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Serta dethrones Sealy as U.S. bedding sales leader

Serta's sales grew 18.1% in 2011
 Image of Serta-Sealy table

HIGH POINT — Serta is the new king of U.S. mattress sales, knocking Sealy from the lofty perch it had held for about 40 years. (Read Bedding Editor David Perry's reaction in his latest column.)

Riding the crest of an 18.1% sales surge last year, Serta finished 2011 with U.S. wholesale bedding shipments of $1.163 billion, about $34 million ahead of Sealy's $1.129 billion.

It is a career-defining achievement for Serta President Bob Sherman, the architect of Serta's decisive growth surge. Serta has gained market share by combining aggressive promotion and advertising with the introduction of innovative new products and a push to expand distribution, bedding observers say.

"First and foremost, thank you to our retail partners. You have made us what we are today," Sherman said when told Serta has taken over the top spot. "I'd also like to recognize all of our Serta employees who have worked so hard for so many years for this achievement."

For Sealy, the ascendance of Serta marks the end of a long run it enjoyed at the top of the mattress sales pyramid. Sealy took the No. 1 position from Simmons in the early 1970s, bedding observers say. It leveraged strong brand-building campaigns and aggressive sales execution over the years to stand unchallenged as the industry's shipments leader for decades.

But Sealy opened the door for Serta with a recent series of lackluster sales years. Sealy's shipments are off 7.1% since 2008, a period in which Serta recorded shipment growth of 18.9%. That swing of 26 percentage points in Serta's favor was decisive.

Sealy CEO Larry Rogers had this response to the news that Serta has replaced Sealy as the No. 1 bedding producer in the U.S.: "Congratulations to Serta, but please don't get too comfortable." Sealy, he asserted, is "a strong company with a lot of product in the pipeline. I do believe we will prevail."

Serta's rise to No. 1 is the highlight of Furniture/Today's bedding market share report, the full version of which will be published in the newspaper's June 18 issue. That report will show Sealy in the No. 2 shipments position, followed by fast-growing Simmons in the No. 3 position. Memory foam leader Tempur-Pedic again occupies the No. 4 spot on the list.

Sealy and Tempur-Pedic are publicly held companies and supplied their shipments figures to Furniture/Today. Accountant-verified figures were supplied by Serta and Simmons.

Serta claimed bedding's sales crown by quickly bouncing back from the bedding recession of 2008 and 2009 and stringing together two growth years. Serta grew its shipments by 7.7% in 2010 but then recorded a sizzling 18.1% shipment gain last year fueled by the success of its iComfort line of gel memory foam beds.

Sherman has called that line the greatest success of his bedding career.

Sealy, meanwhile, has never recovered from a sharp drop in shipments it recorded in 2008. Its shipments declined 13.8% that year, and plunged another 8.6% in 2009.

Since then, sales growth has been tepid; shipments grew just 0.1% in 2010 and 1.5% in 2011.

*For the latest research and statistics from Furniture Today, visit our Research Store at

http://furnishingsresearchstore.com/ft.html

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