John Merwin

Dealing with challenging times: Mattress execs share insights for weathering tough times

Q: The mattress industry is challenging right now. What is your strategy for weathering through these tough times?

John Merwin

John Merwin, CEO, 3Z Brands

We are continuing to be as efficient as possible. We are working diligently to grow our retail footprint by partnering with brick-and-mortar stores nationwide. These partnerships are designed to drive qualified traffic, increase door swings, and improve accessibility to our sleep products.

Stuart Carlitz
Stuart Carlitz

Stuart Carlitz, founder and senior advisor, Bedding Industries of America

We’ve been incredibly fortunate as our business volume has surged. We attribute this growth to our proactive approach in providing our dealers with compelling sales tools, including fantastic point-of-sale materials and a diverse product lineup which retailers and consumers look for today, along with choices of firmness and ease of making a decision.

Our strength is affordable luxury and a diverse product line featuring patented products that consumers can relate to that actually improve sleep and add longevity to the mattress. These patented features can’t be shopped around or found in other brands. These patents also reduce body impressions, resulting in a reduced amount of returns, which dealers greatly appreciate.

IV Culp
Iv Culp

Iv Culp, CEO, Culp Inc.

We are focused on product, people and service. We continue to innovate and service our customers. The business is dependent on the end consumer and the willingness to buy. The things that we can control, we control. Often, the biggest gains are made in down markets. When challenged, we step up to be better.

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Shaun Pennington

Shaun Pennington, CEO, Diamond Mattress

Diamond is very well-positioned to weather tough times. As a fourth-generation family-owned business, we have liquidity, strong cash flow, no debt and we own our own buildings. One sign of the challenging market we’ve observed is the extreme price pressure at the promotional end. To help some of our retail partners at those price points, Diamond has been aggressive in creating value engineered product and as a result are competing in this segment like never before.

Our innovation and partnerships have allowed Diamond to be seen more as a single source with a broader range from value programs to higher end such as Technogel, Gel Grid by Diamond Mattress, and owur new Auto Pilot smart bed. These are at the top of the market and we’re seeing our customers have a lot of success closing those higher sales and using them to differentiate from the major brands. Our strategy to cover both the high-end, more profitable products for our retailers and the low-end at aggressive margins enable us to continue the healthy and sustainable growth trend that we’ve been on since before the pandemic.

Chris Taheny

Chris Taheny, senior vice president of sales, DreamFit

Our history of helping dealers overcome challenging times demonstrates that it is possible for bedding retailers to succeed whatever the economic conditions when they lean more aggressively into a well-merchandised, well-serviced, and exciting sleep necessities program. We’re dedicated to helping dealers track and improve sales performance, even at the individual sales associate level. With recent department store closings, we’re committed to assisting our retail partners in capturing market share that rightfully belongs to our industry. As my mother always said: ‘Better late than never’.

jon stowe cropped
Jon Stowe

Jon Stowe, managing director, E.S. Kluft & Co.

In spite of the challenges our industry is currently facing, we had a great 2023 and are planning for the growth of our business again this year. Our market research continues to show that consumers are willing to invest in quality bedding to provide a more restful sleep experience.

With our heritage based on luxury bedding, we plan to stick to our strategies that have served us well. These strategies include our continued commitment to provide an exceptional service level to our retailers, continuing to collaborate very closely with our suppliers to secure our supply chain, opening key new accounts in the U.S., Canada, and overseas, and implementing promotional and advertising activities throughout the year.

We also continue answering the demand from our retailers and consumers for high-value products. Earlier this year, we expanded our luxury offering to the memory foam category with new features and technologies never before seen in our industry. Additionally, we added new luxury accessories to our product mix to complement our Aireloom and Kluft bedding collections. We also added several new beds under our Marshall Mattress brand.

These additions to our already proven innerspring products provide our retailers with a complete and competitive product selection for their luxury-minded consumers who continue to seek premium sleep experiences.

