The J. Jill Group's fortune has been catalog fashion, and catalogs aren't so fashionable anymore. To mend its bottom line, the direct marketer turned to retail outlets and online sales, with aggressive plans to open new stores across the US; it currently operates about 225 stores nationwide (down from nearly 280 several years ago). The firm targets active, affluent women ages 35 and up, and banks on its J. Jill brand. The catalog and the website offer private-label casual wear made in the US and abroad. J. Jill is owned by the Bahrain-based global investment firm Arcapita Bank, which acquired a majority stake in the business from the private equity firm Golden Gate Capital in 2011.
Golden Gate Capital (GGC) retained a minority stake in J. Jill Group after selling the retailer (for an undisclosed amount) less than two years after buying it from Talbots. Indeed, GGC bought J. Jill in 2009 for just $75 million. Talbots bought the chain three years earlier for $517 million. The steep markdown in price reflected Talbots' need to focus on its ailing namesake chain and declining sales at J. Jill. When GGC acquired J. Jill it purchased just 204 of the company's 279 locations. GGC took advantage of the upswing in the retail economy and improvement in J. Jill's business under its owenrship. The quick turnaround suggests that GGC made a nice return on its 2009 investment.
CEO Paula Bennett continues to lead J. Jill under Arcapita (as she did under GGC and Talbots).