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#78 Uline: A Family-owned Direct Marketing Business Doing Everything Right!
Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia , PA
Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Issue #78 – Tuesday, December 17, 2019


Posted by Denny Hatch

A Family-owned Direct Marketing Business Doing Everything Right!

780-plus Pages. 36,000 Products. $3.6 Billion a Year. Wow!
Whenever I get into conversation with a stranger, the subject of what I do for a living frequently comes up.
     “I write weekly blog on direct marketing,” I say. “For about 20 years I published a newsletter called WHO’S MAILING WHAT! and was the world’s foremost expert on junk mail.”
     Invariably the person’s nose wrinkles in disgust. “I hate junk mail,” is the typical response.
     “Do you hate catalogs?”
     “Oh, no! I love catalogs!”
     'nuff said.

Confessions of a Catalog Nut
I adore catalogs!
     These are the equivalent of wonderful retail stores coming directly to me—FREE—filled with fascinating merchandise from all over the world at great prices (and often FREE DELIVERY!).
     This is not the electronic trickery clogging my Yahoo in-box that (mercifully) is one-click away from oblivion.
     Catalogs are full-color tactile experiences filled with beautiful photographs and imaginative copy that caring marketers, writers and designers spent a lot of cash—possibly up to $5 a pop in the case of Uline and Restoration Hardware—in order to get my attention.
     In short, catalogs are a lot of fun. The bigger they are, the more fun they are!
     And one of the biggest—and best in its class—is Uline!
     In my opinion, every marketer of products and/or services—consumer and business—should study the Uline business model and strive to do likewise.

Below Is the Uline Manifesto.

Over 36,000 Products Always in Stock

• Huge selection. No need to look elsewhere.
• Fast delivery.
• No matter how crazy your hours, we’re here for you 24/7.
• “A knowledgeable customer service rep is always available to assist you.”
• Guarantee of excellence.
• Low delivery costs.
• 30-day no-hassle return guarantee for refund or credit.

A Typical Information-packed Catalog Spread­—
 Easy and Quick to Navigate and Order Any Time.
• Good illustrations.
• Complete descriptions, dimensions, prices.
• At the bottom of every spread:
  —Order by 6 p.m. for Same Day Shipping
  —PHONE 1-800-295-5510

Uline’s Fascinating Backstory
Dick and Liz Uihlein

In 1980, (à la the Donald Trump family business model) Dick Uihlein borrowed money from his father—the grandson of a Schlitz Brewing founder—and launched Uline from the basement of his home in Illinois.
     Today Uline has a headquarters campus in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin with 579,000 square feet of warehousing space plus 11 distribution centers scattered around the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
    What’s more, Uline’s 6,000 employees are well-paid:
“Average Uline hourly pay ranges from approximately $17.00 per hour for Data Coordinator to $30.00 per hour for Lead Mechanic. The average Uline salary ranges from approximately $45,260 per year for Warehouse Worker to $122,573 per year for Distribution Manager.” —indeed.com
     A low-key, hands-on manager, Dick Uihlein—now in his mid-70s—was described by long-time friend Chris McDaniel as “the kind of individual who will leave his office and walk down to meet somebody.”

Dick and Liz—An Extraordinary Partnership 
Liz is president of Uline; Dick is vice president.
     In the pantheon of Conservative politics, the Uihleins are at the top, up there with Sheldon Adelson, Robert Mercer and the Koch family.  
    Both The New York Times and Politico describe them as the Republican megadonors “you’ve never heard of.” They give tens of millions of dollars to dozens of candidates plus the Great American PAC and Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The Side Businesses

The Uihleins bought a vacation home in Manitowish Waters, a rustic Wisconsin lakeside community. Over the years Liz bought up a number of down-at-the-heels business, renovated them and gentrified the town. The feathers of some old-time residents were ruffled. But as she once emailed to her critics:
“You all should be happy there are folks like my husband and myself who can afford to buy old, dilapidated buildings, rehab them and put businesses in them without worrying about a profit.”

A Personal Note
I flat-out disagree with the Uihleins’ politics.
     That said, I have great admiration for all people who spend their money and/or time on causes they deeply believe in—whether it be politics, religion, the environment and gun violence (à la Mike Bloomberg) or building affordable homes (à la Jimmy Carter working for Habitat for Humanity).
     The country and the world are better off with the likes of the Uihleins than with, say, Judge Judy and her fatuous existence.

Takeaways to Consider
• Have you created a Manifesto for your business—a complete description of the features, benefits, and personal philosophy that is front and center in your professional life and in the lives of every member of your staff? If not, why not?

• Have you condensed your Manifesto down to a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

• Over the past 45 years, I have studied and written about myriad catalogs—Lilian Vernon, J. Peterman and Sharper Image to name three. All started with a single item that was tested in small ads and grew turned them into multi-million dollar enterprises. They offered “items”—gifts, electronic goodies, outerwear, kitchen stuff. Every catalog was a new shopping experience. All three ran into trouble and wound up in the hands of venture capitalists and became shadows of their former selves.

• One reason for Uline’s great success: it is a catalog of consumables. These are the items continually reordered that enable companies to remain viable.

• By the turn of the 20th century, the Sears Roebuck catalog put a giant department store on the bookshelves of millions of hinterland homes.

• Fast forward to the 21st century and the mantra is, “Why print a catalog when everything is available online?”

The Wall Street Journal’s Elizabeth Holmes wrote in 2014 that catalog mailings were increasing. The reason: “Shoppers spend more online after browsing through lavish print spreads.”

• Do Dick and Liz Uihlein make mistakes? Astonishingly, I don’t remember having ordered from ULINE in the last 35 years—if ever. Yet I continue to receive this humongous catalog that must be folded in order to fit in our teeny post box in the mailroom of our Philly apartment building. My bet is each catalog costs $5 to print and mail. Two issues a year for 35 years is 70 catalogs or $350 wasted on me. Ouch!


Word count: 1016

At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.


Denny Hatch
The St. James
200 West Washington Square, #3007
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-644-9526 (Rings on my desk)

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