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Mattress manufacturer eyes the Thunder Bay market for expansion.

Mattress manufacturer eyes the Thunder Bay market for expansion

After six years at the helm of a retail furniture store, Herb Verhoeven decided it was time to take on a new challenge.

Standing in the midst of unfinished box springs and mattress coils on the production floor of his company, North Star Bedding Ltd. in Sudbury, Verhoeven joked, "We started the business at a bad time, but it just makes it that much more challenging."

Verhoeven was the owner of Furniture Unlimited for six years before selling the business and opening the manufacturing firm in 1989.

"I just thought there has to be a better system to get furniture up here," he recalled. "A lot of guys in southern Ontario said we'd never make it."

Even with the recession, the company still managed to rack up sales of approximately $400,000 on 6,000 pieces in 1990. At full production, the company's seven employees can produce 80 units per day.

However, the impressive sales figure is still "under the break-even point," according to Verhoeven.

He noted that in 1984, the last year for which figures are available, mattress sales in Ontario totalled about $74.5 million.

"If we could get 10 per cent of that (total), we'd be all right," Verhoeven said.

His Sudbury operation manufactures custom-made mattresses and box springs for furniture retailers and hotels, as well as for tourist outfitters and camps.

The products are currently marketed by a single salesman in an area stretching from Parry Sound north to Timmins and from Renfrew, near Ottawa, west to Sault Ste. Marie.

Verhoeven noted that there is little chance the market will be expanded to the south because of the plethora of manufacturers already there. However, he said there is a possibility the company will expand west to Thunder Bay, even though most of the dealers in that city purchase their goods from Winnipeg.

"I've had some enquiries from Thunder Bay," he stated.

It is North Star's competitive prices which have attracted attention to the company.

Prior to the formation of North Star Bedding, Sudbury retailers had to ship mattresses and box springs from Toronto or other southern Ontario locations. By Verhoeven's estimation, the cost of transporting a set (mattress and box spring) from Toronto to Sudbury is approximately $24.

In addition, Northern Ontario dealers are last on the pecking order when it comes to receiving goods warehoused in the south.

"If you want to get merchandise out of Toronto you need to order a truck load because Northern Ontario is a low priority for them. If someone from Toronto needs the goods, chances are they'll get it before someone from up here.

"In a sense, you can't really blame them, since that's where most of their money comes from."

Sudbury furniture dealers not only save transportation costs (which can be between 10 and 20 per cent of the price), but they can also take delivery faster from North Star Bedding. Verhoeven said he can have a mattress ready for delivery in as little as 45 minutes after receiving an order.

"With us here, retailers only need a floor sample and then call us with the order," he said.

The reason for the quick turnaround on orders is that all the components are pre-cut and ready for assembly.

The Sudbury facility orders pre-constructed coils and box spring foundations, as well as foam and quilting, from southern Ontario. The quilting is cut and sewn into top, bottom and side panels which are stored until they are needed. In Sudbury the mattress and box springs can be constructed to a customer's specifications.

"Someone can be in a store and say, |I like this mattress, but I want that design,' and all the retailer has to do is call us and we can do it," he said.

Verhoeven said he is attempting to expand his market by supplying hospitals and the federal government.

Recently Verhoeven was given the opportunity to bid on a contract to supply 100 mattresses to the federal government.

"I've been trying to get into the procurement system for some time," he said. "If I get the contract it will open a lot of doors."

In addition, he is attempting to secure specifications from the Ministry of Health and from Sudbury-area hospitals in a bid to begin supplying the institutions with mattresses.

PHOTO : Herb Verhoeven, owner of North Star Bedding Ltd. in Sudbury, uses a closer on a mattress. The machine joins the sides with the top and bottom panels of fabric.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Report on Construction; North Star Bedding Ltd.
Author:Krejlgaard, Chris
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:company profile
Date:May 1, 1991
Words:753
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