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Archive for the ‘Advertising History’ Category

Sears, Roebuck & Co…. The Facebook of 1924

When Sears, the Facebook of its era, launched its IPO it Sold Preferred Shares at $97.50. That’s more than $2,000 today.

Even people who don’t play the market thought about buying stock in Facebook’s initial public offering of shares. One hundred six years ago, Sears was its era’s version of a hot tech company. Like Facebook, Apple or Amazon, it wasn’t just a corporation–it  was a revolution. “the catalog was the internet of the day“, said James Schrager, a University of Chicago business professor. “Sears was Amazon“.  The young Chicago mail-order company selling its shares at more than $2,000 in todays dollars wasn’t for the common man. But the purchase of even one share would have been lucrative. Counting from 1924, when Sears entered the Dow Jones index, to 1996, and adjusting for stock splits, the Wall Street Journal calculated Sears shares soared 434,552 percent. The skyrocketing value was rivaled only by the young Midwesterner who founded it.

Sears retired in 1908 with a fortune estimated at $25 million. He died in 1914 more than a decade before the company he founded opened a single store.

Richard W. Sears was hailed in his Chicago Tribune obituary as a man “whose career typified the romance of Amercian business“. Mix the youthful risk-taking of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and the marketing instincts of Apple’s Steve Jobs– that was Sears. It started in 1886, when Sears was a railroad station agent in backwoods Minnesota, wrote historians Boris Emmet and John Jeuck in “Catalogs and Counters: A History of  Sears, Roebuck & Company“.

A shipment of gold watches arrived for a local jeweler, who refused them. The rebuffed wholesaler told the 22-year-old Sears he could have the watches for $12 apiece. he said yes, pivoted, and offered them to agents along the line for $14. With that type of watch retailing for $25, there was room for the agents to profit, and Sears pocketed $2 for every one he sold.

Within six months he had made $5,000, and his watch business started to outstrip his railroad salary. “The tail had begun to wag the dog“, he said in a 1906 Tribune article. Sears moved to Chicago, set up at Dearborn and Randolph streets, and hired a watchmaker “thin to emaciation“, Alvah Roebuck. Their watch company grew rapidly into a general mail-order company that used high volumes to enable low prices.

It was a recipe perfect for the time, when millions of rural Americans were disgruntled with their general stores. A barrel of flour in 1899 was $3.47 wholesale, according to the company, but $7-plus at a country store. Sears, Roebuck used comforting ads to overcome farmers’ fears. “Don’t be afraid  that you will make a mistake“, read one catalog. “We receive hundreds of orders every day from young and old who never before sent away for goods“.  The company adopted a money-back guarantee and “send no money” became a famed tag line. Richard Sears delighted in writing his own ad copy and, typical of the time, often pushed the envelope. One offer advertised a sofa and chairs–“beautiful plush for 95 cents“. (By comparison, a John M. Smyth ad in a 1906 Tribune offered a single chair for $1.50.) Only when Sears furniture arrived did the customer discover it was for dolls. Later, Sears would tone down the ads and was said to have concluded, “Honesty is the best policy. I know because I’ve tried it both ways“.

By 1905, Sears’ sales had surged past $39 million, passing Montgomery Ward, the Chicago company that had invented the mass mail-order catalog. Sears needed more capital to grow. Julius Rosenwald, who had joined Sears as a partner, asked old banker friend Henry Goldman for a loan, according to Rosenwald’s grandson and biographer, Peter Ascoli. Goldman suggested an IPO instead, leading to Sears, Roebuck’s sale of its stock in 1906. It aimed to raise $40 million, which proved crucial for surviving the Panic of 1907. For Goldman, co-managing the Sears IPO is still touted as a landmark for his bank, Goldman Sachs.

Only the rich could afford to buy stock in 1906, but Americans’ disposable incomes was growing, and the company took full advantage. Its catalog the “consumers bible”, made available everything from sewing machines to Encyclopedia Britannica to ready-to-assemble houses. “The story is the coming of the middle class“, Schrager said, “and the desire of the middle class to have more things“.

Sears retired in 1908 with a fortune estimated at $25 million. He died in 1914 more than a decade before the company he founded opened a single store. Sears leapt into the retail store business in 1925, as rural customers moved to the cities. A December 1924 Tribune, in announcing Sears’ branching out into brick and mortar stores, made note that “several mail-order houses have considered” such a move, “but heretofore they have confined themselves to their own method of merchandising“. Sears promoted the new store at Homan Avenue and Arthington Street in the Homan Square/Lawndale area as “easy to shop for men” with a “whole square block of free parking“.

The first Sears store on State Street between Van Buren Street and Congress Parkway opened to great fanfare in March 1932. By  1950, Sears had 650 stores nationwide, including eight major department stores in Chicago and stores in Joliet, Waukegan and Gary, according to the Tribune.  By the mid-1950s, Sears would be international, with stores in Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia, Peru and Brazil.

