NEW YORK — Underscoring the increasingly competitive atmosphere among Seventh Avenue’s major apparel forces, Liz Claiborne Inc. said late Tuesday that it had begun testing a new method of distributing collections to Federated Department Stores, one of its key retail customers.

The new system takes much of the logistical work out of the showroom buying process — working out ratios and quantities in advance over the Internet — with the ultimate aim of improving margins and full-price sales.

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