers in Washington, D.C., and the mid-Atlantic states of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Major customers include Mattress Warehouse, Grand Home Furnishings, Haynes Furniture and Regency Furniture, among many others.

AW Industries has noticed a renewed vigor at Serta’s national offices in generating new products to meet the challenges of a changed marketplace. Kahl says Serta’s Memorial Day promotion was a good example of this change. “Consumers were offered big savings on a variety of bestselling Serta models, including Perfect Sleeper and iComfort,” he says. With so many retailers’ doors closed because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the focus was on online sales and “those retailers who have an active e-commerce presence enjoyed a nice spike in business,” Kahl says.

Kahl adds that the pandemic has forced retailers that hadn’t been selling online “to finally get serious about adding that capability.”

“They realize that just having a pretty website or an active social media presence isn’t enough,” he says.

Responding to the crisis

During the early stage of the pandemic, AW Industries shut down briefly before being approved to reopen based on its role as provider to four “Critical Infrastructure Sectors of the Economy” as defined by the CDC, including health care facilities and emergency services providers. The company operated at 30% capacity for a while, then ramped back up as demand returned.

“Business is recovering,” Kahl says, “and we’re encouraged by our prospects for the rest of the year.” He adds that uncertainty in the supply chain caused some challenges in the summer but “the situation should be improved by the time we roll out our new models this fall.” 

In addition to being a Serta licensee, AW Industries has its own line of mattresses called Sleepwell. The line was launched by AW Industries in 1991 as a platform for bargain-priced merchandise, including discontinued models and closeout fabrics. But under Kahl’s stewardship, Sleepwell has grown to include a wide assortment of innerspring, memory foam, latex and hybrid beds, as well as mattresses for bunk beds and trundle beds. Many collections include both one-sided and two-sided constructions, and most mattresses are compatible with adjustable bases. 

Sleepwell price points start at $299 for an entry-level memory foam model in queen size and top out around $1,999 for high-end latex. “We’ve taken the line far beyond its original roots to give retailers a strong selection of quality constructions,” Kahl says. Bestsellers include Whitehaven,  a plush, two-sided innerspring model retail priced at $599, and Chestnut, a two-sided euro-top hybrid priced at $699.

In addition, Sleepwell offers three boxed beds, sold through its retailers and via its own website. The company also has begun manufacturing roll-packed mattresses for retailers, providing an option to the promotionally priced items many stores have been sourcing from China and neighboring countries. 

In the works are two new double-sided, boxed hybrid models with cool-to-the-touch Tencel covers priced at $499 for a 10-inch profile and $599 for a 12-inch version. “Boxed beds are continuing to grow, and we think these new models will be the first two-sided hybrid boxed beds on the market,” Kahl says.

AW Industries also offers adjustable bases sourced from BedTech and Ergomotion, as well as a new line of Adjustable Ready Storage Platforms, high-rise metal bed frames and wooden slat frames sourced from Brazil. Rounding out its offerings are private-label mattress protectors and microfiber sheets, and PureCare pillows.

“We’re offering our retailers a one-stop source for everything they need to serve their bedding customers,” Kahl says. “There are no minimums, so they can buy as little or as much as they want and get it all shipped on one truck.”

A retail mindset

Kahl was hired by AW Industries in 2000 after a long stint with Macy’s, where he managed the electronics and bedding departments. Working closely with him is Kevin Fealy, brand manager and director of distributed goods, who joined the team in early 2019 after serving in senior executive positions with Ergomotion, Simmons, Metro Mattress and Mattress Giant.

The fact that both executives have worked in the retail world is a big advantage when it comes to developing new products and marketing programs for retailers, according to the company.

“We understand the challenges of retail and the importance of educating and exciting the consumer,” Kahl says. “We work closely with our retailers to develop the high-value, long-lasting products they need to satisfy shoppers.”

As part of this effort, AW Industries has the ability to make private-label beds for key customers, typically under the umbrella of its Sleepwell brand, which focuses on products and price points not currently offered by Serta. “We’ve particularly done a lot of innovation with latex and two-sided constructions,” Kahl says.

As part of the Sleepwell line, AW Industries has created a two-sided hybrid latex model. “Priced from $999 to $1,299, the Elite Latex Hybrid is our most successful higher end introduction ever. It’s now one of our top 10 bestsellers,” Kahl says.

AW Industries is able to competitively price Sleepwell latex models by constructing the mattresses with a 7-inch foam core covered in a 3-inch layer of Talalay latex. “Latex can be very expensive if you’re producing a bed with a solid layer of latex from top to bottom,” Kahl says. “With our approach, you get the comfort and performance benefits of latex at a much more affordable price.”

Because edge support on latex mattresses can be an issue, AW Industries builds its Sleepwell latex models with a foam perimeter encasement. “This is something that is unique to our line,” Kahl says. “We call it ‘encapsulated latex’ and our design is patent pending.”

AW Industries has long been a proponent of two-sided mattresses. In addition to the Elite Latex Hybrid two-sided collection, its Sleepwell brand includes the Contour Pedic Advantage Traditional two-sided collection, Hybrid Elite Traditional two-sided collection and the Gel Infused Memory Foam collection. 

Two-sided mattresses used to be an industry standard. “In recent decades, this classic product fell out of favor because of the increased production cost,” Kahl says. “We’ve turned back the clock to restore this former industry standard to its deserved status, but with every improvement that modern technology allows us. Two-sided means a double life span, delivering an even better value for the consumer.”

With all it does, AW Industries’ priorities are manufacturing a quality product and providing premier customer service, Kahl says. Marketing typically takes a back seat, but that has enabled the company to keep its prices low. 

“We’re likely to spend more time on messaging in the future, particularly as we introduce the Silentnight brand to the U.S.,” he says. “When it comes to luxury bedding at an affordable price, we have a very strong story to tell with all our lines.”

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