BedTimes Magazine Profiles Sleep EZ

BedTimes Magazine is the leading trade publication for the
mattress industry. The magazine recently profiled Sleep EZ as a leader
in latex mattress manufacturing and sales. You can read the original
article here in the
BedTimes May 2018 Digital Edition.

Sleep EZ finds long-term success with latex
Whether it is selling in-store, online or to other mattress companies, the company sticks with its favored component

By Gary James

When presented with a tough challenge, Sleep EZ founder Larry Wolfe
typically has one response: He rolls up his sleeves and starts figuring
out what needs to be done. This was his approach in the early 1970s,
when he first started making beds by hand in a small facility near
Phoenix, and later, when he taught himself the web programming language
HTML to build his company’s first website.

A former accountant with a marketing background, Wolfe became
interested in the bedding industry after his father, Joe Wolfe, launched
Wolfe Manufacturing, a wholesale distributor of mattresses to retail
stores and hotels in the Southwest, in 1966. The business represented a
second career for his father, who had been one of the largest
homebuilders in the United States.

In 1974, seeing an opportunity to serve a niche in the Phoenix
market, Larry Wolfe left his job in the hotel industry, purchased a
tape-edger and sewing machine and began making mattresses as Paradise
Bedding. His first two customers were his father’s company and the
Salvation Army, which used his services for mattress refurbishing.

Wolfe’s business grew to encompass both manufacturing and retailing.
In 1976, he acquired the rights to the Sleep EZ brand from Vernon Autry,
the owner of a regional sleep shop chain. Recognizing that the brand
worked well as both a trademark and a mission statement, Wolfe adopted
the Sleep EZ name for his company. By 1982, he had opened four Sleep EZ
retail stores in the Phoenix area.

In 1992, Sleep EZ began producing latex mattresses at its facility in
Glendale, Arizona. The category quickly became the company’s specialty.
In the mid-1990s, Wolfe opted to close most of his retail operation and
focus his energies on factory-direct latex bedding.

“I fell in love with the product because, in my opinion, nothing
compares to it in terms of durability, comfort or sustainability,” Wolfe
says. “And I knew that we could make a quality latex bed for much less
than what was available.”

To provide local consumers with a venue for testing Sleep EZ beds,
Wolfe kept one retail showroom. Then, in 1997, he expanded his market
reach by creating a website and launching a line of drop-shippable boxed

“Other products out there had a thick, heavy core encased in a cover
that was sewn shut. They were very cumbersome to move and way too heavy
to ship,” Wolfe says. “Because our beds were composed of several thin
foam layers, with zippered covers, we had an advantage when it came to
drop shipping.”

The team running Glendale, Arizona-based Sleep EZ includes
(from left): Shawn Medlock, president; Roger Hermes, online sales and
customer service; Jodie Jackson, retail sales manager; Jeremy Mathis,
operations manager; Jim Law, online sales and customer service; and
Sterling Shelton, online sales and customer service; with Larry Wolfe,
founder, seated.

A family affair

Wolfe’s stepson, Shawn Medlock, began working at Sleep EZ in 1989
while still in school. He started in the factory, cutting, sewing and
building mattresses. Over time, he gained experience in every aspect of
the business—from sales and delivery to customer service and material
sourcing. In 2012, he was named president. With 29 years of experience,
he now runs the company, while Wolfe handles marketing, with the
assistance of an in-house information technology department.

“Three generations of Wolfes have worked in the bedding industry and
we’re heading toward our fourth,” Wolfe says, adding that he has 18
grandchildren—several nearing the age when he hopes they’ll join the

The continuity of experience extends to the company’s staff. Sleep
EZ’s plant manager, Julio CiFuentes, also has worked for the company for
35 years, and two other employees have been on the team for more than
20 years.

In every aspect of its business, Sleep EZ tries to treat its
employees, suppliers and customers like family. “We are a family
business, and we take care of our employees and other partners like
family,” Wolfe says. “We also are very down to earth. You won’t find any
corporate jargon or overbearing executive hierarchy here. All of us
pitch in and do the work.”

As one of the oldest independent mattress brands in the United
States, Sleep EZ has thrived with the support of its team and loyal
customers, Medlock adds. “Our business model is simple: Offer the best
quality, service and value possible,” he says. “Dedication to quality
always comes first, but the most important product we deliver is value,
for that is how we will be judged and remembered.”

Sleep EZ expanded its Glendale production facility in 2017,
adding 10,000 square feet and installing new compression and
roll-packing machinery. The factory’s staff includes Lance Lozez (left)
and Misael Romero, both packaging and shipping machine operators.

Listening to customers

Over the years, Sleep EZ has developed into a thriving factory-direct
provider of latex bedding with a steadily growing list of national
customers that complements a base of loyal local clients. Annual sales
are in the $10 million to $20 million range, and the growth rate over
the past five years has ranged from a high of 38% to a low of 12%. Wolfe
attributes the sales gains to the company’s presence on the internet
and mattress shoppers’ increased awareness of the advantages of latex.

