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Sears to Launch Seventeen Line

The Hearst publication is partnering with the retailer to create a full line of clothing, shoes and accessories.

Seventeen magazine is aiming to become a fashion brand too — and it’s linking with Sears to try to get there.

This story first appeared in the March 26, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Hearst publication, which targets teens and young women ages 15 to 24, is partnering with Sears to create a full line of clothing, shoes and accessories. The collection will be sold in 500-square-foot Seventeen-branded shops-in-shop in Sears’ 10 flagships and 500 additional Sears doors. The shops will feature Seventeen signage, interactive elements, charging stations and image pieces.  The Seventeen collection will launch in July.

“We think this is going to be a big win for us,” said Sheila Field, chief marketing officer of Sears Apparel at Sears Holdings Corp. “We’re going through a transformation in our apparel and fashion business and there is more to come. This is ongoing.”

Glen Ellen Brown, vice president of Hearst’s brand development group, said Seventeen chose Sears because “it’s this big full-line retailer and our whole objective is to be able to distribute where people can find us very quickly. This young woman is so digital and so interactive. Sears has spent money to make that capability happen in their stores. We know that [the reader] is also inspired by brick and mortar.

“We wanted a partner that is a design house and has its eyes on what’s happening and where trends are emerging,” Brown added. “We wanted deep expertise on the manufacturing side. We figured out this is where we should be. We’re not exclusive. It was important that we found the right place at retail.”

Seventeen is Hearst’s first apparel and accessory brand “of this magnitude” in 70 years, Brown said. “We’ve been doing bedding for 15 years. Hard goods is new with lamps, poufs and storage ottomans. We also do fun chocolate bars and other confections.”

Hearst has been especially eager to harness its brands’ commerciality. Elle has been selling a contemporary line of women’s clothing at Kohl’s since 2007.

For Sears, the Seventeen tie-up represents a major move to boost its fashion cred and appeal to teens. Eddie Lampert, chairman and chief executive officer of Sears Holdings, has been proclaiming how the department store chain is rewriting the rules of retailing via its various digital initiatives. But Sears’ losses continue to mount and many observers remain skeptical of Lampert’s vision for the chain. Sears Holdings Corp. in the fourth quarter reported a net loss of $358 million, or $3.37 a diluted share, for the three months ended Feb. 1. Revenues decreased 13.6 percent to $10.59 billion from $12.26 billion. Comparable-store sales fell 6.4 percent, reflecting a 7.8 percent drop at Sears’ domestic stores.

Lampert has been pushing the innovative aspects of Sears’ Shop Your Way, a free and instant member-based loyalty program and online shopping community that offers coupons, customized deals, social sharing, wish lists and shopping with celebrities. The program will feature exclusive content for Seventeen apparel. “Seventeen will have its own brand page,” Field said. “You’ll also be able to create your own catalogues of items you like and share those catalogues with friends. We’ll be tapping into Seventeen’s great readership and using all the Sears channels, especially digital and social, to target this consumer.” Seventeen has 14 million readers.

The collection ranges from items for the school girl to the college student and beyond — Seventeen is the number-one brand on college campuses for freshmen, said Brown, adding that its sweet spot is around age 16.

There’s a hearts-and-roses theme with flowers on cropped tops, skirts and dresses; plaid shirts worn with blazers, and dresses shown with military jackets for a bit of an edge. Field said there’s also lots of lace and a boho theme.