Ten years ago, some people thought we were crazy to take on the domestics mills and well established players in the bedding market but crazy or not, the people in this industry were willing to take a chance on us, a new company with a singular vision. And because of the support of a wide variety of retail customers ranging from small independent specialty stores to national specialty store chains and department store operations Veratex has become a successful supplier of upscale bedroom ensembles, bath products and home accessories. We are especially grateful to the specialty stores, both independent ”mom-and-pops" as well as larger specialty chains, for supporting our efforts with a steady and continuously growing stream of orders, right from the beginning!
Veratex has grown and prospered by attracting talented executives and employees from many segments of the business. We have great people, and every single person here contributes to the success of our company. We treasure and recognize their entrepreneurial spirit.
Even our competitors played a role in our success: as they improved their businesses and diversified their product lines, we had to work harder to maintain a unique point of view. Our competitors are some of the best manufacturers in the world, so we are always striving to do better.
Looking ahead, we recognize that challenges and opportunities abound. The home fashions industry of today bears little resemblance to the industry of 10 years ago; we have every expectation that the pace of change will continue or even accelerate. Here at Veratex, we are making the investments necessary to position ourselves for the future and ensure that we remain an important and viable supplier.
Veratex owes its success to the people in this business: to our employees, to our sales associates, to our suppliers, to our competitors, and most of all, to our retail customers. On behalf of everyone at Veratex and myself, I thank you for 10 wonderful years. We look forward to many more anniversaries!
Veratex grows by focusing on upscale jacquard constructions, attractive designs and luxurious embellishments It all started 10 years ago when Avi Cohen couldn't find bedding that he liked.
The Israeli born entrepreneur, owner of a small chain of pet shops, scoured the department and specialty stores in southern California trying to furnish his home. But he didn't find anything to suit his tastes. So he turned to his wife and said, "I can do that!"
The rest, as they say, is history: Cohen founded Veratex in 1992, and in 10 years, the company has become a leading supplier of opulent coordinated bedroom ensembles, beautiful bath fashions and decorative home accessories. Starting a home furnishings company in the early '90s was "kind of tough" Cohen admits, noting that Veratex faced stiff competition from leading domestics mills and independent bedding suppliers. But Cohen was already an experienced entrepreneur: when he left Israel and came to California in 1980, he had just $500 in his pocket. He started working as an automotive electrician until he met two men who rebuilt automotive parts such as alternators and starters. Cohen began selling their products, and convinced the pair to invest in a truck. Within a year, Cohen had opened an automotive parts factory.
In 1985, however, Cohen turned his attention to the retail trade. "My wife and I loved animals, so we decided to open a pet store specializing in exotic parrots," he recalls. "Within six months, the first store was doing more business than the factory, so I sold the factory and opened two more pet shops."
Cohen might still be a pet purveyor had he not gotten the itch to redecorate. "It seemed like there was a real void in the bedding market," he points out. "I figured that if I couldn't find bedding that I liked, other people must not be able to find bedding that they liked." Cohen's father introduced him to an Israeli executive who ran a fabric mill, and Veratex was born.
"Our first container load was a disaster," Cohen asserts. "We learned our first and most important lesson ugly stuff doesn't sell!"
Cohen opened a small, 400 square foot cut and sew manufacturing facility in Los Angeles and began importing piece goods. After three months, he expanded to 1,200 square feet; grew to 5,000 square feet by the end of the first year , and more than doubled capacity the following year, to 12,000 square feet. The company continued to expand steadily.
"At first our growth was very slow, but we kept reinvesting all of our money into the business, using better fabrics and higher quality fabrications," he says. "We started to gain placement in the small independent specialty stores and some of larger specialty chains on the West Coast and in Canada. We were really encouraged by our retail customers they really believed in us and supported our efforts.
"In 1994, we introduced our first woven jacquard bedding," Cohen continues. "We sold Botanica to Strouds, and it became a number one seller. That was when our business really took off."
Veratex began attracting attention from national retailers, and Cohen realized he needed seasoned executives to help expand the business. One of the first people he hired was bedding maven Scott Schwarz, a well known former domestics mill executive. Schwarz subsequently left Veratex to pursue other opportunities in the industry. "One of our biggest challenges was to attract talented people to take this business to the next level," Cohen explains. "We were fortunate to get some great people to join us, and they have really been responsible for our success. Our success is really our people's success. I believe in surrounding myself with the best people, and letting them to their jobs."