“Latex is a great product with many benefits,” Wolfe says. “It
completely conforms to the contour of your body while supporting it. It
never needs turn- ing, is anti-allergenic and dust-mite resistant. It’s
also noiseless and has excellent motion isolation so you can move
without disturbing your partner.”

Responding to increased demand, Sleep EZ expanded its production
facility from 40,000 to 50,000 square feet in late 2017, adding new
compression and roll-packing machinery while also streamlining
operations. The 38-person company now serves about 30 to 60 online
customers a day, providing custom- built mattresses and toppers, as well
as do-it-yourself components for shoppers who want to build their own
latex sleep products.

Sleep EZ has succeeded for more than 40 years by staying focused and
nimble, Wolfe says. “We have an unparalleled knowledge of our niche,
having been building 100% latex mattresses since 1992,” he says. “During
that time, we have built significant trust with the consumer, which
helps us maintain long-lasting relationships.”

Sleep EZ is a customer-focused business, Wolfe says. “Every decision
we make and action we take is based on listening to our customers and
responding to their needs,” he says. “Our customers are highly educated
and do a ton of research about latex and their mattress options during
the buying process.”

Wolfe adds that the company feels a responsibility to educate
consumers who are unfamiliar with latex as a mattress component “so we
make sure to use product education as a pillar in our marketing

To help consumers with their decisions, a detailed buyer’s guide is
available on Sleep EZ’s website. The guide includes blogs on topics such
as how natural la- tex foam is made and the difference between Dunlop-
process and Talalay-process foams.

Jodie Jackson (right), retail sales manager, shows a shopper at
the company’s retail showroom in Tempe, Arizona, how the company’s foam
layers can be mixed and matched for tailored comfort and support.

A range of solutions

As Wolfe sees it, when he started selling latex bedding, blended
Talalay was considered the Cadillac of the industry, with imported
natural Dunlop trailing in demand even though it was quite a bit
cheaper. That trend then reversed, Wolfe says, with Dunlop natural latex
taking the lead, which then led Talalay manufacturers to offer a 100%
natural latex, in addition to their blended latex. “As these shifts have
occurred, we have adapted by carrying a wide range of options, so that
each consumer can find the right fit for their own needs,” he says.

The Sleep EZ line opens with four Select Sleep latex mattresses
retail priced from $625 to $1,250 in queen size. Ranging in thickness
from 7 inches to 13 inches, these mattresses feature two to four layers
of 3-inch natural Talalay latex, with a 100% cotton knit cover quilted
to 1-inch of Joma wool.

Next is the Select Sleep Organic line, with a choice of Global
Organic Latex Standard-certified 100% natural Dunlop latex or Talalay
latex with an organic cotton cover quilted to Global Organic Textile
Standard- certified eco wool. Select Sleep Organic beds are priced from
$795 to $1,250. In addition, Sleep EZ offers the innovative two-in-one
Roma model, which features one soft side and one firm side for optimal
versatility. It is priced at $750.

Sleep EZ’s best-selling price point both online and in its store is a
three-layer, 10-inch natural latex model priced at $1,600. “Our sales
ticket has held steady over the past three years because latex has not
had any significant price increases,” Wolfe says. “Our suppliers have
held our price because of our volume.”

With all the models it sells, Sleep EZ encases the foam layers in a
zippered cover, allowing consumers to change easily the order of
layers—or exchange one layer for a new one—to find the right combination
of comfort and support. Customers can do this soon after delivery, if
they’ve bought a combination that doesn’t work for them, or down the
road if their needs change. Subbing out a layer is a simple matter of
contacting Sleep EZ. After a new layer arrives in the home, the customer
can open the zippered mattress cover, swap it in and then send back the
old layer.

“The customer can easily change the order of the layers at any time
to get that ‘just right’ feel,” Wolfe says. And for queen and king
mattresses, each side can be customized at the time of order with a
firmer or softer feel at no extra charge.

The consumer’s ability to adjust and swap out components has enabled
Sleep EZ to keep its return rates below 4%. “It’s rare that we need to
take a bed back,” Medlock says.

The adjustability of Sleep EZ’s product design also enables the
company to serve plus-size customers, who sometimes have trouble finding
a bed that can accommodate their weight. “We can build a bed out of
latex that will support a 400-pound person,” Medlock says. “That extra
weight means that the top layer may wear out earlier than it would for a
lighter person, but the customer only has to replace that one layer
rather than the whole bed.”

Sleep EZ’s mattress line features a wide range of latex foams, including Dunlop and Talalay, from five leading global suppliers.

Keep. Sleep. Simple.

Adjustability also is available in a boxed-bed model Sleep EZ
introduced in 2017 under its new Kiss (“Keep. Sleep. Simple.”) brand. A
combination of latex and a fast- recovery “float” foam, the Kiss
mattress can be ordered in either plush or supportive configurations.

