There is no greater visual to show how much Corsicana has changed in recent years than the evolution of its Las Vegas Showroom. Just two years ago, market attendees looking to catch up with the Texas-based manufacturer walked into a big open space—one nearly unadorned save for endless rows of white rectangles. These days, the Corsicana showroom is an entirely new experience. Entering the space, retailers are greeted by colorful vignettes, eye-catching branding and cohesive, consumer-oriented story-telling. This refresh is about much more than just aesthetics though—the new look reflects a much larger overhaul of the entire Corsicana brand.
Once known as a low-cost private label company, under new leadership Corsicana has since emerged as a highly-analytical operation focused on delivering greater retail margins through a contemporary portfolio of well-branded product alternatives. Driven by consumer data and unparalleled manufacturing efficiencies, the company offers proven product differentiation and comprehensive support in today’s dynamic marketplace. As it continues to build not just momentum but real relevance, Corsicana remains committed to its simple yet powerful mission statement: “to make everyday life better for hardworking Americans by delivering on its promise to provide outstanding sleep at an unbeatable value.” Founded in 1971, Corsicana has made a name for itself supplying retail partners with low-cost private label bedding products—a position that served both the brand and the industry well. But by 2018, the marketplace had changed and it was time for Corsicana to do the same.
With the arrival of Michael Thompson, CEO; Mike Loomis, VP of product development & innovation; and Karen Baartmans, director of marketing, Corsicana started to set in motion a new vision for the brand.
A Thoughtful, Data-Backed Approach
A large part of Corsicana’s recent evolution included taking a more analytical approach across all aspects of the company. The new leadership team collaborated with a number of external experts to fully understand the company culture and bedding consumers. They engaged Denison Consulting to administer its Organizational Culture Survey, which is designed to measure the “underlying beliefs, values and engagement of an organization, as well as the practices and behaviors that exemplify and reinforce them.” With these data-driven insights, the company determined a consensus for what the Corsicana brand stood for and gave the team a guideline for moving forward. Since then, the company has been committed to creating a “high performing, motivating” culture—with annual surveys to ensure that this commitment is being met.
The new vision for the company is driven by what Thompson calls the ‘5 Es’: Energy, Edge, Enthusiasm, Engagement and Execution. These attributes do more than simply reflect the company culture—they have helped drive its strategic plan as well. Set in place just 20 months ago, this plan fully reimagined Corsicana’s position in the industry. While the company’s private label capabilities are still available to retailers today, that customer solution is now just “one arrow in its quiver,” Thompson says.
In order to effectively shift its focus onto branded products, Corsicana first invested in comprehensive consumer research and insights. One of the first stages of the new strategic plan included a robust attitude and usage study. By identifying key bedding consumer segments—the cost-conscious consumer, the healthy sleep fanatic, the ecommerce connoisseur and the ultimate comfort-driven consumer—the brand was poised to build its new portfolio based on real consumer needs. From there, the company implemented new product development practices to engage both customers and consumers for feedback. This collaborative approach ensures that the products Corsicana sends out to market actually fill the need gaps identified by the segmentation research.
Through these processes, Corsicana refined its low-cost collections—Sleep Inc. and American Bedding—and developed new product options that would hit different price points and connect with new consumers. First, the Renue Collection was designed to target the “healthy sleep fanatics.” Made with copper-infused foams, it delivers a powerful antimicrobial story in addition to centering around the rejuvenating health benefits associated with a good night’s sleep.
But it’s the NightsBridge Collection that really crystallizes the new ethos of Corsicana. Targeting the “ultimate comfort-driven consumer,” this line offers high-end features that have traditionally been associated with luxury pricing—including gel-infused memory foam, responsive SensICE covers and microcoils—at a much more approachable price point. “You couldn’t buy a bed with micro-coils for under $2,000 a couple of years ago,” Loomis explains. “Now we have them in beds that retail for $799 or $599 even.” But the lower price tag for consumers doesn’t mean a loss for retailers—in fact, the company assures that higher retail margins are built into its programs.
Initially intended to be a three year product roll-out, the company was able to achieve all of its goals in just 16 months—putting Corsicana in a unique position to tackle the challenges posed by the shut-down caused by the coronavirus pandemic. While a lot of bedding manufacturers were sent scrambling as brick-and-mortar stores closed, Corsicana already had the right programs and shipping infrastructure in place to support retailers switching gears towards ecommerce.
Over the past two years, Corsicana has outfitted three of its facilities with new compression pack equipment. And in January, it launched 25 boxed bed options across all brands and price points—creating a new level of differentiation within its offerings and the boxed bed category itself.
The growth of ecommerce and boxed delivery has certainly thrown the industry into flux over the past decade. But more recently, brands that were once considered disrupters are now discovering the limits to their relevance. “The bed-in-a-box came on very strong only to find out that if you don’t have a vastly differentiated product solution, you can’t make money,” Thompson explains. “Salient differentiation creates margin opportunity, which puts you into a virtuous cycle of growth and development as a company.”
Lean Deployment Keeps Value High And Prices Low
In addition to the product launches, Corsicana also unveiled new shipping and marketing options in January. The company can now take an order from anywhere in the country and ship the mattress to the customer’s store, the consumer’s home or any other location. And each collection comes with a host of digital assets—videos, images and copy—for any retailers looking to enhance or launch their own ecommerce operations.
