If you live in Southern California, there’s a good chance you know Larry Miller’s face and/or voice. As chairman and CEO of mattress and furniture retailer Sit ’n Sleep, Miller has appeared in radio commercials for more than 30 years and in TV ads for more than 20 years, making catchphrases such as, “Or your mattress is free!” a part of Los Angeles pop culture. Sit ’n Sleep’s commercials have made Miller a household name in Southern California, but that would never have happened if Sit ’n Sleep wasn’t one of the best and most successful mattress retailers in the region, and Miller says the company has been focused on that from day one.
Miller and his father started Sit ’n Sleep in 1978, and today the company has 33 stores throughout Southern California. Sit ’n Sleep carries well-known mattress brands including Sealy, Beautyrest, Serta, Aireloom, Tempur-Pedic, Sherwood, iComfort, Stearns & Foster and Kingsdown along with bedding, bed frames and other bedroom furniture. In everything the company does, Sit ’n Sleep strives to live up to the principles of quality service and customer satisfaction that have made it a winner with customers. “Our consumers have faith in us,” Miller says.
Miller credits partner Nelson Bercier with much of the company’s success. Bercier serves as president of Sit ’n Sleep and is responsible for all merchandising and sales functions of the company. Miller says vendors frequently tell him Bercier is one of the finest vendors in California. “Without Nelson’s guidance, participation and expertise, our growth would not have been possible,” he adds.
Miller and his father built the company from the ground up, which he says gave him an appreciation not only for the hard work that its employees put in every single day, but also keeps him focused on what truly matters. “My dad taught me one thing: Every morning when you’re shaving, look into the mirror and make sure you’re proud of who you see,” Miller says. “If you’re proud of that man, you’re doing it right.”
Being No. 1
Sit ’n Sleep’s dedication to doing things the right way always means it wants to have the best possible people working in its stores and serving customers, and that’s exactly what it has. “Our No. 1 strength is our people,” Miller says. “We have by far the best salespeople in the industry.”
In addition to having the best salespeople on the West Coast, Sit ’n Sleep works hard to keep them there and make sure they’re happy with their work. This has led to the company’s single-digit turnover rate across all of its stores, something Miller says is astonishing for the industry. “Our people are a huge strength,” he adds.
Sit ’n Sleep also boasts the largest showrooms in the marketplace, allowing it to show off more product from more brands than its nearest competitors. This means it can give major national brands and smaller manufacturers alike the level of focus and attention they need, as well as providing customers with a broader base of options. “Our selection of goods is better than anyone else in the market,” Miller says.
The other major asset Sit ’n Sleep has in its favor is the brand awareness it has cultivated over the years through its dominant TV and radio advertising campaign. One of the most prominent and popular series of ads involves Miller and a fictional accountant named “Irwin,” who frequently breaks down over Miller’s insistence that the company beat any competitor’s advertised price or the mattress is free. The character proved popular enough to begin making appearances in the company’s TV ads, and was immortalized as a bobblehead figurine during a promotional giveaway.
Miller and Bercier work hard to continually update Sit ’n Sleep’s media message with new commercials, something that is extremely important to the company and its mission to remain relevant to consumers at all times. “If we look the same as we did five years ago, we’re going to be dying,” Miller says.
That includes staying on top of the latest trends in the bedding industry, such as memory foam mattresses and adjustable beds. Miller says the company’s mission is to help guide consumers through the newest trends in the marketplace and help them find the bed or other products that meet their exact needs.
Miller says he and Bercier expect activity to increase over the next few years as consumers shake off the lingering effects of the recession. Sit ’n Sleep spent the past few years streamlining operations and eliminating excess throughout the company so that it could emerge intact from the downturn and ready to help customers. “I see that there are a lot of people that have not purchased a bed or other home furnishings over the last 10 years, so there’s a lot of pent-up demand,” Miller says.
Looking further into the future, Miller hopes Sit ’n Sleep will become a third-generation family business. He and Bercier have sons in the industry they hope will join the company soon. With the untapped demand in the marketplace and the company’s sterling reputation for quality, Sit ’n Sleep is poised to experience even greater success in the future. “I think we have a great opportunity for growth,” Miller says.