STEPHEN STERN, BBA ’63 CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, LORD DANIEL SPORTSWEAR, SUNRISE, FLORIDA
By Rochelle Broder-Singer
“If you’re going to have a successful business today, you have to make it successful,” says Stephen Stern, COO of Lord Daniel Sportswear, an apparel company based in Sunrise, Fla. As the company celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, Stern believes one of the keys to its success has been focusing on a niche group of older customers who are often ignored. This clientele is particularly loyal to Lord Daniel’s patented banded-bottom shirts, which helped build the company’s foundation. “Once they wear your shirt they wear it forever,” Stern says.
In a world where customer service has become a lost art, Stern takes pride in the focus his company still places on long-term relationships. He often makes hundreds of phone calls each week to personally thank customers for their business. Stern says, “Older people, they want customer service more than anybody else; they want service because they don’t get it.”
The company has also found a growth niche in patriotic apparel. While popular with the company’s mature customer base, these products also have proven appealing to a new and younger consumer. “The flag shirts have been going bananas,” says Stern, who estimates sales are growing by 70% each week.
While most of Lord Daniel’s sales are to large retailers such as J.C. Penney, the company also sells direct. Stern’s son Brett, the third generation to join the family business and the company’s president, has been instrumental in establishing its online presence. According to Stern, one of those sites, theflagshirt.com, has seen sales increase from an average of 100 orders a day last June to more than 1,000 orders per day currently.
Always on the lookout for the next big thing, Stern noticed many of the online orders were coming from colleges across the country. As an active alumnus of UM’s SAMMY fraternity (Sigma Alpha Mu), he has been using the chapter directories to make connections at universities and begin laying the groundwork for growing the business there. “If you call people, everyone wants to help you,” he says.
Lord Daniel’s longevity as a small, family-run business is certainly exceptional. The company even earned high praise from Wells Fargo bank, which Lord Daniel has worked with for more than 50 years. The financial institution chose Lord Daniel as one of 10 businesses featured in its annual report this year. Stern is clearly flattered, but such complimentary recognition is simply a perk of doing a job he loves. He says, “I get up every day and it’s not only business; you can’t do something for 60 years and not love it.”