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Thread: What makes a really great Woodworking Store

  1. #1
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    What makes a really great Woodworking Store

    I was looking around at the Lee Valley site and came across this page i have never seen before.

    Well i started to read some of the letters especially looking at the comlaints.

    Then came across this debate between a member of the public and Mr Leonard Lee on the lever cap on a block plane and lever caps in general fitted by Record or Stanley.

    The one that finally did it for me was this one. Not only did the customer get sent a new one. he got a great explanation and the boss man took the returned one home and tested it. Whats more he replied and further more sent it on to the manufacturer to make sure it dont happen again.

    There is something about a company making tools where it privately owned and the owner is a keen tool guy and takes a hands on interest in the company. Just like Ron Hock or Lie Neilson or many others i am not mentioning.

    But Lee Valley sure gets top marks from me for their entire way of doing things. Its hard not to like a store that is trully committed to customer service in every way possible. Right down to their drive by pick up. Where you can order online, they send you an email to tell you your goods have been picked and processed and all you do is stop by go to a different entrance, mention your name, sign and leave with your goods. And they understand that there might be something additional you want and will go out of their way to help you there and then.

    So why is it so hard for the corporate stores to do the same. They employ the same people. Sell much the same or similar product tools. Why can a trip to Home Depot not be the same as a trip to Lee Valley. What is so hard to copy.

    And what takes the cake at Lee Valley is a sign in the store that says something like " We want you to be happy with your purchase. So if you get this item home and after some time find it just isnt what you want or working out bring it back and we will give you your money back"

    No complicated tons of fine print. Just simply doing what they say they will even when its to their disadvantage.

    And usually a Lee Valley special is just that trully special. Its not going to come around again.

    Another point is they provide a range of seminars at their stores but did you know all the proceeds from the seminars goes towards charity.

    Man it must be great to work for a company like this. You can never be in conflict with your own values. Just do it right and treat customers like well customers should be treated to get their support.

    Finally through the recession they held on to all their staff by cutting back in other areas. I know this from first hand correspondence with Robin Lee.

    So what do you think makes a great woodworking store? Whats your favorite and why?
    cheers

  2. #2
    Chris Hatfield is offline Former Member (by the member's request)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Keeble View Post
    I was looking around at the Lee Valley site and came across this page i have never seen before.

    Well i started to read some of the letters especially looking at the comlaints.

    Then came across this debate between a member of the public and Mr Leonard Lee on the lever cap on a block plane and lever caps in general fitted by Record or Stanley.

    The one that finally did it for me was this one. Not only did the customer get sent a new one. he got a great explanation and the boss man took the returned one home and tested it. Whats more he replied and further more sent it on to the manufacturer to make sure it dont happen again.

    There is something about a company making tools where it privately owned and the owner is a keen tool guy and takes a hands on interest in the company. Just like Ron Hock or Lie Neilson or many others i am not mentioning.

    But Lee Valley sure gets top marks from me for their entire way of doing things. Its hard not to like a store that is trully committed to customer service in every way possible. Right down to their drive by pick up. Where you can order online, they send you an email to tell you your goods have been picked and processed and all you do is stop by go to a different entrance, mention your name, sign and leave with your goods. And they understand that there might be something additional you want and will go out of their way to help you there and then.

    So why is it so hard for the corporate stores to do the same. They employ the same people. Sell much the same or similar product tools. Why can a trip to Home Depot not be the same as a trip to Lee Valley. What is so hard to copy.

    And what takes the cake at Lee Valley is a sign in the store that says something like " We want you to be happy with your purchase. So if you get this item home and after some time find it just isnt what you want or working out bring it back and we will give you your money back"

    No complicated tons of fine print. Just simply doing what they say they will even when its to their disadvantage.

    And usually a Lee Valley special is just that trully special. Its not going to come around again.

    Another point is they provide a range of seminars at their stores but did you know all the proceeds from the seminars goes towards charity.

    Man it must be great to work for a company like this. You can never be in conflict with your own values. Just do it right and treat customers like well customers should be treated to get their support.

    Finally through the recession they held on to all their staff by cutting back in other areas. I know this from first hand correspondence with Robin Lee.