“Our bed-in-a-box offerings gave us a value-added solution for our retailers,” says Baartmans. “We’re ready to help them if they already have ecommerce solutions or if they’re new to it. We give them turn-key solutions from opening price point up to a luxury product line. We have a variety of offerings for any of our retail partners and we’re ready to ship. We have digital assets ready if they need that to set up their ecommerce site. If they aren’t already set up for an ecommerce business strategy, and they’re in need of consulting, we’re here for them as well.”
The key to offering luxury, differentiated features at such affordable prices is one of Corsicana’s core strategies—known as “lean deployment.” This set of best practices is organized around four areas: sourcing, manufacturing, scheduling logistics and freight. Within each category, the company has implemented strategic initiatives that work to optimize efficiency. For example: Corsicana recently switched from purchasing all of its component parts domestically to sourcing them from over nine different countries all over the world.
“We are implementing, I wouldn’t even call them evolutionary, I’d call them revolutionary ways to transform our operations,” Thompson explains.
“By having great research, great product development, then validating that product development and driving lean deployment or operational excellence around the enterprise, we can offer products that we know resonate with consumers at extraordinarily compelling values.”
—Michael Thompson, CEO of Corsicana Mattress
This intersection of resonance and value is at the core of Corsicana’s business. The company is focused on the areas that will really serve its customers and consumers. While some bedding brands spend hundreds of dollars per mattress on marketing and advertising, Thompson sees this as an expense that eventually gets passed along to the consumer.
“There’s a lot of rhetoric throughout the industry,” he explains. “There’s a lot of rhetoric in the marketing and that is ultimately paid for by the consumer. We will not participate in that.”
A Consultative Approach
Instead, the company utilizes its research and analytics capabilities to steer its product development and hold itself accountable. This new approach has allowed Corsicana to completely transform its selling strategy from transaction-oriented to consultative.
Take the four consumer segments that informed Corsicana’s product portfolio. The company has insights on those categories that go all the way down to the zip code level—meaning, its research can identify the segments that make up the consumer composition around the radius of any individual retail store. In turn, the company can offer more informed insights on which products will maximize the retailer’s rate of return. Rather than indiscriminately pushing one collection to all of its retailers, Corsicana can work with each partner to create a merchandising mix that is more likely to connect with the consumers in their area based on concrete data. For its private label customers, these insights help create more compelling collections, with features and benefits that directly appeal to the consumers in their area. By linking all this segmentation research with third-party data from Mosaic, a machine learning and AI consulting firm, Corsicana can provide even more insights—including psychographics, demographics, attitudinal and behavioral elements—to help retailers more precisely market their offerings.
The research doesn’t stop once the mattresses are placed either. Corsicana is able to track the velocity for every single one of its beds on retail floors and online. By monitoring the analytics on each placement, the company can once again offer more informed direction to its customers.
Inadvertently Prepared For The Pandemic
While no one could have seen it coming, Corsicana’s new positioning, unique consumer insights and lean approach to manufacturing and logistics have helped it not only survive during a global crisis—but successfully contribute to relief efforts as well.
After months of great transformation and momentum-building, Corsicana was—along with everyone across the world—thrown for a loop thanks to the coronavirus. With the onset of the pandemic, the company was forced to step back and evaluate its position in the industry and responsibility to the wider world. Early on, Corsicana was in communication with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with relief efforts, making beds for hospitals, make-shift medical facilities and accommodations for displaced military families.
“We felt, as a company and certainly as an executive team, that Corsicana had a demonstrated track-record of speed and flexibility to address the unique manufacturing needs that we thought were going to come at us,” Thompson explains.
As such, the company was deemed essential, with just one of its nine plants furloughed for the month of April (that location has since been re-opened). In order to safely meet the needs of both the market and the relief efforts, Corsicana first had to create and follow rigid safety guidelines. These included social distancing, staggering breaks, hand washing, sterilizing workspaces and wearing face masks, while regular communication between company leadership and the facilities ensured that these best practices were adequately maintained.
However, keeping busy during this time did not fully inoculate the company from the financial impact of the pandemic—it was not possible to operate with the same overhead levels as before. Through sliding scale salary reductions, selective furloughing, reduced hours and curtailed discretionary spending, the company was able to maintain all of its operations.
“These types of events are either culture-building or culture-deteriorating. It’s all in how you handle it,” says Thompson. “And for us, I don’t think we’ve missed a beat. This team has been at Corsicana for about 20 months now, integrating into the existing team and building upon a very solid foundation to create a tremendous amount of momentum—not only within our company but within the trade and ultimately to consumers. We were being rewarded for that with new business opportunities. And I would say that, over the last 90 days anyway, we have continued to increase our relevance in the marketplace and the culture-building within the company.”
Over the course of the last two years, Corsicana has overhauled its product portfolio, production capabilities, branding approach and overall ethos. With a significant investment in consumer research and lean manufacturing, Corsicana has become an ideal partner for today’s ever-evolving industry; it is data-informed and flexible, prepared to support retailers with meaningful features and quick turn-around times. By blending this fact-based, analytical mindset with an ongoing commitment to delivering better products and better value, Corsicana has truly set itself apart from its competition. This approach has also better prepared the brand to overcome challenges as they arise.
“Right now, it’s a fascinating industry in a great amount of flux or change. And one thing I’ve always said about Corsicana is: the more change, the better off we are. We’ve gone through a neck-snapping two years and now we have that foundation in place. We’re at the beginning of our journey as a company.”
—Michael Thompson, CEO of Corsicana Mattress