Larry Miller, CEO of Sit’n Sleep, started the business with his dad back in 1978, and the early days were tough.
They were lean, but they stuck with it and the business has grown massively since then—to the point where it is now one of the largest mattress retailers in Southern California. Along the way, Miller himself has become quite the celebrity in Southern California through his famous pledge to beat anyone’s advertised price or your mattress is free.
Today Sit ‘n Sleep has 38 superstores—with an average size of over 8,000-square-feet. They span across the entire Los Angeles metro area from Orange county out to San Bernardino and Riverside.
In a recent conversation with Goodbed’s Mike Magnuson and Jeff Cassidy on the Mike It Up Show, Miller had some insightful information to share with the industry. We’ve rounded up some of the best advice he offered so you can use it to grow your business as well.
On the customer journey, how it’s changed during the pandemic and which of those changes are likely to last beyond, he said:
“I think that the digital world is here to stay. You have to be able to impart information and sell digitally to be successful. Look, we’re agnostic, they can buy by phone or they can buy online. We’d certainly prefer that they come into our stores because it’s really kind of hard to buy a bed that you’ve never tried. And it leads to more consumer dissatisfaction. But if they want it that way, we’ll give it to them. We got to sell the way the consumer wants to buy. If we don’t change, we’re dead in our water.
“Most consumers are coming in after gaining some information online or through friends. We want consumers for life; we don’t want guests to come in one time and buy. If we’ve done a good job with all of those things they’ll be more comfortable, better informed—which we want— and more likely to make the right choice for their mattress.
“There’s much more information at consumers’ fingertips, and it just encourages us to continue this direction of being straight, honest, and informative. That’ll win the battle long term with the consumer—just do the right thing by them. Treat them the way we want to be treated. I haven’t noticed a particular decrease in the amount of time the consumers are spending in the store, but I think that consumers don’t want to shop around as much as they used to.
“We see consumers coming in well educated, ready to make a decision and if we give them the right reasons to make the purchase, they will do that. So the closing ratio is better now than it was before, and our tickets have grown considerably, so we’re seeing some dynamic changes. I think a lot of consumers have delayed purchasing a mattress over the years, they’ve been home staying in bed more and they’re concentrating on the home more, the travel, restaurants, sporting events, ways to spend the money, so I think the home furnishings industry and mattresses have gotten a bigger share of the consumer dollar.”
He also shared some of the changes they’re doing digitally that had the biggest impact on getting the business through the pandemic:
“We changed the tonality of our advertising completely, talking about providing the goods and services they need and want immediately. And you know talking about us, once we reopened, a safe environment, personal protective devices we give the consumer, a clean safe store environment, mask requirements, a hand sanitizer, all of them make the consumer feel more comfortable coming back to the shopping cycle.
“It’s certainly beneficial for every retailer to get the consumer in because it’s very possible that they’ll think they’re going to buy a $999, but when they see the quality difference of a $1599 or a $1999 or more, they might get that. They’re not going to see the quality difference online, and it’s a little easier when you’re speaking to the consumer to explain it.”
Speaking of online brands, Miller said he sees a difference in the way consumers like to shop in the store:
“I think the biggest risk is retailers not touching all the bases, not being prepared, and not being ready for the consumer of 2021 and on. I think that we can write our own tickets of success or failure, depending upon what actions we take to invest in our businesses and to fulfill the consumer’s wants, wishes, and demands in a great way, in a pleasant way, and be as positive as possible.
“It’s important to know how the consumer wants to shop, the products that they want, and be attuned to the heartbeat of the consumer. If you’ve got all that going for you, you have a greater chance of success. And also investing in people is critical, I mean probably our most important assets are all the Sit ‘n Sleep people that work throughout our chain, people in delivery, the people in accounting, and customer service are critical to the success of this business and everybody’s business.”
To help recruit great people, Miller said he does a few things:
“Our pay scale is among the best in the industry or maybe the best, I don’t know. But certainly, in our Southern California environment, it’s the best. What we try to do is give our associates the right health care package, the right 401k, and more every year. I would love associates to come work for us for 25 years and walk away with a lot of money in the 401k—we have a lot of people in the 20-year plus category right now.
We take care of them, I think they’ll take good care of us. I think it’s a symbiotic relationship and understanding that it’s not us against them at all. It’s us with them trying to fulfill what the consumers want, that’ll bring success. We’re all on the same team. Fortunately, for Nelson and I, whether they’re cleaning a toilet, lifting something, we understand that, and we’ve done it all. We’ve done the delivery, we’ve sold on the floor, we cleaned toilets, we’ve dealt with uploaded trucks, whatever has to be done, we’ve done. So we have empathy for everybody in the company, and the same is true for Drew, Nate, and Jeremy. So all of our future leadership understands, appreciates, and respects each associate here.”
Finally, Miller listed off a few things he wishes fellow retailers would get on board with so everyone can benefit.
“I think we’ve done a poor job of selling sleep and the importance of sleep. I don’t think we’ve done a good job of extolling the benefits of a great night’s sleep and educating the consumer as to how it can improve their quality of life, their mental acuity, their production, and their personal relationships with family, wives, friends or whatever. It’s just a very important component of life, and I don’t think we talk enough about that.”
Miller is a pro, and with over 40 years of experience, he’s seen the industry go through many changes. Follow and build on his advice, and you’ll be on your way to success.
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