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Tempur-Pedic, Serta insights provide leadership lessons

To get some insights on where the industry is headed this year, let's consider two lessons in leadership I witnessed last fall.
     The first

David PerryDavid Perry Executive Editor
came in Duffield, Va., a remote town in the mountains that happens to be the home of a huge Tempur-Pedic factory. (Yes, I took you there in a column last month, but we need to stop in again for a quick visit.)
     In a conference room at the plant, Rick Anderson, president of Tempur-Pedic North America, and other key executives presented an eye-opening look at Tempur's growing success and at some of the consumer and market research that guides the company's product development. It was a sophisticated presentation, full of reasons why Tempur-Pedic is rewriting the bedding playbook. It is clear the company's marketing programs, backed by major ad spends, are driving consumer demand for its products.
     The lesson: Use consumer-focused marketing programs to design products that meet consumers' needs and to drive demand for them.
     Next we visit Serta's headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Ill., where Bob Sherman, Serta's president, was a gracious host as he talked about the soaring success of Serta's iComfort line of gel-cushioned memory foam beds. And he used words of wisdom from Wayne Gretzky to help explain that success: "A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be."
     That's what Serta did with its iComfort line, Sherman said, and that's my second leadership lesson: Like a great hockey player, figure out where the market is heading and skate there.
     Sherman found Gretzky's quote useful on several levels. It not only explained why Serta has succeeded with iComfort, but it revealed the flaw with competitors' plans to target the iComfort line with similar-looking offerings. Those competitors are heading to where the puck is, not to where it is going.
     As we prepare to head to Las Vegas and review a vast assortment of new mattress lines, including several inspired by Serta's success with iComfort, it's useful to reflect on those insights from Tempur-Pedic and Serta.
     Rumors of Tempur-Pedic stepping down in price this year abound, but we don't know what new direction the company will pursue. We do believe it will be one backed by considerable research.
     We do know where Serta is heading this year; its new iSeries line combines gel memory foam and a new innerspring unit, and it is also adding new iComfort models. Serta is strengthening a winning specialty line, and it is also setting forth on a new direction in innerspring bedding.
     Will you chase the mattress puck this year? Or will you try to figure out where the market is heading and skate for that sweet spot?

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