Cotton Champion Award Goes to J. Jill Group

Mult-channel retailer of high-quality women's apparel takes home the prize for high commitment of using U.S. grown cotton. Compiled by staff

Published on: Jan 16, 2004

The J. Jill Group, a Quincy, MA,-based multi-channel specialty retailer of high-quality women’s apparel, accessories and footwear is the recipient of the U.S. Cotton Champion Award for 2004.

The 2003 U.S. Cotton Champion Award is in recognition of the J. Jill Group’s commitment to the use of U.S.-grown cotton in its clothing. The award was presented at the 2004 Beltwide Cotton Conferences by the National Cotton Council of America on behalf of its National Cotton Women's Committee.

The J. Jill Group has a thriving core catalog business, rising Web sales and expanding retail stores. The company began life in the mid-1950s as one of several catalogs under the holding company DM Management. In 1994, the momentum increased with the repositioning of the J. Jill catalog to address the needs of the baby boomer segment – active and affluent women, age 35-55, with a preference for comfortable, casual, yet fashion-forward clothing.

Gordon Cooke, chief executive officer since 1996, revamped the company further in the retail marketplace moving its products increasingly toward natural fibers such as cotton, linen, wool and cashmere; versatile colors; and primarily solids. The company also continues to design 100 percent of its lines in-house.

Lauren Cooke, a marketing associate with the 2004 U.S. Cotton Champion Award recipient J.Jill Group in Quincy, MA, accepts a crystal bowl from Cotton Foundation President Larkin Martin, a Courtland, AL, cotton producer.

Karen Brooks, a Cotton Women’s Committee officer in Goodyear, AZ, and a nominator of the company, says that on a recent shopping trip to the J. Jill store in Chandler, AZ, both she and her grown daughters were impressed with the selection of cotton clothing.

"They have a great variety of cotton clothing in up-to-date styles," she says.

The J. Jill Group launched its e-commerce Web site, www.jjill.com, and its first J. Jill retail store, both in 1999. The company continues to roll out stores at an aggressive pace, and by the end of 2003, the brand housed some 125 retail locations in 32 states. The company’s sales also have grown from $22.6 million in 1996 to a projected $376 million by the end of 2003.

In 2002, the company established the J. Jill Compassion Fund at the Boston Foundation, and works closely with select nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing homeless women and children with the support and skills they need to move from a reliance on public assistance to economic independence.