Appleseed’s Shifts Fulfillment Jobs to Eddie Bauer DC

Women’s apparel retailer Appleseed’s is moving about 240 jobs from its Beverly, MA, distribution center to Groveport, OH. Clothing cataloger/retailer Eddie Bauer Holdings plans to add about 300 jobs to its Groveport fulfillment facility. Coincidence?

Not really – Appleseed’s is a sister company to Eddie Bauer, both having the same parent company in private equity firm Golden Gate Capital. Appleseed’s is part of the Orchard Brands unit, which also includes Blair, Draper’s & Damon’s, Lew Magram and Norm Thompson. Golden Gate Capital acquired Eddie Bauer this past June 2009.

The Groveport DC employs about 400 workers. The Salem News (MA) reports that Orchard Brands corporate headquarters will remain in Beverly where Appleseed’s was founded in 1946. Appleseed’s, which operates a dozen stores in New England, moved its call center and 100 jobs to Pennsylvania in 2008.

The move was no doubt made for logistical reasons, says Stuart Rose, managing director with investment firm Tully & Holland. Golden Gate Capital is “a big, well managed company, and they believe distributing out of the Midwest rather than Beverly will save freight and labor expense.”

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Appleseed’s Returns to Retail

Six years after former owner Jemoli Versand, the Swiss mail order giant, closed down all 17 Appleseed’s stores, the women’s apparel cataloger has returned to retail. Last month the Beverly, MA-based mailer opened a store in Acton, MA, and another in Westwood, MA. Jemoli, which bought Appleseed’s in 1988, sold it in 1999 to a joint ownership of private equity firms Halpern Denny and Housatonic Partners, which still own the company.

As Appleseed’s chairman/CEO Neale Attenborough explains it, when Jemoli bought Appleseed’s in the early ’90s, it “viewed the company as a U.S. retail beachhead.” But while Appleseed’s was opening new stores, Jemoli also sought to change Appleseed’s target market. Appleseed’s had long appealed to women 45 and older; Jemoli changed the merchandising to appeal to women ages 25-45. “It just didn’t work,” Attenborough says, “so Jemoli decided to focus on catalog marketing, shutting down the stores, and refocusing on our former core customer.”

Over the next ensuing years, Appleseed’s sales tripled, according to Attenborough, who won’t reveal the company’s revenue, and he felt the time was right to reenter the retail arena. “A significant portion of our target market doesn’t shop in catalogs,” he says, “but predominately through specialty retail or department stores.” For the stores’ first month, s ales have been ahead of expectations by “double digits,” Attenborough says.

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Appleseed’s breaks ground on warehouse addition

Seeking greater efficiencies and improved fulfillment speed, mature women’s apparel cataloger Appleseed’s on April 22 broke ground on an 88,000-sq.-ft. expansion of its existing 90,000-sq.-ft. fulfillment center in Beverly, MA.

The new space, which will be completed later this year, replaces two leased spaces in Boston and Salem, MA, which combined had 10,000-30,000-sq.-ft. more space than the new wing. But as company spokesperson Tom Jessep points out, having all fulfillment housed at Appleseed’s headquarters will better accommodate the company’s 40% sales growth over the past three years.

“In order to manage our growth, we had opened the satellite facilities in Boston and Salem,” Jessep says. “But it now makes sense for us to consolidate those under one roof.” The Boston facility was primarily designed for bulk storage and the Salem unit housed hanging goods. Once all warehousing and fulfillment is in the same facility, the company will now be able to replenish merchandise more efficiently. One distribution center should also reduce the incidence of product damages, since there will be no need to cart merchandise from one warehouse to the other, Jessep says.

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