Sears Taps Lana Cain Krauter

Industry veteran to head apparel unit.

Sears Holdings Corp. has tapped Lana Cain Krauter as senior vice president and president of its apparel business, both online and in stores. The retailer has been struggling with its apparel offering, but the company noted that Cain Krauter is an apparel veteran, most recently serving as president and chief merchandising officer for Bealls Department Stores Inc., and, before that, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of men’s and children’s apparel at J.C. Penney Co. Inc. Cain Krauter also held senior roles at Goody’s Family Clothing, and Sears, Roebuck, where she oversaw women’s ready-to-wear, intimate apparel, accessories and import teams.

This story first appeared in the January 5, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Cain Krauter will report to John Goodman, executive vice president of apparel and home. He cited her track record in brand, product and customer-loyalty program development, as well as her ability to create “high-performance teams.”

“I am excited to add such an accomplished leader to our apparel team,” added Bruce Johnson, interim ceo and president of Sears Holdings. “Under John’s leadership, we are transforming our softlines business. Additionally, we’re continuing to attract high-caliber talent to the company who are focused on satisfying the customer.”

Cain Krauter will begin on Feb. 1 and will be based in the company’s San Francisco apparel offices. She succeeds Craig Israel, who left Sears about a year ago. Goodman, who oversees both Sears and Kmart apparel, had been handling some of Israel’s responsibilities.

Sears has long struggled in apparel and has been held up by its hard goods offerings. The company will launch UK Style by French Connection in March. It’s an exclusive collaboration between the London-based French Connection and Sears that Goodman said signifies “we are serious about apparel.” It will offer contemporary clothing and accessories for women, men and children, and possibly broaden into home goods and fragrance. UK Style by French Connection will offer tuxedo jackets, cropped floral leggings, striped tanks, animal prints, sequined tops and, on the men’s side, washed denims and oxford shirts — all looks for which French Connection has been known, although at Sears, the items will be about one-quarter the price. The collection will have a balance of fashion, key items, bottoms and dresses.

Sears plans to add other labels, particularly in young men’s, juniors and tweens, to fill in voids in the assortment, and has been improving the store experience, with 200 stores recently upgraded with new fixtures, mannequins on platforms and fresh paint. A new San Francisco buying office for the Sears and Kmart divisions was completed last year and staffed with 200 merchants involved in product design and development, shopping the markets and seeking brands.