Sears opened mall stores after World War II as customers headed for suburbia, teaming with Marshall Field to build the Oakbrook Shopping center, which opened in 1962. “Rosenwald and others had an uncanny ability to see which way things were going to go“, said Ascoli, who lives in Hyde Park, blocks from the University of Chicago’s Rosenwald Hall. By the 1970s, Sears was still the No. 1 retailer but Wal-Mart and others were on the horizon. Today Sears Holdings is No. 10 and its CEO acknowledged recently that “you change or you die”.

Sears still will probably have fared better than a company like Amazon when all is said and done, said Schrager, who likes to ask his students why Sears built the Sears Tower, which opened in 1973. “Because they could“. he said. “They were unbelievably successful. I don’t know if Amazon is ever going to build the tallest building in the world“.

Footnote to this nostalgic article which ran in the May 11, 2012 Chicago Tribune is that when Sears decided to consolidate all their employees in one location and moved them to a Chicago suburb, the Sears Tower was renamed the Willis Tower after their largest tenant. Another interesting factoid. Sears many years ago started their own radio station which quickly became one of Chicago’s major succesful radio stations with the call letters WLS, which stood for WORLDS LARGEST STORE.

Another true story on a start up company with very little capital chose Mail-Order, as a way to build their business and whose founders became MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRES. Can it still be done today? One of the largest and most successful On-Line companies still sells only by Mail-Order. Any guesses as to their identity……AMAZON! And speaking of Amazon if you have the desire to start a business of your own, a business you can run from anywhere in the world and one that has little cash requirements, you can get started by ordering a copy of my book HOW TO BECOME A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE from Amazon. Cost is only $39.95 plus s&h, or as a reader of my blog, save $10  and order direct from the publisher. Send check or money order for $29.95 plus $3.50 (total $33.45) to SUPERIOR PRESS 333 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1032, Chicago, Il 60601 Book is sold on a money-back guarantee of satisfaction.

Can I Really Start A Mail Order Business and Become A Millionaire?

This is a question I receive quite often and even though I have answered it in earlier postings, I enjoy sharing success stories of other Mail Order Millionaires I have known or read about.

He didn’t have an office but relyed on a phone line in his father’s live chicken store on Chicago’s Northside. Years later they sold the company to STAPLES for $685 million.

Here is another giant in the industry that started out very humbly in 1956 selling office supplies door to door. Jack Miller was newly married and had a $15,000 mortgage. He didn’t have an office but relyed on a phone line in his father’s live chicken store on Chicago’s Northside. That way someone, either his father or his Uncle Abe, would answer the phone when Jack was out selling office supplies.

Miller had begun working odd jobs at age 13. He  wa s a soda jerk in a drugstore, a delivery boy for a dry cleaner, an usher at a movie theater and a pin-setter at a bowling alley. He paid his way through the University of Illinois, modeling for art classes, washing dishes, digging ditches and loading freight cars. He eventually went to work for his father, slaughtering chickens and cleaning droppings off the floor, before moving to various jobs elsewhere in sales and distribution.

At 27, he decided to go into business for himself, founding QUILL OFFICE PRODUCTS, which evolved into the first mail order office supply dealer in the country. His first month, Miller sold $960 worth of merchandise and made $35 profit after expenses. His brother Harvey, joined him in the business a year and a half later; his older brother, Arnold, joined the company about 20 years later.

In 1998 Quill’s revenues had reached more than $630 million; it employed about 1,200 people. The company owned a 350,000-square- foot distribution center on a 35-acre campus in Lincolnshire, IL and nine other distribution centers around the country. Since no one in the next generation of Millers was willing to take it over they sold the company they started to Staples for $685 million in an all-stock deal.  As part of the deal, Staples promised to retain the Quill brand; protect Quill employees’ benefits and pay; and retain executives, unless they made mistakes.

In semiretirement he founded the Jack Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles and History, a nonprofit in a Philadelphia suburb, which supports teaching early American history on college campuses. Sometime after that Jack was diagnosed with an incredibly painful little known uncurable disease, peripherable neuropathy.

Now  83, Jack has dedicated his remaining years and fortune to finding a cure. His wife Goldie, who is a bit younger tells him he will live to be 100. Jack says if I’m going to live another 17 years, he would like to live some of those years free of the constant, debilitating, de-energizing, sleep depriving pain that has plagued him for the last 18 years.

