Brylane’s joie de vivre marriage

Brylane, a $1.3 billion-plus mailer of 11 catalogs, is gearing up for a good time as a subsidiary of the privately held French cataloger/retailer Pinault-Printemps-Redoute S.A. (PPR). Having bought nearly half of the New York-based Brylane early last year, PPR agreed on March 10 to buy the remaining 50.1% for $24.40 per share in cash.

“There are a lot of constraints and restrictions when you’re a public company,” says Brylane president/CEO Peter Canzone. “You have to spend a lot of time talking to the market, producing Securities and Exchange Commission reports, and so on.” But “almost nothing will change” in the Brylane corporate structure, he adds, now that the cataloger is a private subsidiary of PPR’s RedCats division.

New books here and abroad But other changes are afoot. After PPR bought into Brylane last year, the two companies laid the groundwork for several cross-border ventures. In April, Brylane began testing the first of these, a U.S. version of the French women’s apparel book La Redoute, called La Redoute U.S. The book is mailing in two drops of 700,000-800,000 each to an even mix of Brylane customers and prospects. “It’s a reduced, 64-page version of the French La Redoute book,” Canzone says. “Our first goal is to test the lists, merchandise, and various marketing ploys that will work best.”

The new catalog is a little more fashion-forward than Brylane’s other women’s apparel books, such as Chadwick’s of Boston and Lerner New York, and it also targets a younger audience-women up to age 37. Because La Redoute will sell only PPR-manufactured clothing, Brylane won’t have to get involved with manufacturing or shipping. Instead, all orders will be directly transmitted to France, where the packages will ship within 24 hours to four regional bulk mail centers in the U.S.; from there, the orders will be shipped via Priority Mail to customers. All told, consumers should receive their orders within five to seven days, Canzone says.

Canzone is also working with PPR to launch Chadwick’s of Boston in the U.K. and plus-size women’s clothing title Roaman’s in France. “We’re actually shooting for fall, but it’s more complex than we anticipated, what with customs complications holding things up,” he says. “So we’re scheduling for early next year.”

And Brylane plans to expand its Internet presence as well. So far, only its King-Size catalog of large and tall men’s apparel has its own Website. “We have a task force on the Internet, though,” Canzone says, “and we will be moving much more in that direction” with the aid of PPR.

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