One of the industry’s most seasoned bedding makers builds on success with a fresh team and a host of products
It’s a new day for one of the bedding industry’s most enduring manufacturers and brands.
Kingsdown, based in the North Carolina town of Mebane (motto: Positively Charming), boasts of a whole host of new faces and new products, from A (the Anniversary collection) to I (the new Insignia collection) and from S (the re-engineered Sleep Smart adjustable bed) to Z (the new Zedbeds). And, yes, the company is showing its Passions, the name of another revamped collection.
The new people and products are bringing new life to a bedding maker founded in Mebane in 1904. This is not your grandparents’ Kingsdown.
Bedding veteran Frank Hood, whose consumer marketing background includes a stint at legendary North Carolina-based doughnut maker Krispy Kreme, became president and chief executive officer of Kingsdown in 2012.
He works closely with Mike James, Kingsdown’s chair. James co-founded Canada’s Owen & Co. in 1995, which merged with Kingsdown Inc. in 2018 to form The Kingsdown Group.
Together, Hood and James bring decades of bedding experience to their work remaking Kingsdown to meet the needs of a changing mattress marketplace with bedding customers served by brick-and-mortar stores and by online retailers. And they didn’t let the Covid-19 pandemic slow them down.
“Working, managing and growing though the pandemic, we have updated the organizational design and positioned talented individuals in key roles to drive the needs of an expanding product line and retail network,” Hood says.
James, a former hockey goalie at the University of Western Ontario in Canada who played minor league hockey in the United States, knows about the importance of teamwork. “When you are a goaltender,” he says, “you see it all in front of you. You need everyone in front of you to win.”
And that’s the situation at Kingsdown, too.
“I’m a big proponent of the team,” James says. “Frank and I have a team behind us. Kingsdown’s achievements are accomplished by a lot of people.”
He points out the craftspeople in the factories, the shipping teams, the drivers and the sales team, among others. “When you are firing on all cylinders,” James says, “the team has a chance to win.”
James, who built Owen & Co. into a strong maker and marketer of Kingsdown mattresses north of the U.S. border, says transparency and empowerment are keys to building the Kingsdown team. He prides himself on transparency as a leader. “I’m an open book,” he notes. And he wants to hear from the company’s employees.
“We give everyone a voice,” he says. “We empower people. I want our people to feel that they are heard.”
Hood says the company looked to fill in “gaps in our expertise” as it sought new leaders with the vision and drive to take the company to the next level of its growth.
“We took our time to get better and to round out, in a more fulsome manner, the Kingsdown we know and love,” Hood says. “Our organization came together across North America. Everyone has found their zen. We are working together as a global team.”
Kingsdown now has the strongest management team in its history, Hood says. The right people are in the right positions to help the company achieve substantial growth in the years to come.
In addition to Hood and James, Kingsdown’s new key executives include:
- Chief operating officer – Erik Singer
- Chief financial officer – Steve Webb, based in Toronto
- Vice president of e-commerce – Brett Groleau
- Vice president of global human resources – Elaine Nield
- Vice president and general manager of Zedbed – Thierry Levy, based in Montreal
- Vice president of marketing and branding – Kevin Spencer
Hood admits that the self-assessment Kingsdown conducted led to some “hard decisions.” But it was critical to find and promote executives who have the strength to weather the ups and downs that come with business today, while staying focused on growth. Mission accomplished. “Man,” he says, “did we do well with our new hires.”
The Kingsdown team today is a resilient, hard-working, smart group of executives ready for any and all challenges and new ways of doing business, Hood says.
The Kingsdown Group itself is a relatively new company, comprised of three family businesses now scaled for growth as a combined enterprise.
Those three businesses were Kingsdown Inc., founded in North Carolina; Owen & Co., operating the Kingsdown brand in Canada; and Zedbed International, a Canadian maker of memory foam mattresses and sleep accessories. Owen & Co. acquired Zedbed shortly before the merger with Kingsdown Inc.
Hood says that the result is “one of the fastest-growing sleep technology groups in North America,” Hood says.
