Why Sears should sell Lands' End

The company has done nothing with the specialty retailer it bought in 2002.

By Kim Peterson Mar 29, 2012 4:21PM
Image: Sears sign© Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty ImagesSears Holdings (SHLD), desperate for cash, is hoping to sell its Lands' End brand for as much as $2 billion, The New York Post reports.

It's about time. The bizarre marriage made no sense when Sears bought Lands' End in 2002 for $1.86 billion. The fact that Sears wants to sell it a decade later for about the same price -- and bankers think the actual price will be far less -- shows how little Sears brought to the brand.

Sears shares fell more than 2% Thursday afternoon to $67.55.

Lands' End grew quickly in the 1990s as a respected brand of high-quality, classically American clothes. Customers were loyal to its Oxford shirts and khaki pants. Former Sears CEO Alan Lacy took a big gamble on Lands' End, hoping its clothes could play a key part in the company's turnaround.

What happened? Sears tried to sprinkle Lands' End items around its otherwise forgettable collection of clothing, wrote Paul Miller at Retail Online Integration in 2007. He described it as the new "Lands' End ghetto" in Sears' stores. Sears tried to improve the situation, but the end result was the same: Lands' End languished under its new owner.

Now, Sears chairman Eddie Lampert is hoping to find a buyer that will license Lands' End to Sears while expanding the brand in other areas.

But can Lands' End recover? The Post cites the example of Martha Stewart's line, which managed to make a comeback at Macy's (M) after slumming in Kmart stores. Lands' End is still a well-known name for many Americans. Perhaps it isn't too late.

As for Sears, the move is another sign that the company is shifting away from clothing and focusing more on housewares, tools and appliances. Sears is already pulling clothing out of some stores, perhaps in a test run for a chain-wide overhaul. The company is becoming a smaller, niche retailer, realizing it cannot be the store for everyone it was in the past.

Sears is closing as many as 182 stores in an effort to save money. Here's a list of 79 of those locations.

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4Comments
Mar 29, 2012 7:00PM
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Having worked for LE during the the acquisition by Sears, there's little if anything the SHLD Company had to offer LE.

In fact, due to supplying over 800 Sears stores Lands' End apparel, many of the original LE suppliers had to be replaced due to their lack of capacity. The result, product that was not the caliber of LE original quality.

SHLD did bring something to LE, a stifling, corporate environment that infected the Dodgeville based headquarters.
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I used to shopLands End many times a year. But it was ruined when some genius at Sears tried to turn an otherwise very good Lands End catalog into an ancient Sears catalog.  It was all downhill from there...Thank goodness for LL Bean!
Mar 29, 2012 6:04PM
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The Hyde Park Oxford shirt is the best in the country for the money. They can quit making everything else, but PLEASE keep that shirt in the line.
Mar 29, 2012 5:20PM
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The only thing Sears brought to Lands End was the increase in sales and free shipping which wasn't a bad thing. as a customer for many years, I've seen and felt their products go from good, to bad to ugly, and back to good. I think they're paying more attention to quality and product form and function. lets hope they get sold

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