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  • David Perry

Latex International riding specialty sleep momentum

SHELTON, Conn. - Specialty sleep is driving the bedding market these days, and that's good news for North America's largest producer of Talalay latex.
     Executives of Latex International, based here, offered that assessment as they shared an encouraging look at their business prospects this year. They expect a challenging year at best for innerspring bedding, but more unit and dollar gains for the specialty sleep segment in general and latex bedding in particular.
     LI officials said they will be stepping up their own marketing and product development efforts to keep latex on a fast-growth track. A new marketing program, designed to boost consumers' awareness of the benefits of latex, is in the works.
     "The innerspring business will continue to take a beating," predicts Dave Fisher, CEO of Latex International. "There is no question that Tempur-Pedic and iComfort are propelling all the momentum in the category right now and that bodes well for specialty mattress suppliers and manufacturers like Latex International."
     Fisher said success in the specialty sleep category will bring even more success.
     "We see the momentum in specialty sleep continuing in 2012 and beyond, because the retailer will increasingly encourage customers to buy specialty products, which offer many more performance features than innersprings," he said. "As more of the retail floor shifts to specialty, innerspring will precipitously continue to stagnate and decline as well. There will always be a market for innerspring, but on a percentage basis it will decline significantly over time."
     LI sees this as the time to boost its marketing efforts.
     "We are hiring more salespeople to better service our domestic customer base," Fisher said. "They will work more closely with our manufacturing partners on new product development and innovation. They will also work with retail sales associates to provide better training so they can be more effective selling their products."
     He said Latex International "will also be stepping up its advertising and Web presence to more vigorously promote the latex category with consumers."
     In Fisher's view, latex is well positioned to benefit from the influx of consumers who are driven to try memory foam beds, but may not like them.
     "There is no question that when a consumer comes in the door asking for Tempur- Pedic and then tries it and doesn't care for it, the next logical choice is a latex mattress," he said. "Don't go from a potential $3,000 sale down to a $599 innerspring, but rather encourage the customer to try another alternative like latex at a price point closer to what the consumer was originally prepared to spend. The customer will be happy and the retailer makes a higher margin sale. It's a classic win-win."
     Fisher says retailers "cannot be afraid to have more than 50% of their floor dedicated to specialty bedding, and, in particular, latex."

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