Amid a flurry of mergers and bankruptcies, what happened to wintersilks has taken the industry by surprise. The cataloger filed for Chapter 11 protection in July after its primary lender, American National, pulled financing. The Middleton, Wisconsin-based company was unable to find another investor and has since stopped production.
Scott took over as president and CEO of Venus Swimwear and WinterSilks in 1999 after the swimwear business surpassed the bodywear side of the catalog. In 2000, he launched an offshoot catalog called Venus Edge aimed at teenaged customers; the offshoot has been growing at 15 percent to 20 percent a year.
To reduce costs, Scott combined back-end operations for both businesses and moved the entire operation to a warehouse in Jacksonville, Florida. The 165,000-square-foot distribution center runs 24/7. The divisions share a common picking floor and order fulfillment is handled in one facility. Shipping costs are less costly because both catalogs ship apparel, which goes out in flat packages.
While back-end functions have been meshed together, merchandising and circulation planning remain separate for both catalogs. Scott believes the two businesses have completely different audiences. He describes the Venus audience as affluent women in their upper 20s who are fashion-conscious and reasonably fit, with geographic concentrations along the coasts and in Chicago. The WinterSilks customer is much older, with an equal number of male and female buyers who are concentrated in colder areas. Both catalogs serve their customers through call centers.