    So what do you think makes a great woodworking store? Whats your favorite and why?
    Working in retail for several years, I'll take a stab at that part.

    I tried my very hardest for many years to go above and beyond my job description to make people happy. Was pretty successful at it, too. Unfortunately, when praises don't translate into funds, you can get discouraged. So the brightest stars in a mega corporation flame out quickly or find other companies where their efforts are appreciated.

    All too often, though, is that you find when you are in the world of the corporation, very rarely is hard work rewarded. Some people settle down into a method of 'it's good enough.' There's no ownership in the company, no incentive to keep going above and beyond besides the paycheck every two weeks. Sometimes, going the extra mile is actually discouraged. I was once told to end a conversation I was having with a customer, trying to find a product for them that we didn't carry, because it wasn't going to translate into a sale and there were more important things to do. Too often, the only things that matter are the bottom lines to managers.

    In a smaller company, even greeting someone nicely could have an effect on if you're still in business in six months. There's much more on the line, but more importantly much more pride because you're answering to yourself or the person next door and if something needs to be fixed, it just gets fixed. No waiting for corporate to evaluate, implement a new training policy and finally tell you that what you should have done six months ago is okay to do now.

    Sorry if that rambled a bit.

  3. #3
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    dont bother wasting time comparing homedepot to a lee valley.
    First, home depot probably(I dont have numbers) employs 100 times the amount of people and when you employ an army, its just that much harder to keep them monitored and performing as well as youd like to see.
    Also, a lee valley type store is geered towards serious or wannabe serious woodworkers. Your not getting my aunt Sadie who is in to buy a lightswitch and doesnt understand the difference between the 28 switches you sell.
    You are servicing a customer base so broad and tremendous its almost impossible to please everyone.
    Someone who wants to hang a picture, is not going to contact Lee Valley for a hammer.
    So Home depot now has someone who never used a hammer in their life, picks out the cheapest one, smashes his finger on the first try, and comes back to scream at whoever will listen to him at home depot and then even though he hung the picture, he wants his money back, and still wants to scream at everyone.(you sold me a defective hammer)
    Until you deal with the entire public, everyone, its hard to pass judgement or wonder why all retailers or suppliers cant be equal.
    Lee Valley has their niche, and they cater to just those.
    I never heard of lee valley before 3 years ago when I started to get into working with hardwoods and handtools.

  4. #4
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    well rob i cant say i have ever heard bad things about lee valley!! so i would say there good example is gettin around.. many folks have and will continue to buy from them..
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  5. #5
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    Interesting topic Rob.
    I've never been to a Lee Valley store but have ordered several things on line from them with no issues. I agree it's pretty good business for the Boss to talk the talk and walk the walk.

    Which one is my favorite store? I'm not sure. The two closest to me are Woodcraft and Rockler. They both have good points and bad points. I have some history with Woodcraft. I'll explain.

    I've always been a woodworker. Not a good one but I know the tools and applications for them. Just before I opened my Contractor and cabinet supply store I worked for Hilti for 10 years. Long story short, I closed up my store in the late 80's (last big recession and banking crisis) and was looking for a job. Woodcraft advertised for a salesman in their Woburn (first store) Massachusetts store. I called and was told to come right up and apply. The person I interviewed with told me he was the President. He told me in no uncertain terms that being in the construction business that I had no right to waste his time and couldn't possibly know anything about woodworking tools. I tried to explain about my woodworking background and was told that he couldn't imagine anyone with my background could build anything except out of 2x4s. Simply he was the most insulting and obnoxious person I have ever met. I called him a very nasty name and left. I vowed to never shop at Woodcraft again.
    I never did (over 25 years) until they opened up in Newington, NH. (they are a franchise). The people there are real nice but just as important most of them are woodworkers. You can go there, ask questions, and try out most products. One of the salespeople owns a Windsor chair making business and is happy to help in any way. The down side is that they are pretty expensive.

    On the other hand Rockler is usually much less expensive but the staff is not as knowledgeable. If I have a specific question 9 times out of 10 another customer answers it for me. Their manager has a bit of an attitude problem quite often but I figure that since it's a company store maybe he's under some pressure. I've met Mr. Rockler there before (must be his son he seemed to be in his 40's). Pretty knowledgeable fellow. Anyway, they always seem to have everything I need so it's almost always my go to store.