Kiss is available via a new website, KissMattress. com. Like other
Sleep EZ products, the line is offered with a 100-night guarantee and
free shipping. Priced at $1,100 in queen, it is designed to compete
directly with high-profile boxed-bed specialists.

“Kiss is essentially two beds in one,” Wolfe says. “The cover can be
removed in order to change the two top-most layers beneath the surface
giving a different feel to the mattress. The latex layer provides a more
supportive top layer, while the float foam allows for a plusher feel
that contours to the body. There are benefits to both.”

According to Wolfe, the float foam feels like memory foam but
provides a cooler sleep surface and doesn’t create the “sinkhole” effect
of some memory foam mattresses. “It maintains enough bounce to allow
sleepers to roll over throughout the night when they want to change
position, but it still doesn’t transfer movement between sleepers,”
Wolfe says.

The quest to help consumers find the best bed for their body type and
sleeping style has led Sleep EZ to source foams from multiple companies
rather than relying on a single supplier. Sleep EZ currently buys foam
from five companies—Arpico, Eco-Latex, Latexco U.S., Talalay Global and
Vita Talalay. The approach provides Sleep EZ with access to leading
technologies from across the industry and protects the company from
being overly dependent on any one source.

“The main benefit of working with five latex vendors is being able to
fill orders for customers who want latex from a specific latex
manufacturer,” Wolfe says. He adds that Sleep EZ also is concerned about
the health of its customers and the environment. “We work only with
latex suppliers that sustainably harvest the product and we choose to
use natural materials as a fire barrier in all our mattresses.”

Sleep EZ’s goal is to offer its customers the best foams it can find,
Wolfe says. “That’s why we offer an assortment of both Dunlop and
Talalay constructions. Some customers prefer the springiness of Talalay,
while someone with back issues might rather have the extra support
provided by a Dunlop model,” he says. “For another shopper, organic
latex is what they are looking for.”

With mattress review sites such as The Mattress Underground, Sleep
Like The Dead and GoodBed providing a wealth of information about
various mattress constructions and brands, Wolfe says a growing number
of consumers are becoming more interested in latex. “Having a positive
review on a reputable site is a huge plus,” he says. “Consumers trust
these sites and look to them for guidance.”

Sleep EZ’s retail showroom accounts for a small percentage of
overall sales but is a valuable destination for shoppers who want to
rest-test mattresses before purchasing.

The in-store experience

Customers in the Phoenix area can test Sleep EZ’s en- tire line at
its 4,500-square-foot showroom in Tempe, Arizona. The location has a
staff of five, who handle both in-store customers, as well as online
customer service. The company drives traffic to the store via online

Customers often enter the Sleep EZ showroom already presold on a
product. “In many ways, we are a destination sleep shop because the
customer arrives with so much product knowledge already in hand,” Wolfe
says. “The role of our salespeople is to continue that education by
answering any questions.”

Sleep EZ strives to provide the “best customer service in the
industry,” Wolfe says. “We believe that being dependable, honest and
reliable drives our company success. We also operate on a no-pressure
sales philosophy. We aren’t here to sell you something you don’t want or

After the company sells a product to a customer, Sleep EZ works hard
to maintain the relationship. “We’ve sold multiple generations of
families over the years,” Wolfe says.

Sleep EZ’s online business has grown to the point where it now
accounts for 90% of sales. The remain- ing 10% comes from the
factory-direct showroom and a growing network of wholesale affiliates
across the country that source latex beds for sale in their own stores
or online. Sleep EZ ships products to its partners’ stores or, if
requested, directly to their customers’ homes.

Sleep EZ launched its first website in 1997. “You could see all the
products being sold online, and it was only natural to apply this new
concept to mattresses,” Wolfe says. “Our latex mattress products were
well- suited to being compressed and shipped in smaller boxes by UPS and
FedEx, whereas regular innerspring mattresses needed to be shipped by
common carrier.”

At the time, roll-pack machinery was rare and too expensive, “so we
used the vacuum method of reducing the latex layers to fit in smaller
boxes,” Wolfe says. The fact that the company’s beds use three or four
separate layers rather than a single thick layer made the process
easier. “We could ship a king-size mattress across the country in four
small boxes for about a third of the cost of ordinary shipping,” he

In the early stages, Medlock was skeptical about the company’s
ability to build a profitable online business, “but after reaching three
ambitious monetary goals, even Shawn bought into the strategy,” Wolfe

Going forward, Wolfe expects the internet will continue to play a
growing role in mattress shopping and purchasing—and that more
traditional retailers will incorporate e-commerce into their strategies.
He also expects to see more latex products being added to product
lineups throughout the industry, in part be- cause of the components’
strong performance qualities.

At the same time, Wolfe adds, consumers are becoming more aware of
latex. “There’s been a surge toward a more natural mattress, and nothing
is more natural than latex,” he says.