By David Gill
Founded in the same year that the First World War began, Sure Fit has grown to the point where it holds an enviable 75 percent of the market for slipcovers.
Along the way, the company—which is celebrating its 95th anniversary this year—has broadened its product line so that it has become a more comprehensive home-fashion resource. Now in Sure Fit’s line are slipcovers for a variety of different chairs, sofas, loveseats, recliners, ottomans and folding chairs; furniture throws; decorative pillows; rugs; and lamps.
The past three years have proven that even a company as old as Sure Fit can still reinvent itself and change course. Spearheading these changes has been Hugh Rovit, chief executive officer of Sure Fit since April 2006. “When I took over, the product was dated,” Rovit said in an interview with HFN. “The company was run in silos. Product decisions were being made separate of sales decisions.”
After Rovit assumed charge, Sure Fit conducted consumer research into the company and the products. “We learned that consumers are interested in slipcovers as decorative items as well as functional items,” Rovit said. “The consumers also told us that, in certain cases, price is less relevant to them than color and fabric. And we learned that Sure Fit was perceived to be dated in terms of product.”
Armed with these findings, Rovit set out to remake Sure Fit’s product line. “We began to present our line as a fashion solution,” he said. “We adopted packaging that has vivid imagery to show how the cover looked when it’s used. We designed new logos that are more descriptive and suggestive of what the product does for your home.”
This also involved transforming Sure Fit’s approach to its retail customers. “We went to the retailers and said we’ll help you merchandise our slipcovers better,” Rovit said. “We created large banners that show how the product works. We made shelf talkers and point-of-sale ads, and helped the retailers with the creative for their advertising circulars. It all centers on showing consumers how the product looks in the room.”
Sure Fit also narrowed its design offerings, which had encompassed a gamut of styles, from traditional to contemporary. The company also attacked slipcovers from an engineering standpoint, developing an new stretch fabric combining polyester and spandex that created a better fit.
Rovit also decided that Sure Fit should present itself as the slipcovering expert. “Our research showed a greater-than-70 percent unaided awareness of the brand,” he said. “Presenting ourselves as experts could take advantage of our brand equity.”
The company also adjusted its retail-channel strategy to new realities. “We saw the development of the Internet, with brick-and-mortar retailers looking for a bigger Web presence,” Rovit said. “So we developed a fulfillment center that could serve the Web sites. Then we said, ‘Let’s manage the assortment in your store mindful of how much real estate you have, and complete the assortment for you online.’ In effect, we took over the inventory risk from the retailers. But I would rather work with a retailer that doesn’t give us a lot of space and wants to supplement that space with a Web presence.”
The results have benefited not only Sure Fit’s image and product offerings, but its financials as well. “This has been a record year for sales and profitability,” said Rovit, although he declined to provide numbers. In a way, the economic downturn has proved to be a booster to the company. “The consumer has determined that these products serve a need for them at a fraction of the cost that it would take for them to decorate their whole home. This is recession-relevant,” Rovit said.
Looking ahead, he said, “My mandate is to grow this category. We need to expand not only in product offerings but at retail, and I can only do that by generating new business with our current customers.”
Among the new products Sure Fit is introducing, which extends not only its product offering but its retail reach, is the Transit Cover. “This can slip over a seat and provide consumers with clean seats on airlines and buses,” Rovit explained. Another new product, the Furniture Friend, is a cover specifically made for consumers with pets. “This can increase our space not only with core customers but with a new channel—pet retailers,” he said.
Other planned product expansions include decorative pillows and window treatments that coordinate with the slipcovers, but are sold only online so that retailers don’t have to inventory them. Rovit said, “Sure Fit wants to be a home-decor resource and an inventory expert for stores, which I will service directly from my warehouse.”