Appleseed’s buyout

May 01, 1999 9:30 PM  By

Brenda Koskinen, the president/ CEO of women’s apparel catalog Appleseed’s, obviously believes in the future of the company: In March she bought the Beverly, MA-based Appleseed’s from Swiss retailing giant Jelmoli for an undisclosed sum.

Jelmoli had bought Appleseed’s, its only U.S. subsidiary, in 1988. But earlier this year, Jelmoli determined that a presence in the U.S. market was no longer strategically important, says Greg Harper, vice president of marketing and operations for Appleseed’s. “Sales obviously were not where Jelmoli wanted them to be, nor were profits,” adds Harper, who won’t disclose the catalog’s revenue or income.

The transaction follows the 18-month repositioning of Appleseed’s from a cataloger/retailer to a print catalog only. During that time, Appleseed’s closed its 16 New England stores and folded Just Right, a catalog of plus-size women’s apparel, into the flagship book. “We found that our best Just Right customers were also our best Appleseed’s customers, and we weren’t getting double the sales,” Harper says.

As for the future, don’t expect to see Appleseed’s stray from its core market: women ages 55 and up with total household income of $100,000 or more. From time to time, the catalog had tried to attract a younger audience by featuring hipper apparel, but sales consistently fell as a result. “We had to decide who it was we were serving,” Harper says. “Because in serving two markets we weren’t serving any.”

Up for sale since January and reportedly on the verge of being closed down for good, $20 million Wolferman’s Baking Co., a 110-year-old baker/cataloger of English muffins and other baked goods, was sold on March 4 by Sara Lee Corp. to Williams Foods, a producer of chili seasoning and sauce mixes, for an undisclosed amount. Both Williams and Wolferman’s are based in Lenexa, KS.

“We see a lot of opportunity for growth, and Wolferman’s fits with our business,” says George Young, executive vice president of $60 million Williams. “We can sell some of our products in the Wolferman’s catalog and lend our expertise in retail to help get Wolferman’s products distributed in local grocery stores.”

According to published reports, Sara Lee had been unhappy with the high overhead of the Wolferman’s plant, which was fully operational only during the holiday season. Williams plans to move Wolferman’s bakery equipment to smaller quarters to reduce overhead and is making contingency plans for backup baking capacity.