It’s common wisdom that when times are tough, people tend to take to the comfort of the their beds and bury their heads under their pillows. Nonetheless, it comes as a surprise to hear the executive director of Plumatex, Rodrigo Melo, claim that one of the major factors that has propelled the growth of Brazil’s second largest mattress manufacturer has been Brazil’s past economic crises.
“As incredible as it sounds, such moments always had positive results for us,” Melo exclaims. As an example, Melo flashes back to 1994 when Brazil first adopted the real as its currency as a result of hyperinflation that had reached 45 percent a month. “For a time after the implantation of the Plano Real, there were two currencies in the marketplace, the cruzeiro and the real. Consumers were incredibly confused, but we helped them by creating special conversion tables that accompanied all our products.” Plumatex did this much more quickly than its competitors. As a consequence, the company earned a lot of loyalty – and sold a lot of mattresses.
By that time, Plumatex had been around for exactly a decade. Founded in Anápolis, a booming industrial city located in the state of Goiás, the company started out supplying mattresses to small and medium-sized business in Brazil’s Central-West region. However, following its 1994 growth spurt, Plumatex felt confident enough to flex its muscles and branch out into new and unexploited markets in Brazil’s North and Northeast regions. In the late ‘90s, it inaugurated plants in Candeias and Simões Filho, two towns within close proximity of Salvador, capital of Bahia and, in 2004, it opened a third northeastern facility, this time in the state of Paraíba.
“Since 1996, a big reason for our growth has been our willingness to open affiliates in regions where the demand was really rising, but where there had never been any mattress manufacturers,” explains Melo. “When we moved to Bahia and Paraíba, we only had one or two competitors at the most. Our arrival opened up a lot of possibilities for our clients in terms of new products – and provided us with a lot of growth.”
Plumatex’s strategy proved not only sound, but prophetic. With Brazil making important strides in diminishing the historically vast discrepancy between haves and have-nots, the traditionally poor markets of the North and Northeast are now the ones that are undergoing the most dramatic expansion in the country. Anticipating even further growth, Plumatex is planning the opening of another affiliate in the state of Maranhão, which is slated to go into operation in 2012.
In the meantime, last year the company took a large step forward when it opened a plant in Três Rios, Rio de Janeiro, a move that allowed it to gain a foothold in Brazil’s massive, and lucrative, Southeast market. The opening of the Rio facility and the renovation of its preexisting plants, together with the overall boom of the Brazilian economy, has led Plumatex to experience robust annual growth rates of around 25 percent, in terms of both sales and production levels, over the last two years. At present, total production capacity is 190,000 units a month.
Just as it focuses on certain regional markets within Brazil, Plumatex also caters to a specific client base. “Around 80 percent of our clients are small and medium-sized businesses,” says Melo. “And the key to their survival in terms of competing with large retailers is to focus on differentiated products that have lots of added value.”
Plumatex provides clients with this added value in myriad ways. It does so by offering mattress lines that, featuring the latest international technology, are some of the best and most modern in the Brazilian market. In particular, Plumatex is exclusively licensed by Sealy to produce and commercialize the U.S.-based mattress giant’s products throughout the North, Northeast, and Central-West of Brazil (it shares the Southeast market with one another Sealy licensee). The company also boasts its own trucks that take care of all its transportation needs. Possessing its own fleet makes for tighter logistics and lower costs, which it can then pass on to its clients.
Equally essential is the strong emphasis that Plumatex places on its relationship with its clients. “A very important policy of ours is investing in these partnerships,” confesses Melo. “And it’s not just about our making a sale. We want to be close to our clients, to see what they need, and to follow-up with them after they make their sales. We also make an effort to help them by providing training sessions and incentives to vendors. If they really know the products, they can sell them better. And it’s important to know how to sell a differentiated product.”
STAYING IN THE VANGUARD
Differentiation in the mattress market is key and Plumatex goes to considerable lengths to stay in the vanguard in terms of both its products and its production processes. Echoing the effort it puts into its client relationships, the company also nurtures its relationships with top national and international suppliers in order to guarantee access to the best materials at reasonable prices.
“We follow all the latest trends in terms of materials,” says Melo. “We produce all types of foam including visco memory and latex foam. We’ve also developed lines such as our Unique Collection that make use of the latest high performance fabrics. Furthermore, all of our springs are produced by Leggett & Platt, the world’s leading spring manufacturer, which has the best technology in the world. Right now we’re excited because we’re going to be launching a new titanium spring made by Leggett. The fact that titanium is the most durable metal that exists means these springs will be incredibly resistant. This product is really going to revolutionize the market.”
Revolutions aside, Plumatex is pleased to have been in the market now for more than a quarter of a century – and to have thrived. Today, nationally, only one brand, Orthobom, has a higher market share than Plumatex. “We’ve come a long way for a small family-owned company,” muses Melo. “Due to our emphasis on flexibility, over time we’ve built up a roster of some of the best clients in Brazil. We’re alway very attuned to what our clients want – and are willing to supply it to them at competitive prices. After all, it’s not enough to have a good product; the clients need to have their margins as well.” Ultimately, Plumatex’s attention to the needs of its clients as well as its final consumers ensures that everyone who does business with the company can sleep easy.