The Success of Lillian Vernon

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 an mail order add 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
mothers 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) 150:102(2).

Lightman, A. Lillian Vernon Home Page
( #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).

The Research Process Researching my topic started through the
World Wide Web (WWW) utilizing the software -Netscape+. I
originally found the Lillian Vernon home page and several items
from her catalogs. I then accessed the University of Maryland
University College+s VICTOR (an online library catalog that
allows the student to search databases of the University of
Maryland and its associated colleges.) I accessed VICTOR through
the University of Maryland\'s Home page on the World Wide Web.
After ac With the printed data, I went back into the