By now, most catalog industry insiders — and more than a few outsiders — are well acquainted with the Lillian Vernon story: Pregnant housewife uses wedding money to start mail order business from her kitchen table. Fifty years later, that housewife is CEO of a $241.8 million catalog/Internet marketing company. The timeline below tracks the company’s progress. On behalf of the entire catalog industry, we’d like to say: Happy Anniversary, Lillian! Here’s to 50 more years….
1951 A housewife expecting her first child, Lillian Vernon uses $2,000 of wedding-gift money to buy a supply of purses and belts, and places a $495 ad in Seventeen magazine, offering personalized belt purses. The ad brings in $32,000 in orders, and the business is launched from her kitchen table.
1954 Vernon Specialties, named after Lillian’s home in Mount Vernon, NY, rents three facilities to house warehousing, monogramming, and shipping departments.
1956 Lillian publishes her first 16-page, black-and-white catalog and mails it to 125,000 customers. The product line includes personalized combs, blazer buttons, collar pins, and cuff links.
1965 The company is incorporated and renamed Lillian Vernon Corp.
1970 First $1 million in sales.
1982 Sales and Bargains catalog introduced.
1987 Lillian Vernon goes public (AMEX: LVC).
1988 National distribution center built in Virginia Beach, VA.
1990 Lillian Vernon named 1990 Catalog of the Year at the Annual Catalog Conference. • Lilly’s Kids catalog launched.
1992 Christmas Memories catalog debuts.
1993 Lillian Vernon’s corporate headquarters relocated from Mount Vernon to New Rochelle, NY.
1994 First CD-ROM catalog produced. • Catalogs mailed to Canadian consumers for the first time. • Lillian inducted into DMA Hall of Fame. • Personalized Gifts catalog introduced.
1995 Lillian Vernon products become available via the Internet.
1996 Lillian Vernon’s autobiography, An Eye for Winners, published by HarperCollins in hardcover and audiotapes. • First catalogs mailed to consumers in Japan. • Neat Ideas catalog introduced.
1997 Favorites catalog debuts. • Lillian Vernon named one of 50 leading women entrepreneurs of the world by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners.
1998 Lillian Vernon Gardening catalog introduced. • Headquarters relocated from New Rochelle to Rye, NY. • First catalogs mailed to consumers in the U.K.
2000 Rue de France catalog and Website acquired.
2001 Company celebrates its 50th anniversary. • Lillian’s second book, Up Close and Personalized, to be published. • Business-to-business Website to be introduced.