Speaking to a group of 125 people, including many neurologists at a symposium on the disease. His fortune was helping pay for the three-day event as well as millions more he has contributed to start the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy, which hosted the symposium. This nonprofit is also funding research at the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, in Chicago, the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Beth Isreal Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. In coordination with those hospitals and universities, the foundation has started a peripheral neuropathy research registry of patients. Once it’s finished, researchers worldwide will be able to access the collection’s blood samples and medical histories. The symposium was one of the few times that the people conducting the clinical trials were in the same room.

Jack wound up his talk by telling the audience that this registry is just the beginning. There will be more. We think collaboration is critical so we can end the suffering so many of us go through…..and if Jack’s wife Goldie prevails, that he lives 17 years longer, he sure hopes that treatment and a cure is found so he can have some quality in the years he has left.

Jack Miller is a testament to the fact that yes one can become a mail order millionaire! Not only did he become one but due to his mail order business and the millions of dollars he made, his may be responsible for finding a cure for a painful disease that affects about 20 million people in America.

Interested in learning on how you can become a mail order millionaire? As a reader of my blog, you can receive a copy of my book HOW TO BECOME A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE on a 100% guarantee of satisfaction or it costs you nothing. Buy it from AMAZON for its published price of $39.95 plus s&h, or you can order it direct from the publisher and save $10. Just send check or money order for $29.95 plus $3.50  s&h (Total $33.45) along with your name and address to: SUPERIOR PRESS 333 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1032, Chicago IL 60601. If not completely satisfied, return the book for a complete refund.

If At First You Don’t Succeed… The Wright Way To Go

Like flight pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright, you’ll never get off the ground if you don’t try.

This weeks blog is inspired from an article in the October issue of THE RED BULLETIN written by Jeff Wise, a journalist and the author of “Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger

Jeff writes, “On the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight, 35,000 people gathered at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to watch a replica of the famous first plane take to the air. Nothing had been left to chance: the $1.2 million reproduction was exact in every detail, right down to the thread count in the muslin that covered the wing struts.

However, the weather was failing to cooperate. When the hallowed moment came, it was raining—and worse, almost completely windless. At last the drizzle subsided. With the help of some of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s descendents, the craft was maneuvered onto its launching rail. The pilot throttled the engine up to its maximum 12 horsepower, and the replica Flyer set off down the 200-foot track.

It didn’t get very far. Rearing up, it climbed about 6 inches off the ground and then finally slumped ignominiously into a puddle. As 35,000 people witnessed first hand that day, the Wright’s “first airplane was such a poor flyer that it barely qualified to be called an airplane at all. It only managed to get off the ground back in December 1903 because there happened to be a strong wind that day.

In retrospect, we now understand that the Wright brothers made many wrong guesses in configuring their design. The propellers were in the back, instead of the front; the elevator (this controls the movement of an aircraft’s tail) was in the front, instead of the back; the wings angled downward, instead of upward. The plane was barely controllable.

Does that mean that the brothers’ first flight – a 12-second hop was a historical irrelevance? Not at all. The Wright’s did accomplish something epochal that day. Until that moment of quasi-flight, no one really knew whether a heavier-than-air flying machine lay within the realm of possibility. After Kitty Hawk, they did. The Wright brothers may not have had all the details worked out, but they had one foot through the doorway.

A similar dynamic holds true for us as individuals. We each live a life bounded by a sense of what we know to be possible for ourselves. Everything else lies beyond, in the realm of Things That We Might Not Be Able To Do. And then, one day, we cross over the line, and our personal domain is forever enlarged.

Is this the day you decide to become an entrepreneur, perhaps start your own mail order business. If you don’t give it a shot, you’ll never have the opportunity to cross over the line. “Before Edmund Hillary climbed Everest, no one knew the human body could endure such punishing conditions. Before Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile in 1954 it was a goal that lay in the far fringes of possibility. When reports of the Wrights’ achievement leaked out, they electrified a group of European engineers and inventors who had been working for years to solve the problem of flight. They had no details about how the Flyer worked-the Wright brothers were legendarily secretive-but knowing what they were tackling was definitely possible, they redoubled their efforts. Then on October 23, 1906, a Brazilian-born inventor named Alberto Santos-Dumont took to the air in a craft he called “14 bis“. The world as these pioneers knew it was forever changed.

Opportunity is all around if you are willing to get up and cross that line. Here’s one that could change your life.

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As a special offer only available to readers of this blog. You can now buy my book HOW TO BECOME A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE directly from me for the special price of $29.95 plus $3.50 for first class postage and handling. Send a check or money order in the amount of $33.45 payable to SUPERIOR PRESS along with your name and address to: Superior Press 333 N. Michigan Ave STE 1032 Chicago IL 60601 and I will promptly ship the book. Or you can purchase the book at the regular retail price from Amazon.

