Here, in the second part of the Lessons Learned in Five Years article, we are listing 14 items that have stood out in our minds the most.
1. Pink is the most controversial color. Lots of jiu-jitsu women love it; lots of women hate it, and they are not afraid to voice their opinions. Some women believe that wearing pink makes them too girly, and not one of the guys on the mat. Let’s be honest, the color of your gi has no effect on your jiu-jitsu skills. Some like angry animals; some like kanji; some like skulls; and some like color pink! More tolerance, less hate towards color pink! Aren’t we supposed to embrace each others individuality? Let’s not make girls, and women feel inferior because they choose to wear a pink gi.
2. A1 and A2 are the most popular sizes. 80% of our adult gi sales are A1 and A2, the rest 20% is randomly divided between A0, A3 and A4. In the past year, our redesigned A4 size has become a hit among very curvy ladies. This month we started adding tall sizes to put an end to high-water pants.
3. Curvy pants are the most popular mix and match option. We are one of the first companies that started offering mix and match options in 2010, and based on the feedback the curvy pants were created. We had no idea that curvy pants would become our best seller separates. These are essentially half sizes that save the customers a trip to the tailor shop.
4. Popular vote does not necessarily turn into actual sales. There are people who comment on Facebook when we ask for feedback but never make a purchase. We’ve learned to always listen to the ones who have purchased from us, and to trust our gut feeling.
5. Not all colors sell at the same rate. Navy blue color has been in high demand, and seems to be ‘the color’ for 2013 and 2014. White and royal blue gis sell consistently because they are widely accepted in most gyms. Black gis are unpredictable; they sell in spurts. We do not aim for sprints here and there; we prefer a steady pace. Oh, and gis become especially popular as soon as they are sold out. This happens every time!
6. International shipping is expensive. Yes, it is and we wish it were cheaper as well. USPS medium flat rate box shipping charge in 2009 was 25.95 to Canada, and 41.95 to the rest of the world. In 2014 the rates are 42.25 and 61.75 respectively. Astonishing price jump, eh? We can kick, and scream about it all day but that is not going to make a change. The best advice is to order 2-3 gis at a time, and ask for combined shipping which at times is 60% cheaper.
7. As the business grows, the scam artists get bolder. One would think that all martial arts people are honest. We’ve had people claim that the package was stolen when it clearly shows delivered; ordering the wrong size, and demanding a free gi because in their mind the product is defective; threatening to post negative reviews if we don’t exchange a washed gi; damaging the gi, and blaming us for it; endless exchanges, and disputing perfectly fine transactions; asking for a rush shipment, and not paying the upcharge. No business is immune to scam artists. You have to get used to it, and minimize losses as much as possible.
8. Not every latest trend should be followed. We are trying to stay away from cliché design elements, as well as overly garish, gaudy, and flamboyant stuff that is in today, and out tomorrow. Your gi should be functional, basic, classic, and timeless, just like your little black dress.
9. You cannot please everyone. In order to have 100 percent satisfaction rate you would have to do custom gis, fitted perfectly to each individual body. If one person does not like the gi, it doesn’t mean the product is bad. It is not tragic, people have different taste and fit preferences.
10. You have to learn not to panick. The sooner you accept that things will go wrong, the less stress you’ll have to deal with. The time to worry is when there is something you can do about a situation. If you cannot do anything then just let others do their job. Will worrying and yelling expletives at DHL make the airplanes fly any faster? If the answer is no; then you might as well sit back, and read a book instead of angrily refreshing the computer screen for non-existing tracking updates.
11. High price does not equal higher quality. Every brand faces the exact same issues with production, shipment delays, miscommunication that affects the final product, defective stitching, misprints, wrong labels, etc. The list goes on and on. The question one should ask is; Is this defect minor and does it affect only esthetics or does it render the gi completely useless. Although we strive for the highest quality, some imperfections can be acceptable. We have chosen to offer affordable, high quality products, and will stay on this path.
12. We’ve made lots of mistakes. Mistakes happen. Sometimes a wrong size or wrong color gi is shipped out, and it is very disappointing for a customer who has spent her hard-earned money, and really needed the gi on a certain day. We’ve been yelled at, and told to tear our website down because we don’t know what we are doing. We feel terrible when things go wrong. Our goal is to work on minimizing the mistakes, learning, improving, and always finding a suitable compensation for the customer.
13. Most customers are awesome. If you are nice we will bend our own return policy rules rather often and liberally. Sometimes we exchange washed gis, send free pants, patches, free sample gis, shirts. You just have to ask. Be nice, and people will be nice to you.
14. A good message from a happy customer is worth more than money. Especially when we are having a bad week with delays, and hiccups; a kind message from a customer gives us the necessary push, and surge of energy to continue on the path. Fitting a frustrated customer into the right size gi or making a rush delivery to make someone’s birthday a very special day is rewarding. We truly appreciate it!
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