Lillian Vernon: Back to the Future
Lillian Vernon’s year-plus road to recovery has seen a mix of return-to-roots and get-with-the-times changes. Many have worked, as president/CEO Mike Muoio reports. Here are three additional improvements the company has made:
1. Change the catalog size to preserve the brand. In 2004, Lillian Vernon changed the trim size of its catalog from its traditional 8-inch-by-8-inch format to an 8.5-inch-by-11-inch size. But the change had almost no impact on sales, and since the brand had been associated with 8-inch-by-8-inch books for more than 40 years, Muoio and his team reverted back to the old format last October.
“People recognize 8-by-8 catalogs as Lillian Vernon books,” Muoio says. “So we decided that our legacy and brand are pre-eminent.”
2. Mail a thicker holiday catalog to your best customers. “We realized our core group of customers deserved our full holiday assortment, because their behavior across the categories and price points suggested that their capacity to purchase is very high,” Muoio says. Dollars per book on the larger holiday catalogs increased by 50 percent.
3. Recruit talent from other catalogers. Just 15 staffers relocated from the White Plains office to Virginia Beach. So Muoio had to replace nearly twice that number of people in the company’s marketing and merchandising teams. He recruited experienced merchandising, marketing and creative talent from the Ross-Simons, Miles Kimball and Home Marketplace catalogs, among others.