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New initiatives paying off for Simmons, Fazio says

Simmons CEO Gary FazioSimmons CEO Gary Fazio shows his cool side by wearing jeans for his Las Vegas Market attire. He is sitting on a new ComforPedic Loft bed.
LAS VEGAS — Gary Fazio, a buttoned down kind of guy, showed his cool side here by wearing jeans in the Simmons showroom. The company's CEO and his team were making a statement: They are bringing cool ideas to the market.

"Project New" was the banner at the Simmons showroom here, and it's an apt image to describe the reengineering that Fazio has been doing at Simmons since he joined the company last year after long runs at Mattress Firm and at Sealy.

The retooling is yielding benefits, Fazio said in an interview.

"We are more productive for our customers," he declared. "We are more innovative with new products."

His overall assessment of Simmons' progress under his watch: "We are out of the driveway, but we are not on the highway where I want to be."

Fazio says that Simmons has gained market share in the first half of this year, posting double-digit sales gains in each quarter. The company was up about 12% in the second quarter, he said.

While archrival Sealy says it is gaining retail slots with new encased coil Posturepedic models, Fazio rejects the notion that Sealy is gaining share on Simmons. Simmons, he contends, is gaining share in the encased coil segment, one it has served for decades with its flagship Beautyrest line. "Our product," Fazio said, "is extremely competitive at point of sale."

It is more than just innersprings that are putting at Simmons, according to Fazio. The company's key specialty sleep line, ComforPedic, added a new collection in Las Vegas and covers a broad range of price points, from $1,499 to $4,799.

The new ComforPedic Loft memory foam line features an expanded cell structure that improves airflow by 600% compared to a leading memory foam line, according to Scott Smalling, president of the specialty sleep unit at Simmons. And new designs promote airflow throughout the sleep set, helping consumers sleep cooler than on other memory foam lines, he said. Simmons calls that the AirCool Sleep System. Smalling calls it "all steak."

Simmons is also providing plenty of sales support for the ComforPedic line. While a competitor recently said it hired a dedicated trainer for its specialty line, Fazio said Simmons has more than six trainers on its specialty sleep lines.

Fazio said the ComforPedic line, which has benefited from partnerships with various celebrity events and was featured on a nationwide Retail Road Show two years ago, is up more than 40% this year, and is gaining share in the memory foam segment.

The ComforPedic Loft product, well received in Las Vegas, was just one of three new introductions made by Simmons. The company's Natural Care line was revamped with a natural anti-aging additive that will lengthen the product life of the foam in the line. And the NuFlex foundation gives Simmons a strong product in the growing adjustable bed category.

Fazio said the innovations at Simmons are the result of "a lot of homework" and extensive consumer research.

That research confirmed that memory foam customers don't want to sleep hot and want "motion freedom" in their beds. The ComforPedic beds deliver those benefits, Fazio said.

Smalling hammers home three key benefits of the ComforPedic line: It dissipates heat and has consistent comfort and quicker recovery. He will be touting those themes in the months to come when he leads a second ComforPedic Retail Road Show, which will cover 10,000 miles and visit 35 cities.

That just goes to show, Smalling says, that Simmons will go to great lengths to tell its story.

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