Although Peruvian Connection didn’t launch its first international catalog until 1994, CEO and Co-founder Annie Hurlbut maintains the cataloger was an international company long before its first foray into the global market. As its name suggests, the Peruvian Connection has shared its history with the country and mountain people of Peru.
Peruvian Connection began as a “happenstance” when Annie Hurlbut came home for her mother Biddy’s 50th birthday at Christmastime in 1976. At the time she was conducting research in Peru in pursuit of a doctoral degree in anthropology. As a gift she gave her mother an alpaca sweater she found in a Peruvian market. Taken with the quality and warmth of the gift, friends suggested Annie and Biddy import the sweaters. Mother and daughter seized the opportunity to work together and convinced a local department store to sell 50 sweaters in three sizes. Annie went back to Peru to make the necessary arrangements and a wholesale business was born.
In the tradition of Banana Republic and J. Peterman, the fledgling direct marketing business started by placing small space ads in The New Yorker and The Wall Street Journal. From these ads it built a tiny list and converted inquiries with a small black and white brochure. What began as a wholesale business mushroomed into a small mail-order business virtually overnight when a writer from The New York Times met with Annie at an apparel show in New York in 1979. The Peruvian Connection story hit the front page of the Style section and generated more than 5,000 catalog requests. Because the business was not yet automated each request received a personal note from the Hurlbuts along with a catalog. The conversion of these early catalog requests was phenomenal, says Annie Hurlbut. Peruvian Connection was a bona fide mail-order business.