Chealen Martin
Chealen Martin

Chealen Martin, president and CEO, Englander

Our strategy at Englander to weather tough times is multi-faceted. First, we will remain focused on proven materials and quality craftsmanship that are the bedrock of our brand for over a century. This resonates with consumers looking for quality they can trust. Second, we will reignite the pioneering spirit to innovate on which Max Englander founded the company. We will seek, accept, and implement customer feedback from end-consumers, RSAs, merchants, and business owners to enhance our products and service while remaining grounded in what makes the Englander brand enduring and endearing around the world. And finally, we believe that the front line for Englander is our retail partnerships, and when we listen to their needs, we can build sustainable plans for future growth. This strategy not only sees us through tough times but also strengthens our position as a leader in the industry, true to our promise of providing “better sleep by design.

Skip Naboicheck
Skip Naboicheck

Skip Naboicheck, president, Gold Bond

Our strategy for weathering through these tough times is to offer a wide range of products tailored to different customers’ needs. We remain responsive to market demands by consistently talking to our retail customers and helping them react to the market as it changes by offering them the best quality and durable mattresses at every price point. Our product mix helps differentiate them in the marketplace by offering them unique products like two-sided mattresses with edge-to-edge steel, and 100-percent American-made raw materials, along with just-in-time weekly deliveries. At the same time, we are also focused on other niches including hospitality, universities, prep schools and more. The diversity of our product line and business efforts differentiates Gold Bond from other manufacturers and helps us in maintaining our existing retail partners and attracting new partners during these challenging times.

David Binke
David Binke

David Binke, CEO, King Koil

Our strategy is always to give 200 percent support to our retail partners. Whatever they need, we’ll try to get accomplished for them. We run a lean company, so everybody on our executive team is working harder to do whatever is needed for them in challenging times. We’ll give them the service, quality and responsiveness they need to be successful.

Frank Hood
Frank Hood

Frank Hood, CEO, Kingsdown

We are staying focused on our customers, and we are continuing to innovate in both product and process. Every associate in our organization is focused on moving the Kingsdown brand forward. We do not take any relationships for granted inside or outside our organization and are relentless in our efforts to bring our products to new markets and new customers.

Image of Billy Curtright
Billy Curtright

Billy Curtright, vice president of sales and marketing, Magniflex USA

In these tough times, we are focused on expanding our product offering to help retailers offer clients a full Magniflex sleep experience.  Instead of just having mattresses and pillows, we are introducing new adjustable bases, an expanded pillow line, mattress protectors, linens and aromatherapy.  This allows us to be more important to more dealers.  And to help push the new accessories, much of our branding and promotions will be centered around bundle packages free accessories with the purchase of a Magniflex mattress.

Kyle Robertson
Kyle Robertson

Kyle Robertson, chief operating officer, Mlily USA

Mlily will continue to invest in our systems, processes, and service to make it easier for our retail partners to do business with us and experience the benefits of our value proposition. To help our retail partners convert on their traffic during these challenging times, Mlily will place greater emphasis on product and sales education aimed at boosting close rates and customer satisfaction. Earning trust to gain a repeat, loyal customer is vitally important to the long-term health of the business. That’s our philosophy for Mlily’s business as much as it is for retail partners.

Image of Richard Fleck
Richard Fleck

Richard Fleck, president, Paramount Sleep Co.

We are committed to maintaining our reputation for consistent and reliable, high-quality products in tandem with providing our customers and RSAs with exceptional service and touch points.  Our innovative merchandising strategy is designed to deliver an enhanced-customer experience through real world retailer education that meets our dealers’ goals and objectives.

Our team is constantly leveraging our relationships with strategic partners to expand our customer base, while effectively managing costs to assure a sustainable business strategy. On the supply side, we are diversifying our vendor community to help us to continue to innovate while keeping costs in check.

R. Morgenstern
Rion Morgenstern

Rion Morgenstern, CEO, Pleasant Mattress

There are two distinct paths and we can choose one or the other. Grow revenue or cut costs. We are growing with existing customers and opening new strategic accounts. We’re reducing costs wherever possible. The important aspect is to listen to your customers and your partners and respond quickly.

