Brand bedfellows share their clout: Federated, Simmons team up on mattresses

Bedding maker Simmons Co and department store operator Federated will introduce a co-branded mattress line in Nov 1996 including both conventional mattresses and futon mattresses. The line will carry a store's name and 'Collector's Edition by Simmons.' When distributed through Macy's, for example, the line's full name will be 'Macy's Collector's Edition by Simmons.' Federated's other store chains include The Bon Marche, Burdines, and Rich's/ Lazarus/ Goldsmith's. Simmons brand manager Jackson Houk explained that the line will leverage both Simmons' and each store chain's brand equity.

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The number-two bedding manufacturer, Simmons, and the top traditional department store chain, Federated, have joined forces to create a proprietary, co-branded line of futon mattresses. The line is part of a strategy to differentiate product offerings and expand the bedding business for Federated's stores, which include Macy's, Burdines, The Bon Marche and Rich's/ Lazarus/ Goldsmith's.

The new line, to be available this November, will be produced under the name "Collector's Edition by Simmons." According to Jackson Houk, brand manager for Simmons, the brand also will feature the individual store names; for example, the products available at Macy's will be designated "Macy's Collector's Edition by Simmons." The distinct name "will take advantage of both the Simmons brand equity and the regional store's brand equity," said Houk.

Both Federated and Simmons have considerable clout in consumers' minds. Simmons reported 1995 sales of $487 million, while Federated Department Stores ranked number 11 in the National Retail Federation's list of Top 100 Retailers, a list that includes retailers ranging from Wal-Mart, Kmart and Sears to top supermarket chains. Federated reported sales of $15 billion in the year ended last Jan. 31.

"One of our corporate objectives is to develop differentiated products," explained Bob Handler, Federated's vice president of furniture, bedding and floor-coverings, "and mattresses should be part of this strategy."

Positioned as a better-best offering in Federated's current bedding assortment, the Collector's Edition by Simmons will range from $799 to $1,399 retail in queen. "This product line offers outstanding retail values and features everything today's consumer wants, including exceptional comfort, support and durability," said Houk.

Handler believes the new line will be distinguished among Federated's bedding offerings because of the mattresses' high percentage of natural ingredients. The proprietary line will have natural cotton-filled damasks, cashmere, silk and wool covers and natural latex. All futon mattresses will feature Simmons' premium "powerflex" foundation.

The bedding selection varies widely among Federated's divisions. According to representatives at various units, selections run from 35 to 75 styles.

Federated spent two years evaluating top mattress and futon mattress manufacturers before selecting Simmons. Although Federated stores will continue to carry Sealy, Stearns & Foster and Serta brands, Federated's buyers agreed with Handler: "Simmons clearly had a product worthy of carry our stores' names. There were several offers from within the industry, but Simmons' program best suited our needs."

Both Simmons and Federated are enthusiastic about their co-branding program. "From our standpoint, there is obviously a strong advantage of having an established name like Simmons to manufacture our private label mattresses," said Handler.

"The new products will take advantage of both the Simmons brand equity and the regional stores' brand equity," said Houk.

The partnership with Federated is a positive step for Simmons, according to David Cocke, vice president of sales and account development for Simmons. "It is an opportunity to incrementally grow our business with one of the largest bedding retailers in the country, a means to take our non-pocketed coil business to the next plateau."

From a marketing standpoint, Federated expects the line to sell well on the joint strength of the store names and the Simmons name. Federated does not plan any special introductory promotions or advertising. Merchandising of the new line will consist of "labeling and point-of-sale materials to describe its qualities and attributes," Handler noted.

Simmons will provide advertising, sales education and co-op support for the new brand.

Cocke said the new product line "will be given the same level of support as our other brands with Federated."

Federated also carries Simmons' Beautyrest and Back-Care lines.

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Evelyn Coursey

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