NEW YORK — Sears, Roebuck will start selling the Parallel contemporary brand beginning mid-April in an exclusive distribution deal that reflects the chain’s ongoing reengineering of its apparel business.
In disclosing the Parallel pact to WWD on Wednesday, Sears executives said the recasting of its apparel floor is gathering steam. This fall, they plan to introduce a few more exclusive labels, which they declined to identify. The essence of the strategy is to build up a stable of “affordable and on-trend” labels unique to midtier retailing.
Other key components of the strategy involve reworking the selling floors so they’re less dense with merchandise and become clearly divided into three lifestyle areas: updated, classics and relaxed. Also, since last holiday season, Sears has accelerated the flow of goods to its stores, so that floor sets change every six to eight weeks, compared with three to four per year. “We’re heavily into the cycle now,” said Gwen Manto, executive vice president and general manager of apparel, Sears, Roebuck.
About half of Sears’ apparel business is considered exclusive to the store, and apparel/accessories represents 25 to 30 percent of the volume at Sears’ 870 full-line stores around the country. For years, Sears’ apparel business has underperformed the hard goods side and has been under assault by the stronger J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Target and traditional department stores, among other retailers.
“Our strategy is to really go to market with a much more relevant fashion offering — and do fewer things but with more authority,” said Manto. “We want great exclusive product not sold at other midtier retailers.”
“Sears is a natural fit as our new exclusive retail partner for Parallel because together we are able to make fashion more accessible,” said Max Azria, chairman and chief executive of BCBG Max Azria Group, parent company of Parallel, which is geared to appeal to women ages 18 to 35.
Key Parallel items and prices for spring include cardi sweater wraps and pleated print skirts for $44; matte jersey wrap dresses for $58; floral print tunics at $38; rib knit tanks with lace trims, $22; linen flare leg pants, $50, and ruffle trim twill jackets, priced at $72.Manto added there will be new brands for fall in the updated and relaxed apparel sections, but none in classics. Key updated labels include the A-line proprietary brand and the private label Apostrophe, as well as Parallel. Key classic brands include the Lands’ End and Covington private labels and the proprietary First Issue. Classics Elements is a key private label in the relaxed section.
This month, Sears merged with Kmart, forming Sears Holdings. It’s expected that many Kmarts will convert to Sears stores. Asked if some Sears brands could be sold at Kmart, Manto said, “We really haven’t determined how to combine the Kmart and Sears businesses. Right now, we are merchandising separately,” though she suggested that some of the strongest brands. Kmart’s Martha Stewart Everyday home collection is a likely candidate.
Retail observers will be watching closely how Parallel performs at Sears, considering it was not a success at J.C. Penney, which dropped the line last spring. According to a retail source, it didn’t sell well; speed to market was an issue, and Parallel wanted to utilize special sales associates to help sell the line, which is more of a traditional department store selling model. Also, Parallel’s prices were higher than Penney’s in general.
Asked why she believes Sears can do a better job with Parallel than Penney’s, Manto replied: “BCBG never has been as hot as it is today. Max Azria and his team have been unbelievable.” She called Sears’ Parallel products “trend-right” and noted that even before the goods arrive at the stores, brand extensions are in the works, including handbags and a fragrance for fall.
With each of its proprietary brands, Sears strives to offer head-to-toe looks, said Manto, who reports to Luis Padilla, president of merchandising and marketing for Sears Holdings. Another key member of the team is Patti Simigran, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of women’s apparel, Sears, Roebuck.
Parallel is being distributed to Sears’ top 150 stores for spring and 425 stores for fall, and will be sold on sears.com.
Manto would not divulge financial details of the Parallel deal.BCBG Max Azria Group includes BCBG Max Azria Collection, BCBGirls, BCBG Attitude, To The Max, Hervé Léger and Max Azria Atelier.
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews