At J. Jill Inc., 43 percent of sales are now from direct-to-consumer but that’s expected to grow to 50 percent by 2019.
That’s the word from Paula Bennett, president and chief executive officer of the women’s specialty chain, who spoke to WWD Thursday morning following her first earnings conference call with Wall Street analysts. The chain earlier this month began trading as a public company.
According to Bennett: “By 2019, we believe our business, which is now 43 percent direct to consumer and 57 percent retail, will be 50 percent direct-to-consumer and 50 percent retail, with both growing and both growing profitably. We are well-positioned to compete with brands that are e-commerce brands and retail brands. Our customer is tech-savvy, but she loves her stores. We are well-positioned to serve her.”
The company currently operates 275 stores in premium and lifestyle centers. The plan is to open 10 to 15 new stores this year. The brand targets women between ages 40 to 65, is college educated, works outside the home and has an average household income greater than $150,000.
According to Bennett, “Two years ago, one-sixth of the traffic to the company’s web site was from mobile — now its one-third that’s through mobile.” She said most of the mobile traffic is from a smartphone. “The big change has been with people out and about, and checking us out and going online.”
Bennett said the company plans to grow the size and value of its active customer base, leveraging its mobile strengths and putting into place a new e-commerce platform in the fall. The company believes the e-commerce platform will help it grow an online business internationally over the longer-term. And while it will focus on digital, the company has no plans to exit from its catalog operation, which Bennett said is “a very profitable part of our marketing.”
Further, Bennett said the company knows the customer “behind 97 percent of all transactions, who know who she is,” noting that that kind of data is helping J. Jill determine what are the best investments across marketing, product and distribution channel.
Bennett also spoke about offering a new collection every four weeks, representing about 40 percent of new merchandise in the stores on a regular basis. While a pink, black and white palette was featured for March, the ceo said upcoming looks would include florals and stripes.
For the fourth quarter ended Jan. 28, the company said net income rose 41 percent to $2 million, or 5 cents a diluted share, on a net sales gain of 14.8 percent to $166.9 million. The company said comparable-store sales, which include direct-to-consumer, rose 10.8 percent in the quarter.