April 29, 2013

J. Peterman

The mid-1990s were the zenith of the catalog marketing industry.  And no cataloger flew closer to the sun than J. Peterman, spoofed on Seinfeld:



That's what we know.  Nearly twenty years ago, J. Peterman was the toast of the town.

Why was J. Peterman, a $75,000,000 business back in the day, popular in the first place?  Was it omnichannel?  Heck no, the prior version of omnichannel, called multichannel, bankrupted the company.

Go ahead - read this little ditty (click here) and think about what Mr. Peterman says about running a business.
  • "I didn't know how to set up a warehouse."
  • "I didn't know how to set up a distribution system."
  • Pretty soon, he opened 15 retail stores.  The faster it grew, the more cash he needed, and before he know it, the company was bankrupt.
Why I am referring to something that happened nearly 20 years ago?

Because it is happening again, today.  You're getting the same kind of advice.  "Be social, be authentic".  "Brands that don't embrace digital will surely die".  "Let your customers do the marketing for you."  "Trust the cloud."  "Omnichannel customers transact everywhere, and are worth 29 times as much as average customers."

If you aren't going to have the lowest prices and the best customer service (hint - Amazon), then you need a different approach.
  • Unique Merchandise.
  • Creative Presentation.
  • Sound Operational Fundamentals.
J. Peterman sold oxford shirts, just like everybody else.  But the creative presentation was so over the top that you purchased because of it.

Instead of focusing on the next big idea, why not focus on selling merchandise in a creative manner?  Instead of channels, why not tell a story?

And then, when sales take off, make sure the fundamentals of the business are well taken care of.  With all of the profit you earn, you can invest in a dreamy, omnichannel solution.