Each year we begin our product review process in June, complete our selection process in October, send catalog files to the printer in December and if it all goes well, our 2014 catalog should arrive in your shop by the end of January.  

We evaluate every product in our offering based on three criteria: Does it sell? What is the return rate? Does it offer the best value in the category? Likewise, we evaluate every vendor. Do they ship as ordered, on time? Do they innovate or do they simply copy? Do they stand behind their product? Do they understand the needs of the ultimate customer or do they think that the distributor is the customer? We also evaluate new products, shake it all together, and the result is our product offering.

Vendors sometimes ask what are the most important criteria. For me, it is return rate. Part of the reason is that we offer an unconditional 30-day, money-back guarantee on everything that we sell, which means that we cannot afford to offer product that has a high return rate. The more important reason is that return rate is the strongest indicator that we have of dissatisfaction. A high return rate won’t tell you what is wrong, but it will tell you that something is wrong. That is why discouraging returns is a bad idea. If you are not happy with something that we sell, we really do want you to return it, that is how we learn and it is how our vendors learn.  

One of the good things that happen in a deep recession is that marginal products and marginal vendors get squeezed out as the ultimate customer shops for value. In boom times many new products appear and may look successful for a period of time, but when money is tight, people cannot afford non-performing products. Many of the names of the past are now or soon will be, simply history. New names are replacing them with products of greater value and usefulness.  

Sometimes old favorites or products that are familiar are dropped. Sometimes vendors are dropped. It is always tempting to hang on to the past and it is difficult to tell a vendor or a customer that their favorite product has been dropped, but to ignore reality is more painful in the long run, so we go through the process; pruning the dead wood and providing sunshine for promising new growth.

I am excited about many of the innovations for 2014. New technology, new ways of thinking, and innovative labor-saving products promise to make the New Year better and more productive.  

I hope that you enjoy this issue of the Slippery Rock Gazette.

Rich Hassert

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