Before I start, if you would like to hear a podcast on this topic, Mark Kinsley and I cover it all in the latest episode of Dos Marcos, so check it out!
When I first started in the industry Sealy was #1 by a large margin. Simmons was #2 and Serta was trailing at a distant 3rd. I began working for Serta in 1996 and got there in time to be a part of the massive growth under CEO Ed Lilly and later Bob Sherman. Serta eventually took over as #1 because of a laser beam focus around one simple idea. “Find creative solutions to the complex problems that our customers are facing.” At some point, Serta wandered off the path and Sealy came roaring back into the top spot.
As of 2019 Sealy is back at #1, up 12% in 2019, Simmons is second and Serta has fallen to the #3 spot. So how did this happen? The loss of Big Lots for Serta/ pickup by Sealy, and the re-entry at Mattress Firm for Sealy were a few of the factors, but here are some additional thoughts.
Leadership: SSB had Bob Sherman running the show, then Gary Fazio, followed by Michael Traub and later David Swift so there was a lot of transition over the years with each guy implementing his own plan. Then SSB lost or pushed out the two top sales exec’s that really made their growth happen, John Rachid and Bill West as well as a few others, and reduced the salesforce at one point by 200 something people. At the same time you had Scott Thompson take the helm at TSI and this guy is a full out savage, gun slinger, and deal maker. If you doubt me on that just look at how he handled the Mattress Firm situation and I think you’ll agree. Rick Anderson was a constant since 2006 as TSI’s president, now being followed by Steve Rusing who is a well thought of industry veteran with a strong track record. Changes in leadership are very costly so maintaining consistency over time will create a big advantage for those able to pull it off. SSB is now in a groove with a solid team and they are adding key players so there is no doubt that this market share battle will continue on.
Brand Clarity: 1+1 doesn’t always equal 2. Serta and Simmons have not been great at differentiating their products. So much so that according to some of the retailers I’ve talked to over the years, having them both on a floor doesn’t always make sense. Back in the day, if you were to ask retailers or even their own sales force what each brand stood for and what made them uniquely different, you would be hard pressed to get a solid answer from anyone. Tempur-Pedic owns memory foam. Sealy has something for everyone, top to bottom. And Stearns and Foster is a widely distributed luxury brand with great history. Now you can stir into that mix Sherwood who specializes in strong private label programs, and Spink and Co, a great craft beer/bed that is grown on a farm in England with exclusive distribution. Overlap or fuzzy definitions within your brands will hurt you. Trying to extend your brand into spaces that don’t make sense are also counter productive. TSI has been very smart in how they define who they are and what they offer their retail partners. Thanks to Melanie Huet, SSB’s Chief Marketing Office, I think they are going to figure this part out as they focus more on the consumer and carve out a unique space for all of their brand offerings.
Leverage: Let’s face it, brand equity is leverage and nobody has more of it than Tempur-Pedic. Tempur-Pedic is the only brand in our industry that has created real preference. Others have built some awareness but that just isn’t the same thing. The most important thing for retailers right now are door swings and Tempur-Pedic delivers those which makes them a pretty big deal.
In an interview with with Furniture Today Scott Thompson had the following to say. “We are truly honored, but there won’t be any big celebration. We will keep doing what we have been doing: pushing to improve every day everywhere around the world. We know that whatever we did yesterday is not good enough to win tomorrow.” Given the dynamic space we find ourselves in I think that Scott has it right. Change is a constant and the companies out there that can adapt will win the day. One thing though Scott, if I were you I would assemble the team at your favorite watering hole, put on a sombrero, and partake in the official beverage of the Dos Marcos podcast; tequila shots for everyone! You guys have earned it.