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Apr 01, 1999 10:30 PM  By

J. CREW TO PHASE OUT CLIFFORD & WILLS Having failed to find a buyer for its ñ74 million Clifford & Wills women’s apparel catalog, cataloger/retailer J. Crew announced on March 3 that it will phase out the title over the next two years. In a statement, J. Crew chairman Emily Woods said that the decision “is consistent with our efforts to continue to focus the company’s management and financial resources on growing the J. Crew brand.”

FRENCH FIRM BUYS BRYLANE French cataloger/ retailer Pinault-Printemps-Redoute S.A. (PPR) agreed on March 10 to buy multititle apparel mailer Brylane. PPR will purchase all of the outstanding shares of Brylane not owned by PPR for ñ24.40 per share in cash, which represents an increase from PPRis initial proposal of ñ20 per share. PPR bought 49.9% of Brylane last year. Brylane becomes a subsidiary of PPRis catalog division, RedCats. As a subsidiary, iweill have greater opportunity to grow quickly, says Brylane chairman/CEO Peter Canzone. This month, in fact, Brylane begins testing a U.S. version of the French womenis apparel book, La Redoute. The book will be distributed in two drops of 700,000 to 800,000 Brylane customers and prospectsoabout a 50-50 mixoin late April and late May. iltis a reduced, 64-page version of the French La Redoute book, Canzone says. The book offers contemporary apparel for the under-35 set. All the merchandise will be directly shipped from La Redouteis French warehouse. Orders will be electronically transmitted to France, shipped within 24 hours to four regional bulk mail centers in the U.S., then shipped Priority Mail to customers. All totaled, customers should received their orders within 5-7 days, Canzone says.

MAIL VOLUME JUMPS In its latest accounting period (AP 5) covering Jan. 2-29, the U.S. Postal Service reports a 3.4% increase in Standard A mail volume compared to the same period last year. Even more striking, however, the USPS posted a 15.3% increase in Priority Mail Volume for the period compared to the same time last year. On the other hand, the agency suffered a 6% drop in Standard B mail, which includes parcel postorecently renamed and repackaged as Parcel Select to reflect a new push for catalogers and other shippers to use zone skippers and the USPS for final delivery.

FURTHERMOREOLandsi End, a ñ1.37 billion apparel mailer, capped a dismal 1998 with a fourth-quarter earnings plunge of 38%. The company earned ñ25.69 million, or 84 cents a share in the quarter ended Jan. 29, compared to ñ41.25 million or ñ1.32 a share for the same period a year ago. Due to an increase in circulation and pages, however, Landsi Endis sales rose 12.64% to ñ541.17 for the quarterO. New J. Peterman owner Paul Harris Stores said on March 12 it will shutter Petermanis Lexington, KY-based offices and three of its 13 stores in Las Vegas; Woodbury, NY; and San Francisco. For more on the acquisition, see story on page 5.

LANDS’ END’S EARNINGS PLUNGE, CIRCULATION CUTS TO FOLLOW Lands’ End, the ñ1.37 billion casual apparel mailer, capped a dismal 1998 with a fourth-quarter earnings plunge of 38%. The company earned ñ25.7 million, or 84 cents a share, for the quarter ended Jan. 29, compared to ñ41.3 million, or ñ1.32 a share, for the same period of the previous year. Worse, annual profits plummeted 51%, to ñ31.2 million, or ñ1.01 a share, from ñ64.2 million, or ñ2.00 a share, for 1997. Due to an increase in circulation and pages mailed, however, fourth-quarter sales rose 12.6%, to ñ541.2 million, while annual sales grew nearly 9%. To reverse the slide in profitability, president/CEO David Dyer said in a statement that beginning in the fall, the company will reduce catalog circulation.