J.JILL: “Call us today, wear it tomorrow”

February 12, 2022

Jill is an American retailer of womenswear, founded in 1955 by Karl Lipsky (1914-2009). Lipsky opened his first store in 1955 in the Berkshires, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Lipsky named the store for his wife, Jenifer, and daughter, Jill.

In 1955, Karl Lipsky founded a catalogue company called Jennifer House, the name chosen in honour of his wife. Originally, the catalog offered only decorative items but eventually grew to include a separate catalog featuring classic women’s clothing under the name J. Jill (the second name in honour of Lipsky’s daughter).

In June 1988, the U.S. Postal Service implemented massive postage rate increases for third-class mailing, prompting Lipsky to sell his company to the DM Management Company of Hingham, Massachusetts. DM (the DM standing for direct marketing) was founded by George Burman of Talbot’s. Burman, a venture capitalist who purchased poorly performing catalogues, got both Jennifer House and J.Jill in the deal.

Call us today, wear it tomorrow.
By mid-1993 there were three DM Management apparel catalogs: the first one called, J. Jill Ltd., featured “comfortable and easy-to-wear clothing; the second one, The Very Thing!, was described as “refined apparel for women with discerning tastes;” and the third one, Nicole Summers, was for “women whose style is distinct but eclectic.”

DM Management went public in 1993, offering stock at $9 a share and in fiscal 1994 the company celebrated its best year to date, earning $3.27 million in net income on net sales of $63.34 million.

Enter Gordon R. Cooke
The fiscal year 1995 had a disappointing net income of $773,00 on net sales of $72.69 million. Enter Gordon R. Cooke, former president of Time Warner Interactive Merchandising. Cooke took over as President and CEO of DM Management and changes started to happen. Under his direction, DM Management began to create catalogue photos of its mature customers as youthful and fashionable women. Things were looking up and sales started to climb.

The evolution of DM Management left the company with two core books: Nicole Summers for career-minded customers and J. Jill. with its more youthful and casual clothing.

For the 1996 holiday season, DM’s catalogue included 60 percent new offerings and new merchandise such as accessories, gifts and home furnishings.

J.Jill at Bellevue Square, Bellevue, WA

By 1997, business was booming and DM Management had to rent 150,000 square feet of warehouse space in Meredith. This was in addition to its own 93,120-square-foot warehouse, plus additional rented quarters in nearby Laconia. The following year, the company, began construction of a 400,000-square-foot operations facility in Tilton, New Hampshire.

The J. Jill Group
In June 1999, DM Management was renamed The J. Jill Group, Inc. and business was expanded to retail and on-line shopping. The company announced plans to open ten J. Jill stores in 2000 and up to 50 stores by the end of 2001.

The first two J. Jill stores, opened in August 1999, in Natick, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island. Each unit was 5,000-square feet. In that same year, e-commerce was kicked off, linking the website to the company’s order-taking and fulfillment operations. Before the year was over, J. Jill Group moved its headquarters from Hingham to Quincy.

In 2006, J.Jill was acquired by rival retailer The Talbots, Inc., and ceased to be a publicly traded company. In 2009, The Talbots, Inc. sold the business to Golden Gate Capital for a devalued $63 million.

On March 9, 2017, J.Jill again became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). 

In May 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jill donated $50,000 to First Responders First, through its J.Jill Compassion Fund, and launched a campaign for National Nurses Month, offering a shopping voucher for its newest collection to nurses, first responders, and healthcare workers.

Gloria Sauvé
Communications and Marketing

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