By Bruce Detweiler Breckbill, Lehman’s VP Direct Sales
One of the things all businesses need to identify is who exactly their customers are. So it is with Lehman’s. Knowing who our customers are is incredibly important because it determines which products we carry, how we present those products, and which avenues we take to get those products to the people who need or want them.
This has perhaps been more difficult for Lehman’s than it is for other retailers. First, we are in a very small niche market. Not everyone wants non-electric appliances, gadgets and hand tools. Not everyone wants to do things the old-fashioned way. Not everyone desires to have part of his or her lifestyle mimic the lifestyle of the late 1800s. For those who do want these things, Lehman’s can help, but finding those people or helping them find us is sometimes challenging. Keeping them all happy is equally challenging.
Our customers are very diverse. Some of our customers are survivalists. They often live far away from civilization, distrust the government, don’t have electricity or a credit card, and send us orders via the mail. More and more we are hearing about Suburban Survivalists. These customers live in suburbs or even large cities but are preparing for a life without some of the luxuries they currently have.
Some of our customers are homesteaders. They live with their family on several acres, raise a lot of their own food, and work at turning a field or woods into a farm. Some of our customers focus on being self-sufficient. They raise all their own food, generate their own electricity or live without it, and pump their own water by hand.
Some of our customers are concerned about preparedness â€“ being ready for a disaster, whether weather related or economically related. They have the means to have heat, food, light and water when it is not available elsewhere.
Some of our customers are simply nostalgic and like the kinds of things they remember grandma had. They are likely more interested in our old-fashioned toys then they are in a wood-burning cook stove.
Of course, the above are generalizations and actual customers fall into one or more of these groups, or, in some cases, none of these groups.
I am a Lehman’s customer. I have electricity, an electric furnace and running water. However, I like doing things the “hard” way. I cut, carry, split, carry, stack, carry and burn wood in my wood-burning stove. Why? I like doing it and I like the type of heat it gives off. In addition, it saves me money. We grow a garden each year. Why? It’s a lot of work but the food we grow tastes better. We can and freeze fruit and vegetables. Why? It tastes better, we know where it came from, and it saves money. We run our drinking water through a water filter. Why? Our water is safe and fine without the filter but it tastes better after filtering. In the wintertime, I use an Aladdin oil lamp in my upstairs office. Why? I like the light it gives off, and it puts out enough heat to keep the office warm since the heat from the stove does not always reach to the upstairs very well.
Even though they are diverse, our customers have been very clear in some of the things that they want from us. First, they want products that actually work. Although some people think that having an old-fashioned oil lamp on the mantle looks pretty, our customers want that lamp to work when it is needed. Although having a beautiful, hand-cranked coffee mill in the kitchen might improve the ambiance, it also should grind coffee when needed. It is that kind of practicality that is important to us and to our customers.
Our customers also want products that are USA made whenever possible. These are becoming more and more difficult to find as more and more manufacturing jobs go overseas. However, whenever possible, we try to find locally manufactured products. At times, we even get some of our local Amish neighbors to make these products for us.
In the end, we believe that if we offer quality products that work, made in the USA whenever possible, and that actually do something, we will be able to satisfy all of our different customer groups. If we couple that with outstanding customer service, our reputation will get around through word of mouth, people will pass our catalogs from hand to hand, and links to our web site will be posted where those who want or need our products can find them.
We’d love to hear from you. What Lehman’s products do you use regularly? What products do you want us to carry that we don’t currently have? What kind of customer are you?