American entrepreneur James McCann had a fairly unremarkable career as a bartender and then as a social worker.
It’s fair to say that this CV doesn’t point to what he did next – shake up the whole retail model and become an early online pioneer.
McCann opened his first floristry outlet, called Flora Plenty, in 1976. But it wasn’t until he purchased the 1-800-FLOWERS mnemonic telephone number in 1986 and, in a radical move for the time, changed the name of the business to match, that his business really took off.
According to his autobiography, McCann decided he would build a nationwide flower delivery service “listening to the radio as he was shaving.”
The company was the first to put a toll-free number in its name and was one of the first retailers in the world to have an online presence after striking a deal with CompuServe and AOL in 1992.
Many of the moves made by McCann in the early 1990s are now standard for retail businesses across the world. Many new operations consider having their name interwoven into their telephone number, while increasing numbers of firms are realising that a website is an essential part of selling.
In 1999, the business went public and added a dot com to its name. Revenue hit $668 million in 2010.
Story continues on page 4. Please click below.