Happy 2012! I am pleased that another year has gone by where I feel good about the work that we’ve been performing at Shane Co. It has been a very busy year for us. I have visited 17 of our 20 stores in the past 10 weeks, and feel like I have the strongest grip on our company that I’ve ever had. As I’ve mentioned in the past, my job technically lands me a desk in our Home Office, but in the retail business, the only action that exists is at the stores. Therefore, my travels as of late really gave me perspective on the course that we spent the first three quarters charting.
In last year’s blog around this time I mentioned the economy. I cited that I believed that although newspaper and television headlines had continued to be grim and negative in nature with regards to economic data, I thought that consumer sentiment was on the uptick. Speaking to our customers around the country these past few months, I finally stopped hearing negative comments with regards to everyday, real-life stories. The past few years, we’d see, for example, customers coming into our store to return a product. Although our return policy is a hassle-free 60 day money-back guarantee, we still always ask the reason for a returned product. The main reason is to ensure that we didn’t fall short of consumer expectations with pricing, quality of the merchandise, or the like. At any rate, the percentage of returns that were being brought back for economic reasons (recently lost a job, buyer’s remorse over purchasing jewelry, etc…) has almost completely been eliminated. I am not naïve, and do know that economic times are less than easy, to put it lightly, but my anecdotal ‘research’ is being supported by world newspapers regarding the state of the US economy, which was not the case 12 months ago in my blog reflecting back on 2010. Good news, and continued progress, in my opinion.
As for our focus at Shane Co. this past year, we have been focused more than anything on the caliber of our team members. My father Tom and I have always felt like strong employees is the only true differentiation a company can have that someone else can’t copy. Our free lifetime warranty can be copied by others (it hasn’t been yet), our merchandise trade-in policy, our return policy, and our low-pricing, high volume strategy are all things that can easily be copied should someone desire to someday do so. In the end, our true advantage is our people, and customer service is our upper hand which can only be gained through hard work and a company culture that is constantly being molded, monitored, and I believe improved upon. I view this never-ending charge as 80% of my job as company Executive Vice President. After all, it is said that people may not remember what they paid for something, what occasion it was purchased for, or even what the product was exactly, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel during their experience. This is true with a vacation, a restaurant, or when buying jewelry.
We are very excited for our prospects in the upcoming year ahead. Our technical advances this past year have taken us from 2005 to 2013 in a 12 month span, and we look forward to continuing to advance ourselves to remain the best place to buy jewelry in the country.
Wishing everybody a happy, and most important healthy, New Year ahead in 2012.