John Peterman

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John Peterman (born 1941)[1] is an American catalog and retail entrepreneur from Lexington, Kentucky, who operates The J. Peterman Company.

Education and baseball career[edit]

Peterman graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1963 and played third base on the Holy Cross baseball teams that went to the College World Series in 1962 and 1963. He also played baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization for three years as a second baseman.[2]



John Peterman had a career in sales for 20 years after his baseball career ended. He worked as a regional sales manager in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama for General Foods and Castle & Cooke.[3] During his time in sales, Peterman sold dog food, cereal, pineapple, tuna fish, and inspirational tapes. In 1981, he was managing fertilizer accounts but was dismissed.[4]

Corporate Consultant[edit]

Peterman became a corporate consultant after deciding “that was the first and last time I was going to be fired.”[3] As a corporate specialty-foods sales[5] consultant, he helped people make deals with other companies, and it allowed him to travel. During a meeting to help a client find an advertising company, Peterman met Donald Staley and they began to work closely together. They agreed to collaborate on any entrepreneurial ideas they envisioned, which led to several businesses.[3]


Together, Peterman and Staley started a mail-order company to heal sick houseplants as well as a manufacturing business making beer cheese; both were successful.[3] The beer cheese business was originally Hall’s Beer Cheese and Peterman bought half the company. While he was selling beer cheese, he found a horseman’s duster that would propel him into the retail business. The beer cheese was being sold downstairs and the retail business was upstairs until Hall’s was eventually sold.[6]

The J. Peterman Company[edit]

The J. Peterman Company
Industry Retail
Founded Lexington, Kentucky, USA (1987–2000, 2001—)
Founder John Peterman
Headquarters Blue Ash, Ohio[7], USA
Products Clothing and Home accessories

The J. Peterman Company is a retail company that sells clothing and fashion accessories primarily through catalogs and the Internet.


The J. Peterman Company was founded in 1987 by John Peterman, an entrepreneur who was formerly a minor league baseball player.[8] It took up the travel and safari theme originated by Banana Republic, which they abandoned in 1989 soon after their corporate parent, The Gap, parted ways with Banana Republic founders Mel and Patricia Ziegler.[citation needed] The J. Peterman Company's first product was an original horseman's duster,[8] promoted with a small ad in The New Yorker. The company grew by offering distinctive lifestyle merchandise (including reproductions of antique clothing and clothing worn in specific films) within catalogs that differed from other direct marketing at the time. The catalogs use long copy to explain the products, often expanding into exotic stories of how the catalog writer came across the product, or how it will make the wearer irresistibly attractive, such as

When a man puts on this authentic French farmer's shirt he may very well find that his hands look bigger....Is that woman over there giving him the eye and nodding toward the haystack? Yes, and he knows what to do.[9]

The products are also depicted in drawings rather than photographs.

From 1995 to 1998, Seinfeld, the most popular television series at the time, parodied the owner and the company with Elaine Benes working at the catalog under eccentric businessman and world traveler J. Peterman, played by John O'Hurley.[10]

In 1997, the company made a deal with 20th Century Fox to sell both original and authorized replica costumes and props from their upcoming film Titanic.[11] Most analysts expected the film to be a costly flop, and J. Peterman chose to feature it simply because it fit their brand as a period piece. When Titanic proved to be the biggest financial hit of all time, J. Peterman found themselves with a lucrative line of collectibles. The best-selling product was the only authorized replica of the film's iconic Heart of the Ocean blue diamond necklace. The company sold over $1 million worth of the necklaces, priced at $198 each.[12]

Flush with the success of their Titanic bonanza, the company raised private equity to expand. The company opened up 10[8] retail stores in several markets, including New York, Detroit, and San Francisco.[13] The stores were moderately successful but the growth was too fast for the company's small operations. Despite $75 million in sales at its peak, the company was forced into bankruptcy in January 1999.[8][13]

The company was purchased by Paul Harris Stores in 1999, without the future participation of Peterman. Paul Harris Stores went bankrupt in 2000. In 2001, Peterman repurchased the name and restarted The J. Peterman Company, with Seinfeld sitcom Peterman portrayer O'Hurley as an investor.[8][10] With the help of a core group from the original company (creative director William McCullam, marketing director Jonathan Dunavant, merchant Paula Collins and director of manufacturing Kyle Foster), the company was relaunched.[14] Tim Peterman, one of the founder's sons, left E. W. Scripps in 2008 to become president of the company while John Peterman became Chairman.[15]

On November 24, 2010, the company was the first to use the marketing term "Red Wednesday Sale," referring to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as "Black Friday's Impetuous Cousin."

In January 2011, the J. Peterman Company received a Job Creation Tax Credit incentive from the State of Ohio valued at $122,000 over a six-year term. The headquarters was moved from Lexington, Kentucky to Blue Ash, Ohio.[16][17]

On April 11, 2016, the company launched a Kickstarter campaign[18] to raise money for new product development such as the Urban Sombrero from Seinfeld.



  1. ^ David Vinjamuri: Accidental Branding: How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands, p. 33
  2. ^ "John Peterman Minor League Statistics & History". Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  3. ^ a b c d Witt, Karen de. "A Legend in His Own Ad Copy, and on 'Seinfeld'". Retrieved 2018-08-17. 
  4. ^ "Suburban Cowboy John Peterman Rides the Long Coattails of His Dude-Ish Duster to Catalog Success". Retrieved 2018-08-17. 
  5. ^ Vinjamuri, David (2008-03-31). Accidental Branding: How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 22–49. ISBN 9780470282083. 
  6. ^ Ace (2016-04-26). "How J. Peterman Is Resurrecting Retail". Ace Weekly. Retrieved 2018-08-17. 
  7. ^ Privacy policy of The J. Peterman Company
  8. ^ a b c d e Greenwald, John (August 12, 2001). "Peterman Reboots". Time. Retrieved March 9, 2009. 
  9. ^ French Farmers Shirt at
  10. ^ a b Jong, Mabel. "J. Peterman catalogs his success: Yada, yada, yada", Bankrate, 6 June 2003.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b Fornoff, Susan. J. Peterman is back / This time the catalog king is writing the 'adventures' of his new furniture line San Francisco Chronicle, 12 June 2004.
  14. ^ "The Real J. Peterman". 
  15. ^ The J. Peterman Company (25 March 2008). "Founder's Son Named to Lead J. Peterman" (Press release). Lexington, Kentucky: 
  16. ^ "Job Creation Tax Credit Report" (PDF). Ohio Development Services Agency. p. 24. 
  17. ^ "Blue Ash Economic Development News". Blue Ash Advance. City of Blue Ash, Ohio. March 2011. Archived from the original on 2013-10-18. 
  18. ^ "J. Peterman Kickstarter Campaign". 

External links[edit]