Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bed bugs mean big business for Canadian distributor

No bigger than an apple seed, the tiny bed bug is wreaking havoc across the world, with Nike the latest retailer to fall prey to an infestation that forced it to shutter its flagship Manhattan store.
But for one Canadian company, bed-bug paranoia is proving big business. Markham, Ont.-based Caber Sure Fit, which distributes mattress protection products, has seen its sales jump by 35% over the past six months.
The company has the Canadian rights to Protect-a-Bed, a line of covers that effectively encase a mattress and box spring, preventing bugs getting in and stopping them from getting out and biting if they're already there.
The company expects its protection business to double this year and now it's setting its sights on international expansion.
"Bed bugs are big business," Caber Sure Fit president Bernard Weinstein said in an interview. The company "started out as a hobby and then became a monster."
The U.S. National Pest Management Association has warned the world may be on the verge of a bed-bug pandemic. In a recent survey of members to determine the extent of the problem, 95% of companies said they had encountered an infestation in the past year.
According to Insight Pharmaceuticals, Toronto is the third-worst afflicted city in North America, behind Columbus, Ohio, and New York, while Vancouver takes the eighth spot.
Weinstein said the bulk of his business is being driven by the hotel industry, where reports of a bed-bug infestation can have a devastating impact on both revenue and reputation.
While hotels are reluctant to advertise they are using the products, they are increasingly contacting the company to protect their beds, he said.
A hotel with a problem in one room may need to shut down nine surrounding rooms to ensure the bugs don't migrate. And at the luxury end of the market, where hotels may have invested $1,000 a bed, that soon begins to add up.
"It has a major economic impact," Weinstein said. "In the good old days they would throw these things out if they had an infestation, but now it's costing them money."
Caber Sure Fit emerged in its current form after Caber Distributors bought Sure Fit Home Furnishings in February. It's now planning further expansion through acquisitions, with a target hit annual turnover of $50 million in the next two years.
Weinstein said he's currently one-third of the way there.
"Things are going well and we want to go global," he said.
"We'll go to where the bed bugs come from ... Africa, South Africa. We'll take it slowly. We have a strong balance sheet and we're well funded. The business has grown through nursing and nurturing."

Nine years ago, Weinstein, a South African native, was working in the information technology business when an old friend from South Africa contacted him and asked if he'd be interested in distributing his mattress protection product in Canada.

"I said leave me alone, but the product arrived the next day."
He said he began putting out feelers and soon realized that bed bugs would become a major problem and one that isn't going away any time soon.

The Protect-a-Bed won't stop bed bugs from infesting your home, but they will prevent an expensive mattress from becoming contaminated and needing to be thrown out.

By: Bradley Skierkowski
Sourced By: By Sharon Singleton, QMI Agency