Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
WinterSilks and Venus Swimwear Have Created a Working Solution to the Challenge of Running a Seasonal Business
By Alicia Orr Suman
Since its inception in 1985, Venus Swimwear has had a long history of growth, with annual sales increases averaging 15 percent to 25 percent. Today, the Jacksonville, FL-based company that was started by a college student and weightlifting enthusiast is the world's largest marketer of junior swimwear.
But as Venus grew, founder Daryle Scott realized he had one problem. "We had this business that was doing really well, but it's basically a February-through-June operation and is dead in the winter."
Venus Swimwear has always handled its own order-taking and fulfillment, and the seasonality was putting a dent in the company's back-end productivity. Scott's solution: Acquire another mail-order business with a seasonality cycle that would complement its own.
So in 1996, Scott began searching for acquisition candidates. It took a while to find the right fit. In 1999, Venus acquired the Wisconsin-based apparel catalog WinterSilks, whose core products are silk-knit long underwear and other cold-weather apparel. The purchase brought Venus Swimwear's business into the fall/winter market. Says Scott, "WinterSilks was a perfect fit—an almost completely opposite peak season."
To take advantage of joint fulfillment and order-taking efficiencies, WinterSilks' operations soon were moved to Jacksonville, and both divisions were run out of one warehouse. A core group of WinterSilks' staffers, including catalog planning, merchandising and circulation planning, remain in Madison, WI. "It's a very good group up there. We wanted to keep them, and they wanted to stay near their roots," explains Scott, who is now president and CEO of Venus Swimwear and managing partner of WinterSilks. Chris Vig is WinterSilks' president and CEO.
Today, the two divisions jointly bring in about $80 million in annual sales, with Venus being the larger income producer. Scott is pleased with how the two operations have come together, affording each the opportunity to grow in its own market while maintaining efficiencies on the back end.