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Founders of Top U.S. Retail Shops, Stores and Catalogs:Quotations & Philosophies

Philosophies Behind the Lillian Vernon Brand


The $131 million direct sales giant, Lillian Vernon is famous for it catalogs, kids merchandise, shipping efficiency, personalization of products, and general merchandising expertise. After 56 years in business, the statistics behind the Lillian Vernon corporation are impressive by any standard:
  • More than 80 million catalogs are mailed each year.
  • More than 3 million packages are shipped each year.
  • In its biggest week, over 247,000 packages were shipped.
  • Three billion catalogs, 172 million boxes and 485 million products have carried the Lillian Vernon name.
  • It is estimated that more than 47 million Americans are familiar with the Lillian Vernon name.
  • The national distribution center in Virginia Beach, VA is the size of 18 football fields.

A native of Germany, Lillian started her business when she was 20 years old and pregnant with her first child. A $495 ad in Seventeen magazine yielded her $32,000 in orders, and she never looked back. She nurtured her business like her family, and the two have been blended from the beginning.

Here are the philosophies that helped Lillian Vernon successfully raise her business like it was a member of her own family.

  • I had a business, a lot of orders, and a baby howling for supper. You balance it. You give your baby supper first and then get your orders in. I have worked on more holidays... but what are you going to do?"

  • Our philosophy is "helping customers live better for less" and I live by these same principles. My home contains many Lillian Vernon products because I don't believe in selling products that I don't use or would not give as a gift.

  • It's a quality you're born with, being an entrepreneur. I put an ad in a magazine and it worked. If it hadn't worked, I would have gone home and had five or six children.

  • It's hard for an entrepreneur to be a great manager. Many great entrepreneurs don't know how to balance the books. They need someone to do the financial end of the business. A great entrepreneur and a great manager are usually not the same person. The skills are very different.

  • I don't know if I'm a great manager. I think I'm a good manager. I'm tight-fisted, but have been good to employees and really cared about them. That's the advice I would give to other women entrepreneurs.

  • Toughness is a good thing, yet it is considered good only in men. When a woman is tough, men can't stand it. I like being tough. Tough...and smart.

  • I am a stick-with-it person. It's just my personality. I never give up. I had some buddies who taught me the jewelry business, others who taught me the mail-order business. When I went to China, friends there taught me how to import. As you go along in business, everyone will help you, but you have to ask for it.

  • I became successful due to several reasons. I never gave up and I never let anyone or anything get in my way. I use the power of positive thinking to tackle obstacles and challenges so they don't defeat me. Passion for my work and my business is another important reason. I really love my work and I get great satisfaction from it.
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