Retailers, Make a Mission Statement

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to formally declare what your business stands for

There’s no north and south for jewelry retailers, but some direction is always helpful. As you navigate the months and years of ups and downs, changing customer preferences, volatile economic cycles, and shifting ­jewelry trends, what keeps you on course?

For many retailers, it’s a mission statement: a short, simple declaration of what your business stands for.

“It’s your compass for your entire business—for ­customers and employees,” says Lior Arussy, president of Strativity, a customer experience strategy company in Hackensack, N.J. “It guides you in everything you do.”

A mission statement announces what you do and what makes you unique—how you are different from your competitors. “It explains for you and your employees what makes you special,” says Arussy. “And it explains to customers why they should be buying from you.”

Hope Wixon, co-owner with her husband, Dan, of Wixon Jewelers in Minneapolis, has had a mission ­statement since the early days of her store, which opened 25 years ago, but three years ago she rewrote it to be more relevant and exciting.

“It’s part of everything we do,” she says.

Wixon created her mission statement on her own: “To write a good mission statement you have to think about your business and the things you’re proud of and why would employees and clients care about it.”

Businesses are so much more global with the Internet, she says, “so how do you differentiate yourself? What makes Wixon Jewelers different from the next jeweler?”

The process begins with a thorough analysis of your business. “You’ve got to answer some pretty big questions,” says John Torella, senior partner with the J.C. ­Williams Group, global retail advisers in Toronto. “How are you going to be unique? If you’re not different, you are a commodity, the same as everyone else. Your mission statement should be pretty explicit in how you’re going to do this.”

The Robbins Brothers website makes clear its mission—”to create the best, most memorable engagement ring shopping experience.”

In her brainstorming, Wixon came up with four words to define her business, “so it’s not a sterile mission statement, is a little more exciting, and something people might consider reading.”

Her statement reads: The finest timepieces, beautiful diamonds, and extraordinary color gemstones are our Passion. A level of service and expertise untouchable by our competitors is our Mission. A celebration of love, milestones, and friendship is our Essence. A business, owners, and staff you can trust is our Reputation.

“If you get to rough points, it’s these four things that are going to ride the storm,” Wixon says. “That’s who you are and what you do, and you can’t change that because you can’t get those things back once they’re gone. It’s the compass, the thing that guides you.”

A succinct statement is ideal, says Jeff Weidauer, vice president of marketing and strategy for retail marketing company Vestcom in Little Rock, Ark.

“Shorter is always better,” Weidauer says. “The best mission statements are clear and concise. They should have no more than two or three clarifying points. A shorter statement is easier to commit to memory and has a better chance of being remembered.”

But don’t mistake brevity for boring. “Companies tend to make mission statements safe and lofty,” Weidauer adds. “Don’t say what every company would also say—but differentiate yourself.”

Hamilton Jewelers, which has two locations in New Jersey and two in Palm Beach, Fla., wrote its mission statement 20 years ago. That was when Hank Siegel, the third generation of the family that owns the business, took over as president and CEO.

“It helps us look at whether any decision is aligned with our vision and mission,” says vice president Donna Bouchard. “It’s a template and a guideline because it clarifies what we stand for.”

The mission statement is especially helpful in difficult times, Bouchard says. “It can be challenging because when things are tough it might be easier to chase something that’s a quick fix,” she says. “But this forces us to remain true and strategic. People need a road map sometimes.”

Five years ago, Robbins Brothers in Azusa, Calif., revised its mission statement as it looked to grow beyond Southern California and as a response to changing customer dynamics such as couples more frequently shopping together for engagement rings.

At Hamilton Jewelers, the mission statement is framed and placed in areas where customers can see it.

“We asked ourselves what elements of our business model resonate most strongly,” says Larry Gomperts, executive vice president of marketing and strategic development.

Everyone was involved in the rewrite. “We didn’t want this to be a top-down declaration as a mantra of what we expect everyone to go along with, but we wanted it to come organically from the bottom up,” Gomperts explains.

Simply having a mission statement, however, isn’t enough. “It’s something to come back to time and time again,” Torella says. “You can use it to check if everything is on brand. You’ve got to be constantly looking at it because competition is changing, the customer is changing, culture is changing.”

Wixon’s mission statement has its own section on the store’s website and she also references the statement verbally, both directly and indirectly, in her daily 15-minute training sessions and her weekly hourlong meetings.

“Your mission statement should be easy to see and shouldn’t be filed away so you can say you checked that box off and it’s done,” Weidauer says.

Hamilton Jewelers posts its mission statement in frames in all stores (especially at the front desk or service counter where customers wait), in all staff kitchens, and in the corporate office. It’s also included on new hire collateral. And last year, when the company celebrated its 100th anniversary, “it was everywhere,” says Bouchard.

Robbins Brothers gives its employees business cards with the mission statement printed on one side and company values on the other. “It’s less about the expectation that employees will pull it out of their wallet every day but whenever they
do, they might think of it again,” Gomperts explains.

Every holiday season, there’s an annual Robbins Brothers pep rally during which employees share some of their best customer experiences, highlighting the mission statement. And at weekly meetings, managers will read aloud customer feedback from surveys that have been submitted to reinforce it.

“That’s a far more powerful way of bringing [our mission statement] to life,” says Gomperts. “We are very sensitive to not just having words on a piece of paper but of making our mission resonate.”

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