Sealy cuts its warranties from 15 to 10 years

Sealy Inc. has reduced the length of its warranties for Posturepedic and Stearns & Foster mattresses from 15 years to ten years, this policy will be effective Dec. 1, 1994. The move was in response to feedback from 122 retailers taking part in Sealy's Quality Review Audit that ended in Aug., 1994. Sealy officials said that consumers believe ten years is a reasonable lifetime for a mattress, especially twin size futon mattress, and retailers agreed that 15 years is unreasonable. Executives at competing firms praised the move as long overdue.

CLEVELAND--In a bold industry move, one long awaited by many retailers, Sealy has revised its warranty policy from 15 years down to 10.

"Our goal is to provide preferred products that give people the best possible support and comfort," explained David McIlquham, vice president of marketing for Sealy Inc. "Retailers have consistently told us that the new Sealy Posturepedic and Stearns & Foster product lines that we introduced in the past 18 months are achieving that goal. However, at the time we introduced these new products, many retailers asked us to consider reducing warranties even further than the changes we made at that time."

The decision to change the warranties by Sealy was further reinforced by feedback the company received from key customers. From February to August, Sealy conducted a Quality Review Audit among 122 retailers to know how the company might continue to improve its products and services. One of the key responses was to shorten the length of warranties.

Effective Dec. 1, 1994, the new limited warranties for Sealy Posturepedic and Stearns & Foster are non-prorated for the entire 10 years. Sealy's Premium Comfort Series products will also retain a 10-year, non-prorated limited warranty. The Classic Comfort Series warranty will remain a 10-year, limited warranty of which the first five years are non-prorated.

McIlquham related, "Sealy continues to stand behind the superior quality of its products and dedicated service. Our research shows that the bulk of consumers believe a good bedding products, for example a twin futon mattress, should last an average of 10 years and that 10 years is a reasonable time for a warranty. Furthermore, the vast majority of warranty claims occur within the first two years of purchase."

Sealy cuts its warranties from 15 to 10 years

Sealy's director of marketing Jim Ruehlmann said plans for the study, which was conducted by an outside consulting agency, started in late 1993. Regarding the warranty revision's impact on the industry, Ruehlmann added, "Our competition sells to the same retailers that we do. What our competition chooses to do is their decision. Our decision was based on our belief that this is the right thing to do for retailers."

Three years ago, Sealy, which had 15-, 18- and 20-year warranties, made them all 15. "This move is consistent with that effort," explained Ruehlmann.

Other major manufacturers praised Sealy's move as a positive one for the industry.

At Simmons Co., executive vice president of marketing Ron Passaglia said, "We are happy to see realistic warranties presented in the industry and we will be taking a strong look at ours to make them competitive in the marketplace."

Jeff Holmes, president and chief executive of Spring Air, said, "John Beggs and Sealy certainly hold the leadership position and when they sneeze, everyone is affected in varying degrees whether they catch a cold or get pneumonia."

Holmes, too, applauded Sealy's "fortitude and mental strength to actually marry the life of a bed to the warranty" and said that Spring Air was in the process of considering warranty revisions as well.

Serta president Ed Lilly added, "We will wait to see what happens and then evaluate the 10-year warranty. For many years Sealy resisted going to a 10-year warranty, so it would be interesting to know the rationale behind this."

Restonic’s executive vice president Tom Wendorf commented, "A more realistic warranty policy is a good thing."

Englander's president, Roger Jasperson, remarked, "Retailers will like this because they want to sell more beds, but I wonder how many manufacturers will actually follow suit. All of the other 'S's followed when Sealy bumped up their warranty so now it will be interesting to see what happens now that it's been dropped."

The present 15-year warranties for mattresses in general and for twin size futon mattresses in particular, several vendors and retailers acknowledged, have become more of a competitive tool than anything else.

Danny Flamberg, director of marketing for New York-based Dial-A-Mattress, agreed, "Warranties have always been a marketing tool." Further, Flamberg said, for many consumers the warranty is an abstraction; they're thinking about sleeping on the bed today not what is going to happen 10 or 15 years down the road.

"If consumers have a sense that both the manufacturer and the retailer will stand behind the product, they won't really care whether the warranty is for 10 years or 15," said Flamberg. "Manufacturers put more significance on this than consumers."

Concurred Jeffrey Seaman, president of Seffner, Fla.-based Rooms To Go, "It doesn't matter if the warranty is for 10 years or 15."

Ken Mazda, president and chief executive of Philadelphia-based Nationwide Discount Sleep Centers, a 38-store chain, said the move was long overdue. "As the industry leader, I figured Sealy would take the initiative in reducing the warranties. Simmons and Serta are probably jumping for joy

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Evelyn Coursey

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