By  on June 15, 2007

After years of remerchandising and ownership changes, the new age of Lord & Taylor will come together this fall.

Lord & Taylor is wrapping up plans for its pivotal fall-holiday season, including exclusives from brands and designers, a campaign to rebrand the company and an overall assortment that store executives say has been carefully edited and updated with an eye for more contemporary offerings. The store is seeking a new generation of shoppers, while still addressing the Baby Boomer crowd that historically has been the bread and butter of the business.

For decades, Lord & Taylor under May Department Store Co.'s ownership was stifled by a formulaic merchandising matrix and an image cheapened by couponing and price promoting. The chain was further disrupted by two ownership changes, first when Federated Department Stores Inc. bought May in 2005 and last year when Federated sold the business to NRDC Equity Partners for $1.1 billion.

NRDC remains encouraged by Lord & Taylor's recent performance, and has been investing in talent, marketing and the stores. The fourth quarter will mark a very visible turning point.

"Now that we are out from under the shadow of Federated and May, and have moved past the uncertainty of the sale, we are really able to devote 100 percent of our time to continue to upgrade merchandise assortments," said Jane Elfers, president and chief executive officer of the 47-unit, $1.4 billion specialty chain, which was founded in 1826.

"Since last November, we've been working with the vendor community to develop an extensive assortment of exclusive items across all categories of business. There's been a dramatic increase in the amount of exclusive styles, accessories, dresses, sportswear and shoes." It's "easily triple" what the company had a year ago, she added.

Providing exclusive collections and more modern styles, particularly American ones, to Lord & Taylor, is a huge part of the NRDC strategy. The store has been hauling in young design talent through arrangements such as licensing and ownership interests to change its image. Bryan Bradley of Tuleh is creating a collection for Lord & Taylor, and Cynthia Steffe has signed on as well. Charles Nolan and Peter Som are among the designers said to be in talks with NRDC and could be next in the growing stable.

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