BlueSky Brands, parent company of gifts catalogs The Paragon and Bits and Pieces, in November signed licensing agreements to manage the catalog and Internet merchandising businesses for a pair of not-for-profit groups: Wintherthur Museum & Country Estate and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Winterthur is dedicated to preserving the estate of antiques collector and horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont; the NWF supports conservation efforts.
“By taking the management of these businesses off their hands, they’ll be able to focus on their core missions,” says BlueSky CEO Richard Hebert. “We, in turn, can apply the economies of scale in marketing, creative, fulfillment, and merchandising that our business can bring to bear.” In addition to its catalogs, Allston, MA-based BlueSky owns fulfillment provider AB&C Group, which will now handle the back-end operations of Winterthur and NWF.
NWF had in fact started outsourcing its fulfillment with AB&C Group this summer, in hopes of cutting costs and selling its 244,500-sq.-ft. warehouse in Winchester, VA. About 100 NWF employees were laid off at that time, but some may be rehired, according to Ben McNitt, NWF’s senior director of program communications.
Winterthur also laid off employees — 61, or about 10% of its workforce — when it outsourced its operations last year. In addition, the organization suspended its underperforming gifts catalog in the spring, though it continued to mail its home furnishings book. BlueSky plans to reinstate the gifts catalog by next month.
BlueSky is intent on helping to expand sales for both Winterthur and NWF. “These are terrific brands that have not been fully exploited in the marketplace,” Hebert says. “We’re intending to invest considerably in both to grow them.” Among other things, he plans to increase the circulation of the catalogs “significantly.”
BlueSky will retain the remaining staff members of Winterthur’s and the NWF’s direct response businesses. The Winterthur employees will continue to work at the du Pont estate in Winterthur, DE; the NWF staff will remain in Reston, VA, but move to new offices.