Bedding leaders see challenges for 2012
David Perry -- Furniture Today, December 19, 2011
HIGH POINT - Top 15 bedding producers generally predict a challenging year for the mattress industry in 2012, but note that there are some bright spots ahead.
Macro trends - high unemployment and a poor housing market - remain a problem for the industry, the producers believe. The election year will challenge business prospects, some executives assert.
But on the positive side, interest in better bedding remains high and the specialty bedding segment should be a strong performer next year, the execs say.
It should add up to a year of modest unit gains and stronger dollar gains, the producers suggested.
Here are the comments of Top 15 producers responding to this question: What is your outlook for overall bedding business next year?
► Jodi Allen, chief marketing officer, Sealy: "We are cautiously optimistic for the bedding business in 2012. We are facing an election year and macro uncertainty that will affect everyone, including the bedding industry. We continue to see both the low-end and the high-end grow due to these economic changes. In response to growth in the luxury segment, we launched our 2012 Stearns & Foster line late this year, which has been received exceptionally by consumers and retailers alike. In addition, we will be launching our new Sealy brand line in Q1 2012 to drive business in the sub-$500 category."
► Bob Sherman, president, Serta: "I think it will be a repeat of 2011. Specialty bedding will continue to grow. Innerspring bedding will find it more difficult to grow. The gap in performance between the two will be wider next year."
► Gary Fazio, CEO, Simmons: "I think we are operating in a ‘new normal' and having the ability to consistently predict purchase intent and industry performance will be difficult. 2012 will start strong, but it will be interesting to see what impact the presidential election has on the economy and on consumer spending behavior."
► Rick Anderson, president of Tempur-Pedic North America: "We remain very bullish on the willingness of consumers to invest in quality sleep. There are a lot of places where consumers can choose to spend their money - we think great sleep should be at the top of their list of priorities. As a result of the better sleep delivered by our products, Tempur-Pedic retailers have seen an amazing increase in average selling price due to our outstanding product performance and our consumer-driven communication strategies. We are convinced that this trend will continue.
"Non-spring mattresses will continue to drive category growth. As consumer preference has shifted away from spring mattresses, they are truly curious about learning more about nonspring alternatives like Tempur-Pedic. Consumers are willing to pay significantly more for products that deliver better sleep and they know that Tempur-Pedic products will provide them with the best night's sleep they can get."
► Dave Roberts, president, Comfort Solutions: "With the rhetoric of the political campaigns, consumer confidence will be stressed. Unemployment will remain high and housing will still be a challenge, so I believe the industry will experience a business year similar to 2011."
► Bob Hellyer, president, Kingsdown: "The industry overall will continue to face a challenging year as a result of the poor economy. However, there are some bright spots like specialty, where visco, gel and latex remain in growth mode. I also believe the higher end of the market will continue to do well, particularly at price points of $3,000 or more. To remain competitive in this down economy a manufacturer must be resilient and alter their product mix to meet the changing needs of the consumer, which we are doing in a big way."
► Gerry Borreggine, president, Therapedic: "I think the first quarter will be difficult for many, and there will be a continued thinning of the ranks of many businesses. I believe the economy will show an uptick as we get closer to the election, and consumers will begin to loosen their purse strings on home furnishings purchases."
► Kevin Toman, president, Englander: "Business will remain soft in the first quarter. But pent-up demand and the improving economy will provide stimulus for a solid increase in second-and third-quarter sales."
► Rick Robinson, president, Spring Air: "Given the economic downturn, the bedding business next year will continue to see only modest growth. I also believe that in 2012 we will continue to see attrition in the industry at both the manufacturer and retailer levels."
► Ron Passaglia, president, Restonic: "The outlook for 2012 will be very similar to 2011 with very volatile economic conditions. Companies that have a well thought-out plan and the discipline to execute it in the areas of advertising, product, sales education and consumer incentives will once again outperform the industry averages. Even in difficult times someone always has a very good year when these principles are applied."
► Mike McQuiston, vice president, Symbol Mattress: "Until housing turns around and unemployment numbers get better, the bedding business will be very challenging."
► Kerry Tramel, president, Lady Americana: "2012 will be a positive year for the overall industry and a terrific year for those who over the last three years have continued to invest in what it takes to sell better bedding."
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