JCK 5: Be Her Guest

Sarah Read on treating the customer right and building the Lee Read brand

1. How do you set yourself apart from the competition?

Lee Read is “Idaho’s Diamond ­Jeweler.” For 47 years we have focused on diamonds and making it easy and actually enjoyable to find “the one.” Our diamond buyer is very particular. If a diamond can’t be worn by my parents, store owners Larry and Nelda Read, it goes back where it came from. Our guests can’t make a mistake at Lee Read. They just need to pick the one [diamond] they like best and let us take care of them for the next however many years with our Lifetime Diamond Promise, which is free with a diamond ­jewelry purchase.

2. What is your single best money-saving initiative?

Being part of CBG [Continental Buying Group] has saved us literally hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on jewelry purchases. Plus, members of the group are from noncompetitive markets, so there is an open and free exchange of ideas that has helped us save money in many other ways over the years. It’s through our CBG networking that we get some of our best ideas having to do with everything from marketing to merchandising and other areas of store operations.

3. What advice have you received that changed the way you run your store?

After discussions with a fellow retail jeweler, my parents decided to build a freestanding superstore 10 years ago. This further enhanced the Lee Read brand in our market. Not only do we have the selection of five to six small jewelers combined, but we also have the facilities that allow us to provide full in-house services to our guests, such as jewelry repair and appraisal.  

4. What’s your most ambitious goal for your store, and what do you think it would take to achieve it?

At this time the biggest goal we have is successfully transitioning ownership of the store from my parents to me and our store’s director of operations, Chuck Lawrence. My parents have worked hard for many years, and now it’s our job to take the store to a new level. The challenge is doing that with the traditional values of the past through the new technologies and new marketing initiatives for the future. My sisters, Rebecca Read [assistant director of sales] and Rachel Read [director of merchandising], are heavily involved in the store operations but don’t see themselves transitioning into ownership roles. Their high involvement, however, allows us to continue with the traditions established by our parents and grandparents.

5. What’s the best idea you’ve come up with for your store?

The best idea was focusing on Lee Read Jewelers as “the brand.” We are continually analyzing the performance of the suppliers and the ­jewelry brands that fall under the Lee Read brand umbrella. We are very particular about the suppliers we partner with and “invite” them to be in our store. By focusing on brands that can continually bring value and quality, we are able to meet the desires, expectations, and needs of our guests while maintaining successful, long-term partnerships with some of the best jewelry companies in the industry.