The better floor this year has already experienced the exits of Nautica, O Oscar and Sigrid Olsen — and more could follow for fall as retailers give exclusive lines large, prominent chunks of real estate.

At Macy's, the new Tommy Hilfiger line has been promised more — and higher-profile — space. Tommy Hilfiger will become exclusive to Macy's in the fall. Belk will give the exclusive Kristin Davis line similar treatment.

However, when there are winners, there are also losers, particularly on such a long struggling floor.

"If Tommy Hilfiger shows improvement in the back half at Macy's, that can hurt a lot people," said Brad Stephens, a retail analyst for Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc. "There's so much weakness on that floor that, between this and the bad economy, a lot of small brands may exit the market."

Competition is also coming from new arrivals like DKNYC and the relaunch of Adrienne Vittadini. Michael Michael Kors, Kenneth Cole Reaction and Lauren by Ralph Lauren continue to be the floor's leaders, according to sources.

Better stalwart Liz Claiborne was without a head designer this season as it awaits the spring relaunch under Isaac Mizrahi, which may further weaken the brand's fall sales, the sources said. But the company is still leveraging its size to preserve as much space as it can in preparation for the relaunch.

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