The First 50 Years: The London Cab


Christmas 1984. It would be the biggest Lands’ End catalog ever, a whopping 128 pages. A bit risky, in those days. How to make sure it got noticed, got opened, got shopped?

Bill Ferry had never been the most conventional of merchants. He liked to have fun. He liked Lands’ End customers to have fun. It was he who’d gotten the company involved with both the U.S. Boomerang Team and the U.S. Rugby Team – surprising partners, to say the least.

But what to do for Christmas? The usual brainstorming ensued. How about a nautical cover? Too predictable. Beautiful product cover? Yawn. Santa, reindeer, elves?  Too cornball.

Bill got to thinking about the store windows he’d seen at Harrod’s in London. What a beautiful job they did at Christmas.

“Then I thought of it,” Bill remembers. “The English taxi. A classic symbol of quality. I bounced the idea off Gary Comer and Bernie Roer, our creative director. They liked it. We were off!”

Bill contacted our English buying office, the British Isles Buying Agency. On his next trip to London, he looked over a small group of old English cabs, found one he liked, and bought it.

It was authentic in every detail. Austin diesel engine. Carbodies steel chassis. Right hand drive. Window separator. Jump seats. Even a working meter.

Like any London taxi, despite being incredibly roomy, it could turn in a tight 25-foot radius. Not on a dime, but close. Helpful on those crowded London streets.

Bill had another idea. Why not fill the taxi with $1000 worth of Lands’ End gifts? It would be the greatest gift wrapping ever.

It made a memorable Christmas cover, with Santa waving from the driver’s seat. But it was a bit pricey, at $20,000. We held our breath, waiting to see if anyone would buy it.

“The cab was purchased right away by a woman in Kansas,” says Bill. “In fact, we could have sold two more! And it really created a stir.”

The gifts were wrapped and put in the taxi, and delivered on Christmas Day by two Lands’ End warehouse employees.

End of story? Not quite. In 2005, our Kansas buyer contacted Lands’ End and expressed interest in returning the London taxi for a full refund. Of course we obliged – everything we sell is Guaranteed. Period. Returnable at any time, for any reason. Doesn’t matter if it’s an Oxford shirt or (ouch) a $20,000 London taxi.

cab_2013Where’s the celebrated taxi now? It’s still in service here in Dodgeville, shuttling employees back and forth across our campus, and reminding all of us that the customer always comes first.

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