Cohen points to industry veteran Dale Talbert as an example. "Dale has really been instrumental in building our business and our sales team," Cohen notes.
Talbert points out, "The industry has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, and we have had to work very hard to stay ahead of those changes. With the continuing consolidation at retail, there are far fewer people to sell, and we are constantly improving our products, our erchandising and our service in order to maintain our position and grow."
Cohen remarks, "The business is still there if you know people and they trust you and your products are right, they will give you the business. We do whatever needs to be done to gain our customer's trust. We guarantee our products 100 percent. Even if we lose money, it is more important that we keep our word so that the retailers trust us. "You have to have the right product," Cohen is quick to add. "Our focus has been on providing opulent looks at reasonable price points. Everything here starts with the product our mission is to provide the consumer with beautiful, well designed, high quality products. We are always coming up with something new: woven jacquards, our signature tassels, deluxe cords, and high thread count sateen sheets. Even when the economy is slow, people will spend money on a really special item they wi I I buy if the product is new and interesting."
This philosophy has led to steady expansion in the company's retail customer base as well as its manufacturing capabilities. "We have grown to the point where we can service the larger national chains," Talbert says. "A year and a half ago, we tripled our facilities, going from 50,000 square feet to 150,000 square feet. Now, we're in escrow to add another 50,000 square feet, so we wi I I have a total of 200,000 square feet."
The expansion dramatically improved Veratex's service and delivery. "We deliver as well as any bedding company in the industry," Talbert asserts. "The new facilities have allowed us to increase our business with our existing customers, as well as go after new, larger customers, because we can invest in the inventory to service those customers." Cohen comments, "We're a private company, so we don't have to answer to shareholders or a board of directors. We can take the risk and make the decisions necessary to build our business." Veratex is expaRding into new product categories, including coordinated bath fashions and freestanding window treatments. "Just as Avi originally identified a void in the market for better bedding, there is a void for better bath," Talbert states. "We introduced our first bath products a year ago, taking the same upscale, luxurious approach as we do with our bedding."
Cohen notes, "We make it easier for the consumer to decorate, because we are offering them a complete package. It also makes it easier for the retailers to buy from us, because we are more of a one stop shop."
Veratex took a bold step to showcase its expansion last year, opening up a massive 11,000 square foot, street level showroom at 303 5th Avenue in New York. "When you are in the fashion business, you have to present the proper image," Cohen explains. "We don't want just any old showroom we want a showroom that makes a statement about who we are and where we are going.
"We are pursuing our own, unique vision," he adds. "We believe the only way we will continue to grow is to stay true to our convictions."
Intricate woven designs, opulent embellishments, tasteful color tones and sumptuously soft textures are the key ingredients in any Veratex bedroom ensemble. "We try to create elegant, classic looks for consumers," says Veratex president and founder Avi Cohen. "Too often, home textiles companies only come out with what they can produce, and they don't think about what the consumer likes. We are constantly challenging ourselves to think like a consumer."
Veratex is known for providing elegant ensembles that incorporate a variety of different fabrics and trims. "We use multiple coordinating jacquard fabrics in every ensemble, as well as decorative cording and our signature tassels," notes vice president Dale Talbert. "Also, we were one of the first bedding companies to offer 240 thread count sateen sheets with every ensemble."
The heart of Veratex's business is a continually evolving assortment of new designs and fabrications: the company upgraded its regular sateen sheets to 250 thread count, and is developing an extensive range of new designs including chic contemporary patterns, elegant embroidery styles and comfortable casual fashions.
Veratex sources fabrics both domestically and overseas. This enables the company to maintain a fashion forward look at competitive prices, according to Cohen. "Retailers come to Veratex because they are looking for something new and different," he explains. "We source all over the world to find the highest quality fabrics and trims so that our product is unique and special."
In addition to its core line of upscale merchandise for the department and specialty stores, Veratex offers a separate collection of bedroom fashions under its Beverly Glen label, specifically tailored to meet the needs of large national chains. "We found that some customers were going to our competitors saying I Like the look of Veratex, but I want something less expensive' Cohen says. "Therefore, we developed our own, lower cost version of our look. Our customers can get the Veratex look and Veratex quality, but at lower price points."
