February 6, 2006, 12:00 AM

Talbots to acquire J. Jill Group

Under the agreement, which is expected to close in the second quarter, J. Jill will continue to operate under its name and will retain its headquarters in Quincy, MA. For now, both companies will also maintain separate e-commerce sites.

Though it will continue to operate separate brands and e-commerce channels, The Talbots Inc. is acquiring The J. Jill Group Inc. in a deal valued at $517 million.

Under the agreement, which is expected to close in the second quarter, J. Jill will continue to operate under its name and will retain its headquarters in Quincy, MA, which is located approximately seven miles from Talbots’ headquarters in Hingham, MA. "Our intent is to maintain each brand`s distinct identity and superior customer experience,” says Talbots CEO Arnold B. Zetcher. “Our current plan is to continue to operate separately areas such as merchandising, stores, catalog, web, marketing, visual and store design.”

Talbots, No. 85 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites is acquiring J. Jill, No. 87, because both multi-channel retailers serve the same customer segment: upscale women over age 35. “J. Jill`s focus on apparel for a sophisticated casual lifestyle, with artistically inspired styles, provides a perfect counterpoint to Talbots offering of updated modern classics,” Zetcher says.

The merger will create one of the biggest online retailers of upscale women’s clothes and accessories with online revenues of more than $160 million. “We have opened 200 stores in the past six years while maintaining a significant presence in both catalog and the Internet,” says J. Jill CEO Gordon Cooke.

J. Jill announced last fall that it was exploring various strategic alternatives, including a sale or merger. The announcement initiated several potential suitors, including Liz Claiborne, No. 193 in the Internet Retailer Top 400 Guide to Retail Web Sites, which made a written offer to acquire all outstanding shares of The J. Jill Group Inc. for $366 million in cash.

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