Lillian Vernon Goes Wal-Mart via Hometown Threads

The potential for branding opportunities was one reason that the investment firm Ripplewood Holdings and media management company ZelnickMedia bought Lillian Vernon Corp. this year. And already, the gifts and home products cataloger is partnering with Hometown Threads, a franchise network of embroidery/personalization shops. Hometown Threads boutiques in six Wal-Mart stores will begin selling Lillian Vernon-brand personalized products on a test basis.

The 35 personalized Lillian Vernon products being sold in the Hometown Threads shops include a keepsake bible, a karate bag, and naptime and activity blankets. Hometown Threads approached Lillian Vernon because “we had a lot of inquiries in our stores of ‘Do you have this product that Lillian Vernon sells?’” says Hometown Threads president Howard Arnberg.

All told, Hometown Threads boutiques are located in more than 20 locations, 18 of which are in Wal-Mart stores across the country. “The potential to get into more stores is exciting,” says David Hochberg, a spokesperson for the Rye, NY-based Lillian Vernon. “This is a prelude to more licensing-type initiatives.”

The deal also gives Lillian Vernon a nearly effortless retail presence. “It’s a wholesale transaction—we don’t own the real estate,” Hochberg says. Hauppauge, NY-based Hometown Threads is a division of Hirsch International Corp., an embroidery technology and business systems provider.

The first products appeared in stores July 10. Despite the lack of publicity, sales have already exceeded expectations, Arnberg says: The first franchisees had to reorder 40% of their goods just eight days after getting the products in.