Keeping Up With Growth
The recent enviable growth of The J. Jill Group (formerly DM Manage-ment) has been one of this year’s catalog success stories. Second-quarter results for 1999 showed that sales were up 31 percent over the prior year, while operating income was up 43 percent. With catalog sales going strong to the tally of $143 million for the first half of 1999, The J. Jill Group has planned new initiatives: an expansion into e-commerce in August 1999 and retail stores in 2000.
The Tilton, NH-based specialty women’s apparel direct marketer has gotten much attention for the lifestyle marketing approach to its two catalogs, J. Jill and Nicole Summers. Receiving less attention is the back end, but it was a regrouping of fulfillment last year that enabled J. Jill’s rapid expansion and extension into new marketing channels.
Building From the Ground Up
Only last year, J. Jill was using an order-taking and fulfillment system that had been rebuilt so many times the bolts were showing.
Says Randy Dow, J. Jill’s vice president of information systems, “The system we had was used by Orvis. We bought it about 13 years earlier and had modified it close to 100 percent. There was almost nothing left of the system we bought.”
With such a patched-together system, ensuring Y2K compliance would be an exercise in futility. Even without the added pressure of the coming millennium, J. Jill’s software was stretched to the limit.
“They were ready to move from the little league to major league in terms of order management and fulfillment systems,” says Donny Askin, COO of CommercialWare, the software company whose fulfillment software J. Jill chose. “They were doing this at the same time they were growing 100-plus percent, they were moving into a brand-new distribution facility, they were integrating new warehouse management systems and they had a lot of other initiatives on the table for which they need a very strong foundation to build upon.”