J. Jill joins crowded home market

DM Management, the $135 million parent company of the J. Jill and Nicole Summers women’s apparel catalogs, plans to hop on the home goods bandwagon. The October issue of J. Jill, which sells largely casual apparel, will include a 24-page section of sheets, towels, and other domestics. Then next February, the company will launch an as-yet-untitled 48- or 64-page home products book.

President/CEO Gordon Cooke believes the catalog, which will sell moderately priced soft goods to J. Jill customers and prospects, can make $20 million-$40 million in annual sales “within a few years, depending on how fast we ramp it up.”

Cooke and company decided to target a home book to J. Jill’s audience of middle-income women because “we felt J. Jill was an outstanding brand in creative and merchandising, something we can reinforce through home goods.” J. Jill, he notes, “has had tremendous success” when prospecting to home goods buyers. By introducing the home book as part of J. Jill, Cooke hopes to see which lists work best for the new merchandise. The October mailing will go to about 880,000 customers and 220,000 prospects.

A full house The spin-off will join a packed home goods market, which includes the upscale Chambers catalog from Williams-Sonoma, Hanover Direct’s midscale Company Store and Domestications titles, and the fall launch of a value-oriented home book from multititle apparel cataloger Brylane. (See “Brylane goes home,” May issue.) But Cooke sees his book’s lone catalog competitor as Garnet Hill, a catalog of moderate-priced natural-fiber linens and apparel from International Cornerstone Group.

Like Garnet Hill, the new DM Management title will offer natural- fiber goods in earth tones. “There tend to be a lot of catalogs that use many prints and colors. We’ve been pretty true in keeping J. Jill in monochromatic colors,” Cooke says. “We’re also not going to sell goods manufactured by the nationally distributed vendors, such as Fieldcrest. J. Jill has been primarily private-label, and we plan to source from smaller vendors that have more unique items.”

To get the book off the ground, DM Management in March hired Lester Gribetz, a former vice chairman for Bloomingdale’s, as a consultant for six months. “Lester has great clout in sourcing in the home goods industry,” Cooke says, “and will allow us to negotiate with sources we otherwise would not have.”