Ann Morris Favors Independent Living

Jericho, NY-based Independent Living Aids (ILA), the country’s oldest privately held cataloger specializing in products for the blind and visually impaired, in February acquired cataloger Ann Morris Enterprises, which also sells products for people with vision loss. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

ILA intends to keep the Ann Morris catalog intact. “There a lot of companies who buy a competitor to put them out of business,” says ILA president Marvin Sandler. “Not us. We want to keep her name. A name like Ann Morris’s is too good to die.” In fact, Sandler’s wife, Mimi, has dubbed Ann Morris the “Lillian Vernon of the blind mail order business.”

Whereas Ann Morris mails 50,000 catalogs a year to the visually impaired, most of ILA’s catalogs are mailed to agencies and professionals who serve sight-impaired consumers. Its core catalog, with an annual circulation of 300,000, sells both optical products such as magnifiers and nonoptical products such “talking” watches. ILA also mails 50,000 copies annually of a 24-page catalog to optometrists, ophthalmologists, and agencies. Its Educational Highlights catalog, which sells items such as computer software, “talking” globes, and color-coded computer keyboards, mails to 40,000 schools a year, and its Holiday Highlights title, a collection of “fun” best-sellers such as “smart” clocks that answer questions about time, mails to 25,000 of its best customers during the holidays.

Sandler expects to increase Ann Morris’s catalog circulation by 50%. He also plans to incorporate some Ann Morris merchandise into ILA’s core catalog. Ann Morris’s products line ranges from writing accessories and sewing kits to radios and televisions. Morris herself will help Sandler through the integration and continue to develop product.

Sandler’s family is no stranger to mail order. His father and Henry Schein — founder of the medical/dental/veterinary supplies catalog giant — were contemporaries; Sandler’s father founded Interstate Drug Exchange, which sold pharmaceuticals to physicians, in 1932. Sandler’s family sold Interstate Drug Exchange in 1997 — to Henry Schein.

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