National Keeps Customers ‘Living the Comfortable Life’
NC business stays focused on personal connections and its small-town rootsBy Belinda Thomas
Lynda Smith Swann, president and owner of National Wholesale, a women’s apparel business, recalls a sweet story about a time long gone. Then just a small girl growing up in Lexington, her father, Eddie Smith, came home waving an envelope. His arm slipped around her mother’s waist and she watched them dance around the kitchen.“It was National’s first order,” Lynda recalls with a smile. “I was just a kid, but I will forever remember that joyous dance.”
Six decades later, under Lynda’s supervision, National continues to grow.
Although Lynda grew up at National, she went into counseling after receiving her undergraduate in psychology and her master’s in education from the University of North Carolina. In 1984, after the birth of her second child, Parker Wilson, Lynda was asked by her dad to join National full-time.
“As a business owner, the skills I learned as a counselor I put to good use every day,” she says. “Having an open line of communication with your employees is key to being successful.”
She goes on to add: “I learned so much from my father, not only about business but about setting yourself apart from your competitors by really focusing on customer service. Daddy’s motto of, ‘Treat every customer as if she were our only customer,’ is still the guiding principle by which we operate National today.”
Lynda hopes to create that same sense of good fortune and business opportunities for her daughter, Parker, as she assists the National family, too.
What began as a one-color mail-order flyer for hosiery in 1952 is now a multi-channel apparel business with 155 (mostly local) employees, complete with website, blog (which Parker writes, at ifthemuumuufits.com) and full-color catalog. The fashion assortment goes beyond hosiery. It now includes brand-name apparel, loungewear, intimates and shoes.
With her master’s in business and undergraduate degree in fashion, Parker transitioned from lululemon to National in 2013 to help develop new strategies and products that resonate with the company’s slogan: “Living the comfortable life.”
But why make the switch from a thriving yoga-wear company to an older traditional line?
“I see promise and opportunity as we tweak current styles to meet the needs of our growing demographic,” she says.
As for why she has kept it local when so many like companies have outsourced those services, Lynda quotes her father saying, “Lexington is an ordinary, extraordinary town with ordinary, extraordinary people.”
Her family’s love for Lexington goes back to her father’s days as an orphan at the Lexington Junior Order Orphanage, now the American Children’s Home. The day he left there he was given $5, and through the generosity of so many area people, he was able to thrive. He not only built a company, he also built a legacy that Lynda and Parker continue today. With funds given to build the Sarah and Edward Smith Health Sciences Center at Davidson County Community College, the renovation at the Junior Orphanage, the renovation of the Family Services Home for Women and the Lexington Hospital — business has never been just about selling product, but more about building lives.
Like my father always said, “Do the right thing for the right reason, because truth and time travel together.” It has worked well for 67 years, our mission is to continue his legacy.
This article is sponsored by National. Learn more at shopnational.com or 1-800-480-4673.