It’s not only geography that ties J. Jill and Talbots. J. Jill was founded in 1987 as DM Management by George Burman, a former senior vice president for Talbots’ direct business. With financial backing, Burman acquired women’s apparel catalogs J. Jill, Nicole Summers, and The Very Thing in the late ’80s; later adding Carroll Reed in 1994. After a weak women’s apparel market, rising postal rates, and low response rates, Burman was ousted as chairman in 1995. Enter Gordon Cooke, a former Bloomingdale’s by Mail executive, in 1996. Cutting redundancies, Cooke merged The Very Thing into Nicole Summers and discontinued Caroll Reed. J. Jill closed the Nicole Summers brand in 1999.