I found this website and I think this might be the right place to ask my questions. My friends in Asia are running a e-commerce company selling furnitures and mattresses. They are very interested in the US-made
mattresses and asked me to help them search for some sales channels here to export some mattresses from US to Asia since I live in northern California. They are mostly interested in big brand names like Sealy, Simmons, and Serta. The volume of the first batch may be around 200, and everything is going well, they will get 200 or more every month after that. So my question is, with this kind of volume, should I just directly call these mattress manufactures (my guess is not since I feel the volume is not big enough), or should I just find some local mattress distributors and deal with them instead? More generally, how should I approach this whole thing?
I’d set yourself up as a retailer, contact the closest licensee to the place where you’d be shipping from for the brand in which you have an interest, and have the items dropped at your shipping company’s terminal. 200 pieces isn’t a lot - you have three-store chains doing that with vendors in a week, so I wouldn’t expect any special treatment or pricing for such a low volume.
I’m not sure why your friend would want to bring over these brands, as there are certainly better brands being produced in China, and you may have issues with warranty, so it would be worth your friend’s time when setting up a dealer account with the licensee to explain exactly what he’s planning on doing and see if there would be any potential pitfalls. You wouldn’t deal with mattress distributors - you’d find the licensee actually producing the product in your area and phone them and ask to speak with someone in the sales department and go from there, explaining your business that you’re looking to set up. Then at that point they’ll decide if they want to have dealings with you. I don’t imagine it will be much of a problem, as most of the brands you mentioned will open up five stores on a four-corner intersection.
Additionally, brands have been opening up licensee in eastern Asia, but I can’t speak specifically to the brands you mentioned. That’s why I would explain to the licensees exactly what you plan to do to make sure you don’t have issues down the road, or just in case your friend could get the same products imported from closer to China.
Thank you so much for your help. As far as I know, the profit margin of us-made mattresses (especially the big brand names) in Chinese market is very high, which is the main reason my friends are trying to bring them over to China. My follow-up questions would be, which may sounds silly since I don’t know much about the industry:
What is a licensee? and what’s the difference between a licensee and a distributor? most importantly, how do I find out the information about the licensees? will they be listed in the manufacturer’s website?
A licensee is a mattress manufacturer that has an agreement to produce mattresses for certain brands. Most mattress companies don’t own their own production facilities, but instead make arrangements with different mattress manufacturing facilities around the country to make their products (sign a license agreement, hence the term licensee). Sealy would be the one company that owns almost all of their own factories in your list (I believe with the exception of one factory on the east coast).
A distributor would be someone who buys from the licensee and then sells to retailers, usually smaller ones who don’t sell enough to deal directly with the licensees, or stores who are members of buying groups. Basically, a middleman.
They are usually listed on the company’s web site. If not, it’s not too difficult to search a bit online and find different mattress manufacturers in different regions of the country.