40 Winks stays wide awake: sleep chain builds name for straight talk

Westmont, NJ-based company - 40 Winks was established in 1977 by Frank Borreggine and since 1996, it has been operated by his three children. There are 15 units that have doubled sales between 1994 and 1996. The bedding retailer is committed to honesty and mattress suppliers enjoy working with it because of its commitment to consumers. There is an extensive employee training program that is well-known throughout the industry.

While honesty and integrity may not be the first words that typically come to a consumer's mind when shopping for bedding, John Borreggine of 40 Winks hopes that will change. 

"Honesty is the key word here," explained Borreggine, one of three siblings who own and manage the 15-store bedding chain headquartered here. "There bedding industry has taken some pretty big hits lately in the newspapers and on TV, including stories about rehabilitated mattresses being sold as new and the prevalence of `bait and switch' operations, but we have worked very hard to distance ourselves from all those stories by the way we approach our business."

"We recognize that there's a lot of deliberate chicanery going on in bedding retail," agreed brother Gerry Borreggine.

Aware of the negative impact these tactics can have on business, 40 Winks has grown, both in stature. And reputation, because of its fundamental rule of playing fair with its customers. "At 40 Winks, credibility is our number-one priority," said Gerry Borreggine. "If customers are frustrated, they need to trust the store. They must really trust the brand, trust the advertising and trust the presentation."

The 40 Winks philosophy of honesty and integrity is paying off. The Borreggine brothers, along with their sister. Holly Dugan, a sharp management trio that has generated the respect of manufacturers and consumers alike.

Bob Malin, vice president of marketing for Serta, said 40 Winks "is a pleasure to deal with because it is concerned about the consumer as much as any retailer I ever met."

Other suppliers, including Gary Fazio, national vice president of sales for Sealy, agreed: "40 Winks is committed to bring the best possible value to the consumer." And, based on rapidly increasing sales, these efforts have not gone unnoticed by consumers.

Founded by the siblings' father, Frank Borreggine, in 1977 as a single sleep shop, 40 Winks has grown into a chain of 15 stores from Philadelphia to Atlantic City. And although the retailer has been in business for nearly 20 years, it has seen its largest growth in just the last two, more than doubling the number of stores.

So far, the expansion has been a success: overall business has doubled in the last two years. But the increase is not just due to additional stores. In spite of significant competition from department stores, including Macy's and Sears, 40 Winks has seen an increase in sales of 25 percent since 1994, not including the eight additional stores.

Although 40 Winks is privately held and does not publish its sales, the chains' management and its suppliers agree that 40 Winks' sales have grown dramatically during the past few years. "40 Winks has experienced terrific growth in the last two years," said Fazio, "Sealy sales with them have been very, very strong"

The path of expansion began in the early '80s when, one-by-one, each of Frank Borreggine's children came to work for the family business. "That's when we started to expand and grow the business . . . to accommodate our own interests," said Gerry Borreggine.

While the three work together as co-presidents, each has a separate area of responsibility. Gerry is responsible for merchandising and advertising; Holly manages personnel and employee training; John handles the finances. Father and founder Frank, while not involved in the day-to-day operations, remains active in the strategic planning and overall management of the company.

Until two years ago, the 40 Winks chain had maxed-out its growth at seven stores. The management team then embarked on a second-tier expansion plan that included additional stores in the South Jersey area as well as the development of an upcoming franchising program.

Gerry Borreggine attributes the recent growth and success of 40 Winks to following a basic mission: "To present name brand bedding in an honest, open and friendly setting at the lowest prices in the marketplace."

This mission keeps 40 Winks focused while appealing to abroad audience. The stores traditionally have carried only two brands--Sealy and Serta--but with $219 as it is the lowest price for a queen size futon mattress and $1,899 as its highest, 40 Winks is able to meet the needs of a diverse group of customers.

So diverse, infect, that Gerry Borreggine defines the chain's target customer as "anyone who sleeps." See more about futon mattress: Best Futon Mattress For Every day Sleeping in 2018

Even so, 40 Winks acknowledges the growth potential of high-end consumers. The chain recently added the Stearns & Foster brand which "has increased our upper-end market tremendously," said John Borreggine.

Gerry Borreggine agreed that this addition has strengthened the chain's position in the market: "We are now reaching a customer, satisfying a segment of the market, that up to this point we had not broached."

But even highly branded products don't sell themselves. 40 Winks is known for its employee-training program. An extensive sales training curriculum, designed much like a college course, adds value to the name brand products, low prices and clean, attractive stores offered by 40 Winks, observers agree. "They spend a lot of time training salespeople . . . much more so than most sleep shops and department stores," said Bob Moore, vice president of sales at Serta.

"Our sales training is really very simple," remarked Holly Dugan, "but it is much different than anything our employees have encountered before." Dugan stressed that training is ongoing; employees are constantly challenged to learn more about the futon mattresses.

"Our sales people not only know our products but they know the competitors' products," reported Gerry Borreggine. "Without that knowledge they can't explain [to customers] the added benefits of our products or pricing"

But imparting product knowledge goes hand-in-hand with teaching the 40 Winks sales philosophy, Dugan stressed. "Our goal is to make it simple for customers to understand," she continued. "Buying bedding and futon mattresses can seem overwhelming; consumers are often frustrated or disgusted. If we can gain their trust, if we really help the customer, that's how we win the sales battle."

40 Winks stays wide awake: sleep chain builds name for straight talk

Although these efforts have helped increase 40 Winks' sales, the chain takes its commitment to building trust and credibility beyond its own best interests. As the only retailer currently represented in the Better Sleep Council, an organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of a good night's sleep and the health-link associated with bedding, the 40 Winks management team is committed to the growth and improvement of the bedding industry overall.

"We feel very strong about the Better Sleep Council. We are proud of the jobs we do and the industry we are in," emphasized Gerry Borreggine, "But individually and collectively we must change the distrust and antagonism that the industry faces."

As the sole retailer board member of the Better Sleep Council, "we are the only segment that speaks directly to the consumer," said Gerry Borreggine, "and that is a very critical piece of information to that organization."

Discussing plans for the chain's future growth, the management team said that the next step for 40 Winks is a franchisee program, expected to hit the market within one year. The chain has worked closely with both Sealy and Serta to develop the program and will continue to work with them as they select their franchisees. Again, honesty and integrity remain most important.

"We will be very selective about making our franchisee selection. [Franchisees] take reflect on us." Gerry Borreggine explained. "Our reputation is pristine and will need the right retailer to make this a successful venture."

Gerry and John Borreggine

On what's selling: "A big portion of growth is at the upper end...better products, better customer satisfaction and better margins."

On the telemarketing approach to bedding sales: "I find it hard to believe that people would have the propensity to buy a mattress and a box spring in the same manner in which they select a pizza."

On what makes 40 Winks unique: "Honesty. No false come-ons, no crazy claims, no litany of disclaimers."

On brands: "Brand is still very important in customers' minds. However, we have noticed there has become less and less brand loyalty across America, especially in our category. But customers are only inclined to switch among brands that they are comfortable with and aware of."

On the role of manufacturers vs. retailers: "It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to build the awareness of the brand. Our job is to create awareness about the value [of the product] and the benefits of buying at our store."

On advertising: "We believe in consistent messages and themes across advertising venues and store experience. Every message or experience reinforces the other."

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Evelyn Coursey

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