LAUNCHES: Lillian gets it for you wholesale

Sep 01, 1999 9:30 PM  By

Gifts mailer to debut b-to-b promotions Website

Although Rye, NY-based Lillian Vernon can trace wholesaling back to its roots in the early 1950s, few are familiar with the special-markets portion of the gifts and home products cataloger’s business. But through its Lillian Vernon Special Markets division, the company has been customizing products for such cosmetics companies as Max Factor, Revlon, and Avon since 1954.

Today, the cataloger has more than 2,000 wholesale accounts, including several with Fortune 500 companies. Selling both corporate gifts and customer giveaways, Lillian Vernon Special Markets can customize such products as organizers, paperweights, and business card holders via embroidery, gold stamping, and engraving.

To further establish itself in the $13 billion promotional products industry, Lillian Vernon will debut a business-to-business promotions Website later this month, according to spokesman David Hochberg. “On our existing Website [www.lillianvernon.com], only one page talks about our wholesale products,” he says. “But now we will have an entire Website that’s dedicated to our wholesale business.”

Lillian Vernon does not produce a specific catalog tailored to the wholesale business, but it mails direct marketing pieces selling promotional products. Wholesale accounts are serviced by 15 sales representatives in Rye and four account managers in the company’s Virginia Beach, VA-based national distribution center.

Although Lillian Vernon has been wholesaling for more than 40 years, the Special Markets division represents less than 1% of Lillian Vernon’s $264.1 million business. But there’s growth potential, a number of experts claim. “Wholesaling represents a tiny part of the business, but I believe that part is growing,” says Kenneth Gassman, an analyst with Richmond, VA-based investment bank Davenport and Co. The new Website could significantly boost Lillian Vernon’s promotions business, Gassman says, because “there’s little or no cost involved in maintaining the site; thus, the profits go right to the bottom line.”

A teen queen again.

Lillian Vernon founded the company in 1951 by selling personalized leather purse belts through a space ad in Seventeen magazine. The cataloger now mails seven titles, including Lilly’s Kids, Chistmas Memories, and Neat Ideas.

Next year, Lillian Vernon will return to its teenage roots with a new teen apparel catalog scheduled to mail in January. Company executives would not provide details, however.