J. Jill Catalog List Takes Off

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The J. Jill catalog concept has been such a hit for DM Management, Hingham, MA, that the company this week changed its name to the J. Jill Group Inc. Its list, which is managed by the Millard Group, Peterborough, NH, has ridden the wave of success by more than doubling in the last 15 months to nearly 1 million names.

DM Management has totally remade itself in the three years since Gordon Cooke took over as CEO. Four catalog titles were streamlined into two (J. Jill and Nicole Summers) and marketing efforts veered from a traditional catalog approach to one more closely tied to fashion retailers and committed to building a brand for lifestyle dressing.

Rather than sending every customer and prospect its four catalogs in a polybag and re-mailing the same catalog several times as it had prior to Cooke's arrival, DM Management now creates new covers and lays out new products for each mailing and times the mailings by the same calendar as department stores. It has boosted private-label merchandise from 55 percent of product in 1995 to 100 percent today.

The result of the overhaul is a 964,000-name apparel list that specifically targets what Cooke said is a segment overlooked by catalogers and retailers alike: women age 35-55. The list, which has jumped from 189,000 in 1997 and 524,000 last year, is expected to continue its rapid climb and become multi-faceted as J. Jill unveils new corporate iniatives. J. Jill, which primarily rents apparel and home furnishings lists, has increased its prospect mailings from 1.9 million names three years ago to over 30 million today and has not had an unprofitable prospecting campaign in that period.

J. Jill also is building new sources of names with the planned test and rollout of an e-commerce site in the fall and an expansion into retail. The company will open its first retail stores in 2000 and has plans for 60 stores by the end of 2001.

Linda Thompson, director of catalog list management for Millard, said J. Jill is working for home, furniture, gift, financial, accessory general merchandise mailers targeted to women age 35-45. The list also can be used to reach an older audience through age enhancements.

The momentum of J. Jill in attracting buyers and building its house list is part of a larger trend among catalogers that serve the 35-45 niche like Plow & Hearth, Restoration Hardware and The Territory Ahead, Thompson said.

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