Meeting Today’s Challenges
Charlie Silver has been in the direct marketing and catalog industries for his entire career. But his education was in accounting and finance. His first job upon graduating from Rutgers University in the 1970s was as a budget accountant at Scholastic magazine.
“I liked the analysis part of my job more than the accounting,” Silver recalls of his days at Western Publishing. When Western moved in 1978, Silver took a post at Berkey Photo as a senior financial analyst. Later, he was promoted to marketing manager. “I liked the marketing. It was exciting to me to come up with new ideas and see them tested in the marketplace.”
Silver’s first taste of the catalog business was at Lillian Vernon. After a year and a half, an opportunity presented itself at a start-up catalog: J. Crew. For Silver, it was a pivotal time in his career. “It was a great learning experience. When I got there,” he says, “I was the marketing department.” During the seven years he spent at J. Crew, the catalog’s revenues grew from $4 million to over $200 million.
In the 1990s, Silver worked at Walt Disney Co., and was involved in repositioning its catalog from a $10 million business that was losing money into a $100 million business making 15 percent EBIT. A position at Time Warner’s Music Sound Exchange catalog followed. Later, when Time Inc. consolidated with American Family Publishing and closed the music catalog, Silver bought the assets and sold them to Genesis Direct. He went to Genesis to start the Gift and Collectible business, which included The Music Stand and Command Performance, among others.
In January 2000, Silver joined Bloomingdale’s by Mail as vice president of marketing, his current role. Recently, we spoke about today’s business challenges and how Bloomingdale’s is tackling some of these issues.