Brylane buyout?

French catalog/retail behemoth Pinault-Printemps-Redoute (PPR) isn’t content with owning 49.9% of New York-based cataloger Brylane and launching a U.S. version of its La Redoute catalog this spring. In December, the $14.5 billion PPR proposed to buy the 50.1% of Brylane that it doesn’t yet own, for $20 a share. Brylane, whose titles include the Chadwick’s of Boston, Lane Bryant, and KingSize apparel books, formed a committee to evaluate PPR’s proposal.

As of early December, it was anyone’s call as to whether Brylane would accept the offer. Nonetheless, “the reasons for the alliance between PPR and Brylane are as vivid today as they ever have been,” says Robert Pulciani, chief financial officer for $1.3 billion Brylane, “and the global direction will move forward whether this deal is consummated or not.”

PPR had announced plans to launch a stateside version of its La Redoute catalog before proposing to buy out Brylane. “Redoute has said it wants to double the amount of revenue from its international business by 2001,” says Will Lewis, directorof London-based catalog consultancy Sterling Marketing Ltd. Currently, sales from outside of France account for only $272 million of La Redoute’s $3.8 billion in annual revenue.

Brylane president/CEO Peter Canzone says the U.S. launch of La Redoute could mail as early as April, with a second edition to drop in the fall. Although La Redoute is a general merchandise catalog, the 120- to 130-page debut U.S. edition will sell only women’s apparel. La Redoute will mail to roughly 2 million names from Brylane’s 25 million-name house file, as well as to some rented names.

The launch “was certainly the game plan” when PPR invested in Brylane in March, Canzone says. Likewise, shortly after PPR’s initial investment, Brylane announced plans to mail in fall 1999 one regular-size apparel book and one specialty-size apparel book into continental Europe and the U.K. “For growth, you have to be global,” Canzone says. “But to get started there, you need a strong partner.”