DALLAS -- The Leslie Fay Cos. and J.C. Penney Co. confirmed reports Tuesday that they are near a deal for Penney's to carry the Leslie Fay brand of sportswear and dresses for the first time.

"We're coming close to being able to offer Leslie Fay to our customers," said Jim Hailey, president of Penney's women's division. "We're in business to offer customers what they want to buy, and we know Leslie Fay would sell extremely well."

A spokesman for Leslie Fay said, "We have been in serious discussions with J.C. Penney about doing business with them," but declined to elaborate.

Hailey wouldn't speculate on a timetable or a dollar amount on initial orders, but market sources speculated that Penney's commitment will be substantial.

Penney's has sold private label dresses and sportswear made by Leslie Fay for at least 10 years, according to Hailey.

A hefty commitment from Penney's could be a boon to Leslie Fay, which is working to develop a reorganization plan under Chapter 11. Even though Penney's considers itself a moderate department store, selling to it could cause some negative response to Leslie Fay from mainstream department stores.

In promoting the brand, Leslie Fay has developed a big real estate presence in many of these stores -- Dillard Department Stores and R.H. Macy, for example -- with a network of in-store shops.

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