TowerBrook Capital Partners has signed an agreement to acquire the J.Jill business from Arcapita and Golden Gate Capital.
Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter. TowerBrook said it has committed financing from Jefferies and Macquarie Group.
J.Jill president and chief executive officer Paula Bennett will remain with the company.
“Their investment in J.Jill provides support for future development and the ability to maximize our potential as a brand and business,” Bennett said. “We have a shared vision to capitalize on our understanding of our customer and the strength of our omnichannel business.” She noted the company “just completed the best sales year in history and 12 quarters of consecutive growth.”
TowerBrook is a private equity firm based in New York and London.
TowerBrook said it will work with the team at J.Jill to build its omnichannel foundation, as well as pursue additional growth opportunities.
An individual familiar with TowerBrook’s strategy said the private equity firm was attracted to the business in part because of its consumer-centric landscape. “J.Jill has a very intense focus on its customer base. The company knows exactly who she is and how she shops.” This individual also noted the brand’s “DNA foundation is truly in an omnichannel setup. It has always had a very powerful direct-to-consumer, data-driven omnichannel history.”
Given the private equity firm’s experience in consumer brands — True Religion and Kaporal Jeans are current investments in its portfolio, while it counts Jimmy Choo and Phase Eight as past investments that it has exited — the individual said the J.Jill brand is within the “sweet spot” of TowerBrook’s interests and investment criteria.
The J.Jill business, which includes women’s apparel, accessories and footwear, has more than 250 stores, plus its catalogue and Web site operations.
The brand targets Baby Boomers. The key looks that define the brand include kimono sweaters, ponte knit pants, relaxed leggings, sweater toppers and quilted vests. The brand’s focus is easy, relaxed and modern, all without being too trendy.
At least 60 percent of the volume is generated by the stores, about 30 percent through the Web site and the balance ordered directly from the catalogue. The catalogues — at last count 48 million were distributed in 2013 through 23 editions — remain the firm’s main marketing vehicle. So far the business is focused on full-priced sales, although there is a regular markdown cadence and period sales events.
According to J.Jill’s research, more than 70 percent of its client base works outside the home, have college educations, and are married or have a partner. The average household income is more than $155,000.
Bennett last year projected a store base growth to up to 300 stores by 2016.
The brand was founded in 1959 by Carl and Mary Ann Lipsky. They sold the business to DM Management in 1987, which in turn sold the business in 2006 to The Talbots Inc. Golden Gate acquired J.Jill from The Talbots Inc. in 2009 and sold a majority stake in the company to Arcapita in 2011.