Rising through tough times
In 2020, during the tumultuous first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, Kingsdown recorded the best year since Hood joined the company in 2008. The company followed that performance with a 20% increase in its mattress business in 2021, despite supply chain challenges and inflation.
Kingsdown is poised for another growth year in 2022 and hoping to reach another record, Hood says.
How, exactly, will Kingsdown accomplish that aggressive goal?
The company is pursuing three growth strategies.
“First, we are growing our company through blocking and tackling,” he says. “We are growing our share at every customer. We are delivering on the expectations we are setting.”
Second, Kingsdown is attracting new customers.
And third, the company is looking at an acquisition. “I think we will have the opportunity to acquire someone or something,” Hood says. He leaves it at that.
Zedbed joined the company in an acquisition, and Kingsdown has closely considered two possible acquisitions since then, ultimately deciding not to move ahead with either, Hood says.
Kingsdown is pursuing more omnichannel business opportunities, offering a growing number of boxed bed that cater to online mattress retailers, and building its expertise in the e-commerce channel. The company is transforming its “customer service teams” to the more consumer-friendly “customer experience teams.”
The company also is unveiling new products at a time when other bedding producers are more cautious with the introduction of new models, Hood says.
One example: Kingsdown’s new Insignia collection, launched to positive reviews at the Las Vegas Market in January.
For that line, Kingsdown invested in equipment specifically designed to quilt dense foams directly to the mattress cover. The scroll quilting stitches up to 2 inches of foam together in the top comfort layer. The technique helps to resist body impressions and creates unique designs, the company says.
The six models in the new collection feature more than 1,000 wrapped coils and gel-infused foams in a hybrid design, a type of construction gaining ground in the marketplace.
“The hybrid mattress sector continues to grow in popularity with retailers and consumers looking for the benefits of multiple support and comfort features,” Hood says. “New equipment and new technology are giving us the opportunity to innovate with new components and constructions, which is what excites us about the new Insignia collection.”
The Insignia line retails from $1,199 to $2,399 for a queen-size mattress.
Tech sweet spot
Also new from Kingsdown at the Winter Las Vegas Market was a re-engineered, domestically sourced Sleep Smart adjustable bed, which uses three zones of air chambers on each side of the mattress to provide individualized comfort. The lumbar zone can be independently controlled by each sleeper to maximize support for the lower back.
While earlier Sleep Smart models carried ultra-premium price points, the re-engineered model, which uses a Wi-Fi-based app rather than a wired remote, will retail for $2,199 in queen, a much more competitive price point, Hood notes.
Kingsdown has a long history in the sleep technology field.
Years ago, the company developed its proprietary BedMatch diagnostic system that determines consumers’ sleep preferences and physical characteristics and then recommends beds to meet their comfort and support needs.
The system features a diagnostic surface in a kiosklike setting. More than 1,300 retailers worldwide use it in their stores.
BedMatch gives Kingsdown retailers an edge by providing them with science-based mattress recommendations that can be more compelling to consumers than those made by retail sales associates, the company says.
Last year, Kingsdown logged the 15th million BedMatch customer profile, a development that Kevin Spencer, vice president of marketing and branding, describes as a “significant milestone.”
“That’s a lot of primary insight that informs our product development process and helps us fit our customers with the proper postural support and pressure relief,” he says.
Not just in Mebane anymore
From its modest beginnings in Mebane (population 17,797), Kingsdown has built its bedding empire into one that spans the globe, serving retailers in more than 20 countries. The company has offices in England, Hong Kong and Japan, operates manufacturing and distribution facilities in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec in Canada, and also operates manufacturing facilities in Australia, Brazil, China, England, Malaysia, Mexico, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Research and development, as well as manufacturing and distribution facilities are based in Mebane, where the company operates downtown and along the I-85/I-40 corridor.
Other Kingsdown U.S. bedding plants are located in California, Florida, Texas and Virginia.
Clearly, what started in Mebane didn’t stay in Mebane.