‘Be There or Be Square’; Why & How Lillian Vernon Reverted to Its Old Square Format
“In the recent past, certain very obvious things were overlooked in the pursuit of new business,” Executive Vice President of Merchandising Michelle Gershkovich said in a company statement. “We don’t want to overlook anything or anybody, and the solution to increasing business is nurturing our clientele. If our customers have always loved the novelty, whimsy and tradition of a ‘Grandma’s Throw,’ of course they’re going to like a ‘Grandpa’s Throw,’ and not the hip, dime-a-dozen handbags in funky colors we’d been trying to sell them!”
Lillian Vernon also has scaled back its pricing in the square catalog. Its newest catalog concept, the “sweet spot,” is an assortment of products priced at $14.98. “Our average price offered needs to be a certain price range,” Buleza says. “And for whatever reason, that range had increased over the prior several years to be what we now feel is a little too high.”
The new approach is paying dividends. “We’re finding the lower-priced items are selling well, they’re driving response,” Buleza says. Having stopped its promotion of global free shipping for all of its products in October 2006, he says the company now is focusing on the merchandise, its uniqueness and pricing to drive customer response.
While the core Lillian Vernon catalog has reverted back to square dimensions, the company’s intentionally keeping the kids catalog at the 8-by-10 format. Whereas by reverting the core book to the 8-by-8 format would give it its own identity, the cataloger felt that by keeping the kids book at the standard size would enable it to “kind of stand on its own as a separate offering of ours,” Buleza says.
Lillian Vernon seeks to separate itself from other catalog companies, not only in its catalog design, but also in its overall approach. “We don’t do what everyone else does, and we don’t want to look like everyone else out there, either,” Gershkovich says. The company plans to mail the core catalog on a monthly basis, and that’s its goal for the kids book in the near future.
Joe Keenan is the executive editor of Total Retail. Joe has more than 10 years experience covering the retail industry, and enjoys profiling innovative companies and people in the space.