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From Home Furnishing Business

Take 5: Mark Kinsley President and CEO, Englander

It’s probably safe to assume Mark Kinsley is the only former television news anchor and radio talk show host to become CEO of a Top 15 bedding producer.

It’s not that he lacked mattress industry experience when he was hired last year for the top job at Englander – he spearheaded marketing efforts for Leggett & Platt’s bedding group for five years – but he hardly followed the traditional path to the CEO suite.

After his successful stints in television and radio in Joplin, Missouri, he progressed through a series of marketing, advertising and public relations agency posts, and then was hired by Leggett & Platt in early 2014. He was named president of Englander in January 2019, and the CEO title was added six months later following the retirement of veteran industry executive Kevin Toman.

The 38-year-old Kinsley has been putting all of his marketing and product development skills to good use for the past several months planning the re-launch of the Englander brand at this month’s Las Vegas Market – the mattress industry’s most important trade show. He recently spoke with Home Furnishings Business about Englander’s reboot, the disruption caused by online mattress sales, and the popular Dos Marcos podcast he does with Mark Quinn, his friend and former boss at Leggett & Platt. (Quinn left Leggett in 2016 to become co-founder of highend mattress brand Spink & Co.)

HOME FURNISHINGS BUSINESS: What is Englander’s strategy to stay competitive with direct-to-consumer brands such as Casper and Purple, as well as legacy brands such as Simmons, Serta and Sealy?

MARK KINSLEY: One of the major things we’re doing is taking the brand up-market. The online marketplace is very commodity-oriented, which is driving unit growth, but when people are making a more considered purchase, they still want to touch it and feel it. So, we decided to take Englander up-market with retail price points of $1,000 to $2,000 and above. At this time, we’re not going to try to play in that mosh pit (of lower price points).

The Las Vegas Market – where we have completely remodeled our showroom -- will also mark the launch of Englander’s first true national line in over two decades. That gives us consistent product across the country. So, if you love it, and you live in New York, you can recommend it to your Mom who lives in California.

From a retail standpoint -- and this is a huge issue -- we haven’t had the same product on our website that you can see in stores. But by developing a national line, all those products will be represented on our website, along with all the selling materials you will see at retail. We know that has been a very big friction point in the selling process.

HFB: Are your licensees fully supportive of this change?

KINSLEY: Yes. Operationally, we are very sound. It is the foundation for us to really grow our business. We’re a little different than the other licensing organizations in that our factories own the Englander brand. We have three owners, and among those three owners, we have 12 factories. We can cover the entire United States. We have all of our territories defined, so we’re truly set up well from an operational standpoint to cover the U.S. Our distribution does not overlap. We keep it very clean.

HFB: Brick and mortar retailers get about 15% of their total sales from mattresses, but that figure may be trending down. What are you doing to get back some of that market share?

KINSLEY: We surveyed retailers to get an idea of what they needed to be successful, and overwhelmingly, they said they need imagery, video and digital assets in the social and digital marketplace. So, we’re going to provide those assets for them. We want to provide them with creative ideas and become a hub of creative activity that inspires their thinking.

We have a real connection with our retail partners. We listen to them. Consumers are often confused. They don’t know if they’re getting a good deal. They don’t know what mattress is really good for them.

We also have to emphasize what makes us uniquely Englander. We were the first company of any size to launch latex. We did it way back when we were owned by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and we’re still known for latex in the marketplace.

When I talk to friends in the industry, they overwhelmingly tell me they sleep on some combination of latex. So we’re going to tell people they can sleep on the same material that mattress industry insiders sleep on. And here’s why: It feels phenomenal, and the mattresses are very durable.

I talk to a lot of people who have made an online mattress purchase, and 100 percent of the time they say, “It’s all right.” Nobody has ever said, “It changed my life.” So we’re going to create product that gives people that life-changing experience. We want them to say, “I didn’t know there was anything this good.” We want to attract people to come back into the marketplace, including people who have purchased an online mattress but are wondering if there’s something better. Our overall objective is to simplify the product, simplify the selling process, and make a product that (our retail partners) are not going to get a phone call from an angry customer.

HFB: So it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing any Englander bed-in-a-box product anytime soon?

KINSLEY: Not anytime soon. But if the marketplace pushes us in that direction, we’re going to have to respond. For now, we’re firmly committed to growing our retailers’ business -- local, regional and national accounts. We’re not really focused on online sales now, but we’re realistic, and we realize what is happening in the online space.

HFB: Has being the youngest CEO in the mattress industry – by far – worked against you?

KINSLEY: No, it hasn’t worked against me. People have been encouraging and welcoming. What I bring to the table is being more plugged into what is happening in the digital world. But the real test of any person in a new position is results. We’re getting ready to relaunch the brand with products, new logos, new marketing materials and a new showroom. Our ability to push those into the retail environment will be the real test.

HFB: What led you to start a podcast?

KINSLEY: I told my friend Mark Quinn (my boss at the time) that we should do a podcast. It’s the medium for the modern age. People can listen while they’re working out or cleaning the house or driving to work. And they can do it on demand.

His reaction was “a Podcast? What it is going to be about?” And I said it will be about the mattress industry, but we’ll have a little fun with it. With my broadcasting background, I was familiar with the technical side of things, so he said “whatever” (laughter), and we ran with it. Now we look up and we have recorded 135 episodes over the past four years. And we actually have sponsors now -- PureCare and Nationwide Marketing Group. Nationwide is very much in line with the goals we have and Englander, since both Nationwide and Englander are focused on independent retailers.

We now have about 1,000 subscribers per episode. It’s not a huge audience compared to a lot of other podcasts, but it’s the right sets of ears. It’s high impact.

HFB: Since you and Mark Quinn are now competitors, has that changed the dynamics of the podcast?

KINSLEY: Although we both head up mattress brands, we compete in different segments of the marketplace. His product line at Spink & Company is basically $3,500 and up, so even though Englander is moving up-market, we don’t step on each other’s toes. And we even try to promote each other when it makes sense.

Mark was actually my boss at Leggett & Platt. He was the one who got me into the mattress industry. He introduced me to everybody, and it just took off from there. So when he left the company to start the Spink brand in the U.S. market, I took over his position at Leggett.

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