By  on February 15, 2010

From its small town headquarters in Dodgeville, Wis., Lands’ End, a company known for classic American sportswear, is on the move.

Looking to expand its customer base, the brand is stepping up efforts to market the newly launched contemporary Canvas line as well as build its presence domestically and abroad.

Canvas, introduced in November as a 300-piece women’s and men’s apparel and accessories collection, incorporates a slimmer, more modern take on Lands’ End classics such as the white shirt, khakis, denim and knitwear. To help spread the word, the brand is unveiling the first Canvas print ads in the March issues of In Style, Lucky, Marie Claire, GQ and Details magazines.

“It’s a natural extension of the brand for a new generation,” Lands’ End president Nick Coe said. “It’s really about a fresh new chapter for a storied brand.”

The introduction of Canvas comes at a time when the company, which originated in Chicago in 1963, is undergoing rapid domestic and international expansion. Last year, Lands’ End opened 68 shops in Sears stores in Texas, Michigan and Iowa as well as other states, while making forays into France and Austria. Canvas will go into 20 existing shop-in-shops within Sears stores in the U.S. in the first quarter, and will launch online in Japan this spring and the United Kingdom and Germany in the fall. The company declined to release first year volume expectations for Canvas.

To reach its new audience, Lands’ End is utilizing Facebook and Twitter to build and interact with the new Canvas customer base and plans to expand its blog, “The Montage,” which appears on the Web site landsendcanvas.com. The blog features the in-house design team discussing its inspirations for the spring/summer Canvas line, which the company terms “East Coast prep meets West Coast casual.”

Such efforts have proved fruitful, exceeding the expectations of company executives. “The response has been terrific,” Coe said, adding that he notices customers calling and texting friends from the first freestanding Canvas store in Madison, Wis. to relay thoughts about merchandise and styling, as well as sharing those opinions online.

Building that base may help Lands’ End Canvas as L.L. Bean launches its new Signature collection debuting in stores next month. The Maine-based retailer and cataloguer known for outdoor apparel also is going after a younger more urbane audience with more stylish pieces priced 20 to 30 percent higher than its core collection. The Lands’ End Canvas line, however, will maintain the brand’s price point with boyfriend T-shirts retailing at $19.50, cotton cardigans at $39.50 and slim-leg denim and khakis at $49.50.

The Canvas collection took inspiration from Lands’ End’s Chicago sailing roots, pulling styles out of the vault and reinventing those for today’s customer, Coe said.

Given the nature of the economy, Lands’ End, which emphasizes value and customer service (the brand recently ranked eighth in customer service above Nordstrom and below L.L.Bean in a recent National Retail Federation study) hopes to seize what it views as an opportunity. “When you pay attention to value it helps you stand out in this economy,” Coe said.

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