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Personal Touch Helps Firm Weather Hard Times

By Kathryn M. Roy

May 28, 2012

Bob Naboicheck, CEO of Hartford-based Gold Bond Mattress, describes the recent recession as the most difficult time for the mattress industry since World War II, but he is confident the company can weather almost any storm.

After all, the family-owned company has been run by multiple generations of the Naboicheck family since 1899.

In an industry dominated by the big name brands of Sealy, Serta, Simmons and Tempur-Pedic, Gold Bond Mattress has beaten the odds and carved a niche for itself in a sluggish market that mirrors the real estate market.

"If you're watching TV or you're seeing ads in newspapers, you see these four brands," Nabiocheck said. "One of the things we're able to do is we're able to offer our retail customers or partners a unique and different product."

While many major retailers have all four major lines out on the floor fighting over the same dollars, Nabiocheck and his son, Vice President Henry "Skip" Nabiocheck, focus on smaller retailers and owner-operated stores like Pilgrim Furniture, Puritan Furniture, Bedding Barn and Connecticut Mattress.

"We're able to service them much better," Bob Nabiocheck said. "Whether it's in Hartford or Miami or Chicago, we go there and do sales training. We're hands-on, and we're out there in front of the sales people and the owners."

Nabiocheck said some big-name mattress companies change hands often, helping to improve Gold Bond's position in the marketplace.

"We're able to make a higher quality product that sells at a lower price, allowing the retailer a higher margin," he said.

In addition to traditional mattresses, Gold Bond makes futons. The company has dominated the national futon business in recent years, although the market continues to struggle.

"Our total retail sales (of futons) nationwide have shrunk," Nabiocheck said. "We're strengthening our market share, but the dollars are flat."

Gold Bond sells its futons to retailers such as L.L. Bean, Pottery Barn and West Elm.

While Gold Bond hasn't fully recovered from the recession that began affecting the local economy in 2008 and 2009, staff has not been reduced in the past three years. About 60 employees work in the factory, plus there's an additional 15 administrative and sales personnel, many of whom work out of their homes and on the road. Gold Bond maintains showrooms in High Point, North Carolina, and in Las Vegas.

For all the time the sales personnel are out on the road, the Naboichecks keep the focus here in Hartford.

"We're a small, hands-on company," Naboicheck said. "We're involved in everything from scheduling trucks in the morning to new product introductions. Skip and I are having conversations with new stores, and going out and doing the training."

The family-run, non-union shop offers the Naboichecks a lot of flexibility, and the ability to react to a customer's needs more quickly.

"If you were a retailer and you gave me an idea, we would probably be able to put that into a product and get it into production right after lunch," Naboicheck said. "If you're a big 'S' brand with multiple factories all over the country, it might take months to get through to management at all levels and get changes done."

Henry "Skip" Naboicheck, who at almost 30 years old represents the next generation at Gold Bond, is heading up the company's efforts to expand into western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, the Carolinas and northern Florida. He is out on the road regularly with his sales people.

"We try to capture the audience not just four times a year at trade shows," Skip Naboicheck said. "We need to be in front of our customers more than that."

Skip Naboicheck, who remembers traveling with his father on sales calls as a young boy, has faith in the product Gold Bond sells.

"We build our product using better raw materials, so it's rare we have a warranty issue," he said. "We don't want to take the product back."

Naboicheck said if there's a warranty issue, Gold Bond will have a conversation with the retailer in the hope of coming to an agreeable resolution.

"In most cases, we try to help someone out," he said. "We're looking long term; we're not just looking at this month. We're looking at the next 100 years."

Dave Perry, executive editor of the weekly business-to-business trade publication Furniture/Today, said the quality of Gold Bond's two-sided mattresses stand out in a time when other producers are looking for ways to cut costs.

Perry said Gold Bond stands apart from many other producers because it is not owned by private equity owners.

"Bob Naboicheck is a veteran bedding operator who knows all facets of the business and also happens to be one of the hardest-working executives in the industry, traveling tirelessly to educate his dealers about his futon and mattress lines," Perry said.

Perry said business conditions in the mattress industry have remained challenging, forcing producers to constantly adjust to a changing market.

"Gold Bond has not been immune from those challenges, but remains focused on its core mission of emphasizing quality," he said.

Gold Bond's longtime accountant, Dave Federman of Federman, Lally & Remis in Farmington, said Bob Naboicheck is knowledgeable and adaptable.

"He is so knowledgeable about what it takes to manage his company in this very difficult environment right now," Federman said. "Because Bobby is so knowledgeable, he has managed to survive in an otherwise impossible environment."

Workers at Gold Bond's Hartford plant can customize an order quickly, meeting the customer's specifications months before the firm's national rivals can react.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Business Journal. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Business Journal Archives at http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/archives.php.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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