In my regular line of work (pilot) I make decisions all the time. Making a decision is not always an easy task. You have to look at the situation and gather all the resources you have at your disposal to make the right decision. So when a customer reached out to me last week and asked me about how I decide what products I carry in my online store, it gave me a chance to reflect on this subject and I thought I would share some of the factors that go in to adding new products into the online store.
In order to understand why I carry the products that I do, perhaps we should take a journey back to 2016 when I began launching my company. Don't worry, we won't be long and we won't alter the fabric of time and space.
The Stone Field Shaving Company of 2016 was very different than the company here today. I never intended to offer shave soaps from different artisans. The original plan was to have my own line of shave soaps made for me- and that was it. Eventually, people asked me if I would carry razors and brushes. So my online store was very basic in terms of what I offered. Near the end of 2016, the costs to outsource production of my own line of shave soap seemed very prohibitive and so I began to explore some other options to keep the idea of this company going. At the time I was enjoying wet shaving with other mainstream products and realized that these were great products to offer. I learned a lot about wholesale and began to add some products such as EShave and Castle Forbes. Early on we were the first in Canada to offer Hawaiian Shaving Company shave soaps.
This was an exciting venture for me- but also taught me many hard lessons. Perhaps the first lesson was that our Canadian dollar relative to the US dollar is not great (that's putting it mildly- not sure if I'm allowed to swear in a blog). Shipping is really expensive and Customs seems to use a complex system of random draws to decide if I have to pay duty (I think it has something to do with the lunar cycle and the temperature outside). Needless to say there are some challenges when bringing in products made outside of Canada. All of this nonsense made me want to throw in the towel and close up shop. I owe my wife Stav a big thank you for continuing to push me and keeping this dream going. Without her- there would be no Stone Field Shaving Company.
Currency exchange, shipping and unpredictable customs (duty taxes) forced me to look look for an alternate solution. These are just some of the reasons I chose to focus on Canadian made products. I've been fortunate to find some amazing artisans that make the products we carry right here in our own backyard.
Did you know that the majority of our shave soaps and splashes are made right here in our country? Last time I counted we have at least 237 individual products made in Canada and more are on the way! In fact I was the first company to recognize our Canadian artisans and vendors and offer an entirely Canadian section in our online store so you can see what we have to offer. The Canadiana Collection was born because of these challenges i had with importing products, but more importantly, it has allowed me to so showcase our amazing talent right here in Canada.
When it comes to the actual decision to bring in a shave soap, I often try and follow social media for recent trends and, for example, that's how I found Arsenal Grooming. Sometimes it's a visual thing- their labels are fantastic and I was really drawn to them. Quite a few of the products we carry are eye catching and I guess, like many people, I shop with my eyes. I've also learned that carrying every single shave soap made in Canada isn't always realistic. Some shave soaps don't perform as well as others and so I want to make sure I can sell you a product that will perform well for you. Of course the challenge is that every one's experience is different. What I like and what you like might be very different- hence the term in wet shaving "Your Mileage May Vary" or YMMV".
Sometimes price point plays a factor. I want to make sure the prices are reasonable and that customers will want to keep coming back. Sometimes artisans and vendors enter exclusive agreements with each other which prevents other vendors from carrying their products. There are at least 4 brands we don't carry- not because we don't want to, but because they have exclusive agreements with other vendors. That's how it goes sometimes. However, I've learned that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.
Things like product availability, shipping, exchange rates and product performance are certainly important variables when I choose what products I carry. There is one other important factor.
Perhaps the single most important factor in deciding what I carry in my online store is from you the customer. My customers have emailed me with suggestions or feedback on products I should carry. These suggestions have often made a big difference to me and without your guidance or suggestions, this little online store would not be where we are today.
Making the decision to carry or not carry a product is not an easy one. I hope this has shed some light on the subject. The exciting part is bringing in a product that isn't necessarily mainstream, but will really intrigue the wet shaving community.
May all your shaves be smooth.