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  • The Boston Globe OnlineBoston.com Boston Globe Online / Business / Globe 100
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    OVERALL PERFORMANCE
    7. DM Management Co.

    By Chris Reidy, Globe Staff, 05/18/99

    Gordon R. Cooke, CEO of DM Management Co.: "What Ambercrombie & Fitch does for teenagers, we do for women between 35 and 55 who have children." (Globe Photo / Tom Landers)

    vid women readers of Martha Stewart Living can't seem to buy enough ''soft career'' clothing from J. Jill, the premiere catalog published by retailer DM Management of Hingham.

    When Gordon R. Cooke took over as chief executive in early 1996, annual sales stood at $78.5 million, and DM shares were trading at under 2. In 1998, sales hit $218.7 million. If the stock hadn't split, shares would have traded near 281/2 at the end of the year. They have risen even higher in 1999.

    ''What Abercrombie & Fitch does for teenagers, we do for women between 35 and 55 who have children,'' said Cooke of clothes that aim to strike a balance between casual and stylish.

    Surprisingly, few other retailers focus so exclusively on that niche; with little direct competition, DM plans to open J. Jill stores next year. If the early stores test well, Cooke envisions a 300-store chain and $800 million in sales someday.

    Look at Williams-Sonoma and Eddie Bauer, he said. Catalog companies that open stores often triple or quadruple sales.

    DM also publishes the Nicole Summers catalog that targets an older, more sophisticated woman. But J. Jill is the star, accounting for the lion's share of revenues. In fact, the company is planning to change its name to J. Jill Group Inc. later this month.

    ''J. Jill has a wide selection of casual clothing that goes from carpool to corporate without skipping a beat,'' said Kelly B. Armstrong, an analyst with First Union Capital Markets.

    Explaining J. Jill's success, she said, ''It just shows how starved women are for lifestyle clothing that's fashionable.''

    Potential rivals are eyeing a slice of J. Jill's niche. L.L. Bean has a new catalog called Freeport Studio, and a similar catalog line is being tested by Nordstrom, the department store chain. But for the moment, J. Jill and DM are flying high.

    This story ran on page D11 of the Boston Globe on 05/18/99.
    © Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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