Sir Isaac Newton Mathematical “Genius” was a fool for Alchemy the “Social Media” of his Times

Sir Isaac Newton born Dec., 25, 1642 lived a long and productive life. He died at the age of 85 in 1728. The N.Y. Times Oct 12, 2010 edition has an excellent article about him in their Science Times section under the byline of Natalie Angier. She claims that Newton moonlighted as a conjurer of chemicals. “Newton’s parallel intellectual passion, alchemy, was kept hidden from view, but the scope is now becoming clear.” You may wonder how reading this article or today’s blog will help you become a mail order millionaire, bear with me and you’ll be rewarded.

She writes “Sir Isaac Newton was a towering genius in the history of science, he knew he was a genius, and he didn’t like wasting his time. Born on Dec, 25, 1642, the great English physicist and mathematician rarely socialized or traveled far from home. he didn’t play sports or a musical instrument, gamble at Whist or a horse. He dismissed poetry as ‘a kind of ingenious nonsense’. “and the one time he attended an opera he fled at the third act. Newton was unmarried, had no known romantic liaisons and well may have died at the age of 85 with his virginity intact. ‘I never knew him to take any recreation or pastime,’ “said his assistant, Humphrey Newton,” ‘thinking all hours lost that were not spent on his studies’. “No it wasn’t easy being Newton. Not only did he hammer out the universal laws of motion and gravitational attraction, formulating equations that are still used today to plot the trajectories of space rovers bound for Mars; he discovered the spectral properties of light and found time to invent calculus. Sir Isaac had a whole other full-time career, a parallel intellectual passion that he kept largely hidden from view but that rivaled and sometimes surpassed in intensity his devotion to celestial mechanics. Newton was a serious alchemist, who spent night upon dawn for three decades of his life slaving over a stygian furnace in search of the power to transmute one chemical element into another”. In other words to transform lead into gold.

The rest of Ms. Angier’s article is well written and well worth reading but here’s what it means to those who yearn to become millionaires and especially “Mail Order Millionaires”. Many successful traditional advertising experts insist that short copy is better than long copy, a funny headline is better than one that promises a benefit, 30 second commercials are better at selling a product than longer commercials… are dead wrong and mail order advertisers can prove it. Mail Order is the only type of advertising that can track with accuracy whether an ad or commercial is profitable for the advertiser and most of these so called experts, although knowledgeable about traditional advertising like Sir Isaac was knowledgeable about science and mathematics but had no clue when it came to believing in alchemy.

They have no idea on how to construct a mail order ad or commercial because they haven’t been trained in the art. This is not my opinion but comes from one of traditional advertisings’ greatest stars, David Ogilvy – founder of Ogilvy & Mather, who insisted all his creative writers and managers be trained in the discipline of direct response advertising (another name for mail order) before creating or managing more traditional advertising.

David Ogilvy an Original Mad Man Speaks Truth about Marketing

On Youtube I recently came across this video narrated by David Ogilvy. If you’ve never heard of him and are interested in becoming a MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE, I encourage you to view it.

Mr. Ogilvy was one of the true geniuses in advertising setting up shop in 1949. He preceded me by 4 years. My first job in advertising was in 1953. This is the same time period that the wonderful TV series MAD MEN is about and Don Draper, the main character in the show is very much like David Ogilvy.

In World War II before founding the advertising agency OGILVY & MATHER, he served in the British Intelligence Service. His company was one of the most successful agencies of that period. He was responsible for creating the advertising campaigns for ROLLS-ROYCE Here’s one of his famous headlines for them: “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”. He resigned the account a few years later when they sent five hundred defective cars to the U.S.. Two years later he was assigned the MERCEDES-BENZ account and one of his wonderful headlines helped them increase sales from 10,000 cars a year to 40,000. Here’s one of his headlines for them: “You give up things when you buy the Mercedes-Benz 230S. Things like rattles, rust and shabby workmanship.”

Among his other clients were two very small companies at that time HATHAWAY SHIRTS and SCHWEPPES. For Schweppes he used the face of his client Commander Whitehead as the symbol of his own product and for Hathaway, he invented the man from Hathaway. Both companies are no longer small and are leaders in their respective fields.

What has all this got to do with becoming a mail order millionaire? Bear with me on this. David Ogilvy believed that only Direct Response Advertising (another name for mail order advertising) can determine whether money spent on advertising is profitable and insisted that all his executives be trained in this art before creating or managing more traditional advertising.

My book HOW TO BECOME A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE will soon be available on line and from AMAZON in both hard copy as well as digital. For a free copy of one of my books chapters, 14 SURE FIRE CHECK LISTS THAT GUARANTEE SUCCESS shoot me an email. As most successful mail order advertisers say, “there’s no obligation”.

Did David Ogilvy become a millionaire? As Sarah Palin says “You betcha”. He retired to his twelfth century chateau in France and before he died was named a Commander of the British Empire and was a Member of Honor of the World Wildlife Fund.

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