Scale & Scope
But given the growing popularity of British sleuthing dramas, he decided the jump was worth it. That year he licensed “Cadfael,” which was airing on PBS’ “Mystery!,” along with future Acorn title “Poirot.”
Business was good for this wholesaler. By the late ‘90s, there was enough interest in the video titles it distributed to justify expanding into the British market, and thus Acorn Media U.K. was born.
In the United States, Acorn supplied videos to multi-title catalog companies such as Rivertown Trading. But in 2000, that changed. Retail giant Target, having acquired Rivertown Trading two years earlier, shut down the catalog business, and thus Acorn’s biggest customer disappeared. This event also produced a gaping hole in the consumer market for the types of video products Acorn sold.
But another leap of faith was looming. Knowing there was an opportunity to branch into the direct-to-consumer catalog market — but not having any catalog experience — Edwards did the sensible thing. He hired several Rivertown Trading staffers, including Marron, and started production on the first Acorn Direct consumer catalog, which was mailed in 2001.
By the end of the first year, Acorn Direct’s circulation reached 1 million. And four years later, only one person employed in the Stillwater, Minn., office had not previously worked for Rivertown Trading.
Find Your Focus
Since the catalog’s first mailing in 2001, a lot has been done to focus Acorn Direct’s product line. Knowing from previous experience that video customers would also buy non-video gifts, Acorn officials decided to offer both video and non-video products in their first catalog. Sticking to what similar catalogs had done in the past, the offerings were comprised of about 70 percent videos. Acorn executives had established relationships with British video distributors, and knew there was a market for that product. So deciding to work with what they knew — namely, home video programming — wasn’t difficult.