Bill Huertas

Bill Huertas, senior vice president of operations and distribution, Puffy

When times are challenging, we have to be able to drive customers into the store and make sure the product meets the customer’s expectations. We also are making sure that RSAs understand our brand proposition. Those things sound simple, but we have to continue to execute. 

Paris Fealy
Paris Fealy

Paris Fealy, CEO, Renaissance Elevated Sleep Technology (R.E.S.T)

Business, much like in sports, relies on the basics. Especially when things get tricky. At REST we will look to ensure that we are listening to our clients to provide innovative, quality products, at a competitive price, and we will focus most on making sure that we treat everyone right in our business cycle. In the aggressively competitive market that currently exists, ensuring that your employees, partners, clients and customers all feel appreciated will help curb the potential of losing any of these valued assets to a strong business.

Bob McCarthy
Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy, managing director, retail, Resident Home

As leaders, we have to focus on what is important to the consumer.  If we can create products that build value, solve a problem and provide a great night’s sleep then we can overcome most any challenge.  The key is to understand the consumer journey, get your brand to be front-and-center with the consumer and become part of the consideration set as they do their research.  From there, you need to have a product that will address the retailer’s needs of traffic, ticket and conversion.  If you can check all of those boxes, your brand will continue to grow.

Laurie Tokarz
Laurie Tokarz

Laurie Tokarz, president, Restonic

We are attacking the current environment with a three-prong approach. First, we’re offering value-rich mattresses that provide consumers with high-quality materials, innovative features, and lasting comfort at competitive prices, ensuring both affordability and satisfaction for customers seeking durable sleep solutions.  We are also offering turn-key social media marketing tools that simplify the process for businesses by providing ready-to-use solutions, empowering them to effectively reach their target audience and maximize their online presence without the need for extensive expertise or resources. Then, we are implementing  in-store displays with interactive technology, providing customers with an informative shopping experience that encourages exploration and facilitates informed purchasing decisions in the mattress retail space.

Mark Genender
Mark Genender

Mark Genender, interim CEO, Serta Simmons Bedding

Our strategy is centered around partnering with our retail partners to compete and win by offering high-quality, innovative products supported by service excellence. During the second half of 2023, we developed several new products to help retailers take market share in 2024.  These seven new product collections across our flagship Serta and Beautyrest brand platforms have clear value propositions that are simple for consumers to understand and, therefore, easy for retailers to sell. With our 18 manufacturing plants strategically positioned around the U.S. and Canada, we’re able to deliver our high-quality products on-time to ensure that retailers meet the needs of their customers.

Bill Hammer

Bill Hammer, president, Shifman Mattress

The Shifman strategy for challenging times is unwavering and consistent with its overall strategy. We are always looking for opportunities for sales growth through expanded retail distribution. A challenging economic environment may slow growth at existing accounts, but it propels new business development because retailers look to change their strategies by adding products that offer real value and differentiation. We have been through economic downturns before, and we will see them again in the future. We remain vigilant looking for opportunities and we stay the course. Shifman has a storied 130-year history that stands strong in challenging times.

Nick Bates
Nick Bates

Nick Bates, president, Spring Air International

We are constantly looking for new ways to grow and expand our horizons. The industry has largely shifted back to promotional selling with sales linked to major holidays, such as Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. Consumers are cautious now, and they have been conditioned to wait, so we’re proactively collaborating with our factories to develop more promotional programs. We want to do all we can to drive more traffic to increase business during what we know are trying times at retail.

Borreggine_Gerry 8-2019
Gerry Borreggine

Gerry Borreggine, CEO, Therapedic International

Our plan is to stay the course, and to keep doing the things that retailers look for us to do for them. We are operating lean and mean, and I foresee us staying on that path at least into the first quarter of 2025.

See also: Execs weigh in on top challenges for the bedding industry

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