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Veratex is continuing to develop more luxurious fabrications. "We are introducing our Anniversary collection of 350 thread count jacquard sateen sheets and accessories in seven solid colors," Talbert points out. "And, as a thank you to the industry, the sheets will retail for $100 for the queen set. It is our way of pushing the envelope and moving the business forward."
Veratex is plunging into the bath business. Well established as a leading supplier of lavish bedroom ensembles, Veratex is immersing itself in the intricacies of decorative bath fashions. "We feel there is more opportunity in the market for beautiful, opulent bath fashions," explains Veratex president Avi Cohen. "We have been so successful with this look in bedding; I feel it is time to bring our design expertise into the bath."
Veratex introduced its first bath ensembles a year ago, and the initial response has been very positive. "Bath is the next logical extension for our business," remarks Dale Talbert, vice president. "Because there are relatively few players in the industry offering better bath products, our retail customers suggested we get into the business. So far, we've been very pleased with their response to the line we see bath as a real growth opportunity for the company. "Barbara Wright, director of bath and licensing, points out that the bath collections are designed to harmonize with Veratex's bedding patterns, not necessarily match them directly. "Many buyers like to coordinate bed and bath ensembles, but the bath products also have to stand on their own," she says. "We're creating classic looks that can either be sold as freestanding bath ensembles, or mix and match with our bedding patterns." Veratex is sourcing its bath products in a variety of different countries, in order to present a complete range of merchandise. "We are offering bath accessories in metal, ceramic, glass and high quality resin to complement our shower curtains," Wright notes. "We also manufacture our own embellished towels to coordinate." Cohen adds, "Consumers like it when the products are all pulled together they look at a suit on a mannequin and also buy the shirt and tie. We are taking a similar approach. We are coordinating our bed and bath products, and making it easier for consumers to create a decorative look for their home."
Large retailers and manufacturers in the home furnishings industry have invested billions of dollars in computer hardware and software systems to facilitate forecasting, order processing, shipments and payments. How can smaller companies compete with that?
Veratex is "looking for the little guys" with a new computerized ordering system on its Web site, www.veratex.com. "The first people to give us orders were the small specialty stores, the 'mom-and-pops" recalls Veratex president Avi Cohen. "They were loyal to us and helped us build our business. Now, we are repaying their loyalty by making it easier for them to do business."
Retailers can access an online ordering system with their name and a password, which they receive through Veratex's customer service.
The system allows them to place an order, view the status of an order and receive advance ship notices. The site also incorporates an online credit application and email confirmation of all orders. The online ordering system is connected directly to Veratex's production network, so that retailers can view where an order is in the production cycle. "Our customers can view current items and prices online, and once they place an order on the Web site, it is automatically put into our production scheduling system," explains vice president Dale Talbert. "We update the system daily, so retailers can view where their orders are in the production cycle. "This gives small retailers many of the same advantages that larger retailers have with EDI," Talbert adds. "It
saves time and eliminates errors, because the orders don't have to be entered manually. Also, it gives smaller stores access to special deals and closeouts."
Cohen, who calls the system "EDI for everyone," points out, "We believe the independent specialty stores are an important part of the market, and they have been instrumental in our success. By making this available to them, it levels the playing field somewhat and makes them more competitive. As their business grows, our business with them grows. This is our definition of the word 'partnership."'
Veratex executives enjoyed the past 10 years of unprecedented growth and expansion but they aren't stopping to rest now. Veratex is positioning itself for future growth, building on a firm foundation of product innovation, exceptional quality, superior service and personal integrity.
"We're not interested in growth just for growth's sake," explains Avi Cohen, president and founder. "We want profitable growth, both for ourselves and for our retail partners. " We are constantly striving to make this company all that we think it can and should be," Cohen continues. 'We need to offer the right merchandise, the best quality and the most reliable customer service. That's how we've gotten so far, so fast."
Veratex is continuing to broaden its product mix and customer base, and also is reaching out to the ultimate consumer. "We realize it will take a substantial investment in time and money, but we are in this for the long haul," Cohen remarks. "We believe the only way to grow is to offer innovative designs, better product and value. This is what we want the Veratex brand to mean to the consumer. "It's been a fun ride and we are going to continue to take an aggressive approach to the market,' he concludes. "Tomorrow is a new day."