As brands such as Tory Burch, Milly, Tibi and Trina Turk leapfrog Pulitzer in terms of growth, the company's owners are planning an aggressive expansion to stay in the game. "There are brands out there that are just eating our lunch," admitted co-owner and president James Bradbeer Jr. "But we are ready to compete with them head-on."
And last weekend, he outlined how. Pulitzer kicked off its 50th anniversary celebrations at The Breakers hotel here, during which it unveiled a string of initiatives to prepare for the years ahead. Buyers from Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue and owners of the 75 Lilly Pulitzer signature stores flew in last Thursday to hear about the plans.
The firm would not comment on volume, but according to industry sources, it does more than $75 million in annual wholesale volume. Bradbeer said he hopes the steps will help the brand grow by at least 20 percent next year.
Over the next 12 months, if consumers are in the market for a new Jeep, think of taking some piano lessons, enjoy playing board games and really like orange juice, then Pulitzer could be their brand of choice. All of these products will be part of the celebrations of the anniversary of when a 28-year-old Pulitzer decided to open a juice stand here, which led to her designing a classic printed cotton shift dress that camouflaged the stains on her clothes. The shift became a business Pulitzer would grow until 1984, when she retired. In 1993, Bradbeer and his business partner, Scott Beaumont, acquired the brand.
"We have invested more time and more money than we ever have before in order to evolve and innovate while dealing with the changes happening in the market," said Bradbeer. "This is all about honoring our past, but rebuilding and focusing on taking the brand forward."
As part of the celebration, or Jubilee as the company calls it, the brand has partnered with other "great American companies," including Jeep Wrangler, which in November will launch a floral-print, limited edition Lilly Pulitzer model. About 70 of the Jeeps have already been preordered and, at $25,000 a pop, some of the Signature store owners will not only be driving one, but they will also be able to sell them to their customers. The Jeep will be accompanied by a pink-and-green printed Steinway & Sons piano, a Hasbro Monopoly "Lilly-opoly" game (where a player can buy property in Palm Beach before "shifting" on to the next space) and a Florida's Natural orange juice carton decked in Pulitzer's famous prints. The juice will be sold in grocery stores nationwide, and one million of the limited edition cartons will be distributed.