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John Peterman is back to move catalog forward

New York — In the 1990s, the J. Peterman Company's catalog was known for its lilting product descriptions ("...along that seam curving slowly like the Irrawaddy, there's rugged hill country to the north..."), insouciant globe-trotter gear (Russian Navy shirts, Marie Antoinette night dresses) and, most prominently, for being parodied on NBC's megahit TV show about "nothing" — "Seinfeld." By the last year of the decade, however, it became known for one other thing: a bankruptcy that forced founder John Peterman to sell off the company's assets and the rights to his name.

Now he's back. Peterman has regained ownership of his name, relaunched the catalog for summer 2001 and set his sites on building J. Peterman into a licensed brand across an array of categories, including home.

To that end, Peterman has retained Concept Marketing Co. to represent the brand in developing a comprehensive collection of soft and hard home furnishings. Concept Marketing's previous brand-extension licensing developments have included Nautica, Jessica McClintock, Harrods, Bill Blass and currently includes the development of home furnishings for Metropolitan Home magazine.

"We're trying to do it in a responsible and organized fashion," Concept Marketing president Kerry Glaser told Home Textiles Today. "When you consider what happened with the Hemingway license — and with rather limited source material — you realize what could be done with [J. Peterman's] rather extensive archive."

Soft goods as well as upholstery for furniture will be "inspired by the cultures of the world," Glaser said. "There's going to be a fabric component to this."

Concept Marketing will hit both the New York Textiles Market and the High Point Furniture Market this fall to begin searching for potential licensees. Glaser is particularly concerned about turning up a solid licensee for bedding, he said.

"The bedding industry is in a great state of flux," he noted, adding that he'd prefer the license to be picked up by a large bedding producer. In terms of construction, J. Peterman bedding should emphasize a lifestyle positioning, he said.

"It doesn't have to be 400-count, but it should be quality."

Product will be sold through the J. Peterman catalog, which in its heyday reached $75 million in sales. Home goods also will be made available to better retailers "who have the ability to showcase the product," Glaser said. "We're not interested in placing it where it's going to get lost among the Raymond Waites."

To heighten awareness of the J. Peterman brand, Peterman is developing a television show that will depict him traveling the world to source product for the catalog, Glaser said.

The company hopes to launch its inaugural line of home goods at the fall market in 2002.

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