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The Success of Lillian Vernon’s Mail Order Business
It all began with black and white in 1951. Today, nearly 45 years
later, the mail order business of Lillian Vernon has swept the mail order
market and maintained a financial foothold where others could not. Lillian
Hochberg (now known as Lillian Vernon) started her business at her
Lillian’s motivation was to supplement her husband’s then $150 dollar a
week income by working from her home. She could be homemaker and help with
the finances too. Her success started by using $495 dollars of wedding gift
money to place a mail order ad in Seventeen magazine selling an
inexpensive leather belt with matching purse that she herself had designed.
As a hook, she offered to moaker in the Chelsea district of New York,
manufactured the two items for around $3 dollars. The purse and belt came
in black, tan, or red and sold for $7 dollars.(Youman, N, 1989, pg 26)
After 6 weeks of advertising Lillian had received over $16 thousand dollars
in mail orders. Her belt and purse were such a hit, she immediately
increased her inventory to inexpensive jewelry and make-up paraphernalia.
Over the past 45 years, Lillian has had two sons, Fred and David Hochberg,
both of whom joined their mother’s business and quickly rose up through the
management ranks. With their help, her -little business+ went public in
1987 on the American Stock Exchange. Since the Lillian Vernon Corporation
went public, it has overcome the unavoidable but near fatal traumas that
face every entrepreneurial enterprise. In this case, inadequate computing
capacity and inefficient warehome the customer places the order to the time
they receive the merchandise in the mail. Lillian Vernon has not relied on
demographics to sell her products to the public. Instead, her secret to
success lies in womens intuition. The lean seat-of-the-pants operation she
prefers makes her company tremendously agile. For example, in 1985, Lillian
spied the cacooning trend and immediately put a furniture specialty catalog
together. She got the trend right but the bulky orders overwhelmed the
company’s fulfillment capability. (Youman, N. 1989, pg 26).
In 1993, when Sears announced that after many years it will cease
publication of its giant catalog, known as the -wish-book,+ a very long ch
During the time when the mail order giants were cutting back, the Lillian
Vernon Corporation. reviewed their catalog databases to clear out customers
who had not ordered in quite some time. During their review, they found
that many of the active customers were buying presents for children and
grandchildren. This caused the corporation to create its first niche book
called -Lilly’s kids. Lilly’s Kids does $30 million in sales of toys and
school equipment. (Lightman, 1996, pg 1) Now, Lillian Vernon has targeted
1. Make time for yourself and your family. 2. Surround yourself with the
best people possible. 3. Be open to new ideas and better ways of doing
things. 4. Be prepared to take risks. 5. Like what you do and like what you
sell. 6. Don+t dwell on your mistakes or setbacks, but instead learn from
them and move on. Never let mistakes defeat or discourage you. 7. Don+t try
to do it all—-Delegate! 8. Don’t grow too fast without the proper systems
and people in place to handle it. 9. Don’t be afraid 10. Don’t spend more
money than you have– set realistic budgets and stick to them. Keep your
debts manageable. (Lightman, 1996, pg 2) Finally, in todays fast paced
society, it is easy to see how a company like the Lillian Vernon
Corporation could appeal to the overworked consumer. This type of company
provides an easy affordable way for those consumers to gift shop without
derailing them from their hurried everyday lives. I suspect that the
Lillian Vernon Corporation will stand head and shoulders above its
competitors long into the 21st century.
Coleman, L. -I went out and did it.+ (Iowa: Forbes, August 17, 1992)
Lightman, A. Lillian Vernon Home Page
(http://www.amex.com/weblink/Lvc/index.html #business, 1996)
Mason, J. Lillian Vernon Focuses on Cusomers. (New York: Management Review,
May, 1993) 82:22(3).
Youman, N. The Queen of Kitsch. (New York: Adweek+s Marketing Week, April
24, 1989) 30:22(4).