Lilliput is returned to its parents

May 01, 1999 9:30 PM  By

Justus Bauschinger and Stephen Singer, the founders of collectibles catalog Lilliput Motor Co., no longer suffer from the empty-nest syndrome. This past March, three years after selling the catalog, which Bauschinger refers to as their “baby,” the partners bought it back.

In 1996, Singer and Bauschinger sold Lilliput, which sells miniatures of classic automobiles, to multititle cataloger Genesis Direct. But when Genesis repositioned in February as Proteam.com, a marketer of sports merchandise, the company announced that it would sell or shutter more than a dozen catalogs that didn’t fit into its new niche. A month later, Singer and Bauschinger bought the $5 million Lilliput for an undisclosed price.

“We knew the Lilliput book would have to be divested,” says David Sable, chief marketing officer of Secaucus, NJ-based Proteam.com. “And we wanted to help Bauschinger and Singer buy the book any way we could. For us, they were the natural choice. They were among the first people in the catalog business we at Genesis ever talked to.”

Thriving under a new parent Granted, Singer and Bauschinger never really got the opportunity to miss Lilliput: They’d continued to run the Yerington, NV-based catalog even after selling it to Genesis.

“One of the reasons we sold is we basically hit the wall and did not have the financial wherewithal to take the business to the next level, although it had always been profitable,” Bauschinger says. “We didn’t want to sell it, and we’re glad to have the catalog back. Lilliput Motor Co. has been our baby. Stephen and I have nothing but good things to say” about Genesis Direct.

Indeed, Lilliput thrived under Genesis’s guardianship. Sales quintupled from $1 million in 1996, largely because Genesis was willing to invest in prospecting. Last year, Lilliput mailed about 4.5 million catalogs, a stark contrast to the less than 400,000 catalogs that it mailed in 1995. In the last year alone, Lilliput’s 12-month buyer file grew nearly 50%, from 9,500 names to 14,000.

Now that Lilliput is no longer affiliated with a generous parent company, “we will cut back on prospecting for the near term,” Bauschinger says. The cataloger will also reduce its frequency from 13 times annually to eight or nine times a year.