    Rockler is my favorite. Even though the Woodcraft near me is not connected to the one in Mass. I still feel like I'm going against my own principals when I walk in.

    Last comment. Whats up with salespeople who don't try and build a customers order up. So often I'll buy something and it gets rung up and I'm out the door. No questions about what or how I'm doing something. Ask me some questions, tell me about a product that will make my job easier, safer, faster, better. I'll probably buy it. Your sales will go up, you'll be a hero and probably get a raise.
    Last edited by Bob Gibson; 12-10-2010 at 07:52 PM.
    Faith, Hope & Charity

  6. #6
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    boy bob,, i would have to go back and have chat with the guy upstairs above the jerk yu dealt with....i bet you could get some things settled fast..that is the one thing that i thought woodcraft wouldnt put up with..the one nearest me is higher priced but they whole group is top notch..
    If in Doubt, Build it Stout!
    One hand washes the other!
    Don't put off today till tomorrow!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by larry merlau View Post
    boy bob,, i would have to go back and have chat with the guy upstairs above the jerk yu dealt with....i bet you could get some things settled fast..that is the one thing that i thought woodcraft wouldnt put up with..the one nearest me is higher priced but they whole group is top notch..

    It was 25 years ago Larry. With any luck the guy is in a nursing home being attended to by nurse Ratchet.
    Faith, Hope & Charity

  8. #8
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    Rob,

    I think Allen is right when he mentions that size is a major factor in your perception of good companies vs. bad companies, but I would also say that most of the companies that you like are private vs. public. Where as your private company is generally headed by a single dynamic individual that has a commitment to the long term growth of his company, I believe most of your public companies are headed by an executive group trying to satisfy the short term goals (stock price and "street expectation") of the Board of Directors and majority shareholders. Their focus is month, quarter and year end, not 10, 20 or 30 years. Add to that, an executive group that is just trying to get in about 3 to 5 years at the top and then retire as multi-millionaires because of their signing bonuses, high salaries, generous stock options and exit bonuses and the focus becomes less on the good of the company, clients or customers and more on the getting their piece of the action. That attitude does not take long to filter down through out the company. Is this good or bad for the overall economy and market? I am not smart enough to say. The market forces have created this model of company structure and these companies have been successful.

    I know the above is a pessimistic view and I apologize. I was taught in my freshman economic classes that selfishness drives the market and is not good or bad, but sometimes you like to see more of a win win outcome. You know, provide good service and get rewarded for it, but for that to happen we as individuals need to value the cost of the service.
    Last edited by Bill Satko; 12-11-2010 at 01:36 AM.
    “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” - John Ruskin
    “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” - Oscar Wilde

  9. #9
    Rob

    Let me chime in here. Let me explain how returns are processed by the retailer. I have many years of experience working for Lowe's, Home Depot, and Sears.

    First things first. If a product is on the shelf at ANY of these retailers, then the retailer has an indemnity deal with the manufacturer. That means that if one of the products are returned, then the retailer gets his money back via credit off of purchase orders. Once an item is returned, it is sent to an RTM clerk, usually in the warehouse, who inputs the data in a computer and the credit is automatically issued. Some Manufacturers want the product back, but you would be surprised how much gets compacted out back of the store.

    As a store manager, whenever I had a customer service issue with a walk in customer, it was ALWAYS the associates fault because they thought they were using their head and "what was good for the company"

    If a return is ever denied, it is because we never sold it. I have taken back stolen merchandise and issued store credit.....it was cheaper than a lawsuit.

    Hope this helps

  10. #10
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    As complex a problem to figure out as this might seem it is actually quite simple. Like the second rule of plumbing, "Stuff flows downhill"

    First Mr. Lee senior ran Lee Valley, now his son Robin or Rob does, their attitude and work ethic permeate the company from the top down. I firmly believe that in other companys that do a poor job, this too comes from the head of the company down.

    My hat is off to Rob, his father and others who run a good company, and I do my best to reward their effort with my business.
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

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