Sears Holdings Corp. is opening a design office here around mid-March as part of a drive to increase the margins and appeal of its private label apparel and accessories, lower costs and attract talent.
NEW YORK - Sears Holdings Corp. is opening a design office here around mid-March as part of a drive to increase the margins and appeal of its private label apparel and accessories, lower costs and attract talent.
The Sears division specifically wants to bridge the gap between its hard and soft goods, and encourage cross-shopping. Some proprietary brands are being introduced, some are being dropped, and femininity and details are being injected into third- and fourth-quarter collections for the Apostrophe, Covington and Classic Elements in-house apparel brands, among others.
The Canyon River Blues name is returning this fall after being sold as CRB and losing some recognition. Toughskins, a former Sears brand, is being revived for kids aged two to seven by next holiday. Belongings, a Liz Claiborne-supplied brand, will be gone after the spring, as will Parallel, another in-house brand. Craftsman stain-resistant workwear for men was introduced last fall, and prototype Lands' End shops, some that house all categories together, are being tested in a handful of locations, including units in White Plains and Yonkers, N.Y.
The strategy is led by Lisa Schultz, executive vice president of Sears Holdings Apparel Design. She oversees all Sears and Kmart apparel design teams, which are being integrated at the new office at 75 Varick Street in SoHo. "I am interested in adding new brands," she said in an interview. "I would like to see more activewear, which could include Lands' End. As you know, Sears sells a lot of treadmills....And in dresses and special sizes, things are in the works.
"By the end of the year, you will see a different way of merchandising, a different way of flowing goods and less confusion" on the selling floors. "There will be longer periods in between changes so stores can execute more clearly and the shopping experience is easier."
She acknowledged there had been too much clutter on the selling floors, and that the company was "running lots of tests and experiments" with Lands' End and other programs. Last quarter, apparel sales dragged at Sears, but posted comp gains at Kmart, the sister division at Sears Holdings.
Even though the stores dropped Belongings, Schultz said there was still a "strong partnership with Liz Claiborne" through Claiborne's First Issue brand, sold exclusively at Sears, as well as with Jones Apparel Group, which supplies the Rena Rowan line to Sears. "We are focusing on those brands that have a history and are recognized by our customers."Schultz reports to Edward S. Lampert, chairman of Sears Holdings, who is viewed with some skepticism in the apparel industry, and works with Aylwin Lewis, president and chief executive. Many think Lampert, the major shareholder, is primarily focused on selling assets rather than building the Sears-Kmart offerings and investing in fashion. He has lashed out at the critics, saying most pundits missed the turnarounds at Google and J.C. Penney, as well as the "resurrection of Kmart, until it was abundantly clear those companies succeeded."
Contending there really is a revival happening on the merchandise side at Sears, Schultz said she was building her design team to improve Sears' offerings, and holding a job fair today and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the Varick Street office to attract designers, CAD operators, graphics personnel and others involved in apparel, accessories, shoes and intimate apparel for Sears Holdings. The new facility ultimately will have 45,000 square feet, and a team of 200, and will replace the 3,500-square-foot office used just by Kmart at 111 Eighth Avenue. That office had about half as many workers. There is also a team at Sears Holdings headquarters in Hoffman Estates, Ill., principally packaging and product managers, and technical design staff; the core apparel design team is here.
Until November, Schultz was senior vice president of design for Kmart, where she reengineered Kmart's proprietary fashion and home businesses, applying to the mass channel what she learned during 14 years at Gap Inc.
"The process we developed at Kmart is really working well and the company is really supporting it. That is what we are doing at Sears, as well. It's a team in formation," said Schultz.
Kmart apparel was refocused with products with better values and easier care, as well as an emphasis on key items, denim and programs for knits and fleece. The chain adopted a vertical approach to product development that was new for Kmart, though similar to the way Gap, Limited Brands and other specialty chains have been operating for years. This approach involves sourcing and designing in-house, bypassing the domestic market for production, much more direct importing and having merchants function as general managers rather than selecting goods - all to exert tighter control over designs, pricing and quality.Sears Holdings is also said to be seeking a new chief merchant. Asked about that, Schultz replied, "We are looking for all levels of merchants."
Schultz sees the assortment building up "great basics and great classic clothing....Our customers love classic clothing and a little femininity. Everything should have a feminine twist, including a fleece sweatshirt with a little embroidery in Apostrophe. In a suit, it could be the way it fits. With a blouse, it's the way it drapes, and in a knit, it's the embellishment. I don't think it's been thought about so much before. We are creating a real point of view in each of our brands."
With Schultz heading and integrating the Sears and Kmart design initiatives in SoHo, there has been some speculation that the two chains might share private labels. For instance, Kmart has begun selling Sears' Craftsman and other hard goods.
"I wouldn't say I wouldn't ever do that, but it's not what I am working on," Schultz said. "You may see a couple of examples, but there is no need to confuse the customer. For the most part, we will keep our brands separate. The real synergies are behind the scenes, with fabrics and factories.
"By the third and fourth quarters of this year, you will see better definition between brands, more focused brands, more focused assortments," she added. "We will still have multibrands, but we are starting to cull them down."
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)
@Pharrell and his wife Helen Lasichanh were among the stars that came out to celebrate @rimowa’s first pop-up concept shop. The space, which is located on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, draws inspiration from airport luggage carousels and lounge areas – and features the company’s luggage and accessories. If the pop-up is successful it could pave the way for addition temporary shops throughout the world. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA)
@carineroitfeld celebrated @crfashionbook’s first calendar last night with a dinner party at Spring Place in Manhattan. Photographed by @stevenkleinstudio, the calendar takes on a fitness theme and features @joansmalls, @gigihadid, @danielle_herrington_ – pictured here – and more. “[Carine Roitfeld] wanted me to feel sexy and she wanted me to be myself and feel it out on my own and do what I felt was right,” said Herrington, aka Miss October. #wwdeye
@saintrecords and @virgilabloh last night at @americanexpress’ “A Night With Success Makers” event. “I always bring it back to community because without that I wouldn’t have the courage,” said Knowles when asked how she has gotten where she is now. Read more highlights from their conversation on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lizdoupnik)
This Just In: Industry sources have told WWD that Anastasia Soare is rumored to be considering selling her beauty business, @anastasiabeverlyhills. According to those sources, Soare has tapped investment bank Imperial Capital to explore sale options for her eponymous beauty brand –– and with at least $340 million in net sales, this would be a big deal. Put in context of other recent transactions for makeup companies, Soare’s price tag could be in the billions if she were to sell the whole thing. #wwdnews #wwdbeauty (📷: @clint_spaulding)
@assouline’s latest book, “The Spirit of Bentley: Be Extraordinary” captures the adventurous attitudes and opulent lifestyles of @bentleymotors’ most creative owners and enthusiasts throughout the U.K. The 292-page hardcover has a section dedicated to showing its team of skilled artisans and photos of its most colorful owners, from George Bamford to designer @alicetemperley, pictured here by Aline Coquelle. #wwdeye
@google released its report on the most popular search terms this year. For fashion brands, the list was led by @gucci, the luxury brand that stunned the market last October when it pledged to stop using fur. Runner ups were @supremenewyork and @fashionnova, along with more established brands like @louisvuitton, @chanelofficial and @ysl. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)