When you read these quotations from L.L. Bean, Ralph Lauren, and Lillian Vernon, you will climb inside the minds of retail’s greatest leaders, and find inspiration to motivate yourself and your own retail team.
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L.L. Bean: Founder of the L.L. Bean Products, Stores, and Direct Response Mail Order Catalog Enterprises
The L.L. Bean $1.5 billion retail empire is famous for its mail order catalogs, field coats, chamois shirts, boat and tote bags, backpacks, boots, shoes, clothing, vests, sweaters, and outerwear for hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, and those who just want to look like them.
Born Leon Leonwood in Greenwood, Main in 1872, L.L. Bean invented his first product in 1911 when he came home from a hunting trip with wet feet. Bean sent out his first direct response catalog as a three-page flier with just one product – rubber-soled hunting boots.
The L.L. Bean flagship store was the first one opened in 1917 on Main Street in Freeport Maine. Today there are 15 L.L. Bean retail store locations and 15 retail outlet locations in the U.S., mostly situated in the northeast. Its direct sales come from 54 catalogs, distributed to more than 160 countries, and its website, which has received as many as 98,000 orders in a single day.
Here are L.L. Bean’s philosophies about retailing, retailers, and running a retail business.
- Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings, and they will always come back for more.
- Outside of your gun, nothing is so important to your outfit as your foot-wear. You cannot expect success hunting deer or moose if your feet are not properly dressed.
- Above all, we wish to avoid having a dissatisfied customer.
- We consider our customers a part of our organization, and we want them to feel free to make any criticism they see fit in regard to our merchandise or service.
- A customer is the most important person ever in this office – in person or by mail.
Ralph Lauren: Founder of Ralph Lauren Polo Shirts, Men’s Clothing, Paint, Home Furniture and Bedding, Outlet Stores and Retail Shops
The $4 billion Ralph Lauren fashion organization is famous for its polo shirts, classic men’s clothing, bedding, comforters, paint, furniture, suits, and its trademark polo player logo. With 150 Ralph Lauren retail stores in 36 countries, Ralph Lauren himself considers the Madison Avenue flagship store to be the most notable. “To me, it’s the most beautiful store in the world,” Ralph said.
Born as Ralph Reuben Lifshitz in New York in 1939, Ralph sold ties to his classmates in middle school. His entrance into the world of fashion was in 1967 when he opened a necktie store, and sold his own designs under the label “Polo.”
Here are the retailing and business philosophies that helped Ralph Lauren create one of America’s most well-known brands, and build one of fashion’s largest global businesses.
- What I do is about living. It’s about living the best life you can and enjoying the fullness of the life around you - from what you wear, to the way you live, to the way you love.
- Your vision is very important. You should know whom you’re selling to, what your marketing and advertising says about you, and whom it’s speaking to. Me personally, I don’t try to please everyone. I understand who I am selling to and I work towards that vision all the time.
- My goal in design is to achieve the best reality imaginable. I believe in design that has integrity, design that lasts, and whatever it is, it must be part of the lifestyle and become more personal with time.
- I’m totally involved with all of my products. Everything I make is my message and for years my goal has been to make the things I love.
- I am not looking like Armani today and somebody else tomorrow. I look like Ralph Lauren. And my goal is to constantly move in fashion and move in style without giving up what I am.
- What matters the most to me are clothes that are consistent and accessible. When I look at the people I’ve admired over the years, the ultimate stars like Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant and Astaire, the ones who last the longest are the ones whose style has a consistency, whose naturalness is part of their excitement.
- What matters the most to me are clothes that are consistent and accessible. I believe in clothes that last, that are not dated in a season. The people who wear my clothes don't think of them as fashion.
- I’ve always believed one could live many lives through the way we dress and the places we travel to, even if just in our imagination. The world is open to us, and each day is an occasion to reinvent ourselves.
- There is a way of living that has a certain grace and beauty. It is not a constant race for what is next, rather, an appreciation of that which has come before.
- It’s about broadening your scope through history and living your life. Tune in and pay attention.
Lillian Vernon: Philosophies Behind Building a $131 Million Catalog Business