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Investors weren’t too thrilled on Monday with the shares of either Lands’ End or its former parent, Sears Holdings Corp.
This story first appeared in the April 8, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Shares of each company saw their prices decline after Lands’ End officially became a public company again. The spin-off from Sears was completed on Friday and Lands’ End now trades on the Nasdaq under the symbol “LE.” Prior to the spin-off, Sears received a dividend of $500 million from the catalogue firm. Lands’ End will continue to pay Sears rent for the shops-in-shop space it occupies in 250 Sears’ stores.
Lands’ End saw its stock price fall 6.7 percent to close at $29.55, from Friday’s close of $31.67. Shares of the company began preliminary trading on the Nasdaq on March 20 under the symbol “LEDMV” on a “when-issued” basis. That allows underwriters to book orders for purchases of a portion of any securities that are authorized but not yet issued. The shares had been down as much as 10 percent in intraday trading during a day when the overall market was down.
Edgar Huber, president and chief executive officer of the 50-year-old brand, rang the closing bell at the end of Monday’s trading session and said, “This is a very historic moment for Lands’ End.
“We worked very hard to get this accomplished. You have to assure that once becoming vertically separated and independent, that the operations continue to operate efficiently, from a systems, logistics and sourcing point of view and from a financial decision-making point of view,” he said.
Huber, who joined Lands’ End in August 2011 after serving as executive vice president of global business development for Liz Claiborne Inc., president and ceo of Juicy Couture, and earlier holding senior posts at L’Oréal, elaborated on how Lands’ End potentially benefits by becoming independent from Sears.
“We can optimize better our capital structure, attract talent and allocate investments in a more focused manner,” he said. “This also allows us to accelerate our international development and growth, and it allows us to use the cash flow we generate to invest in Lands’ End. We just become more focused.”
A new board, meeting Tuesday, includes Huber, Elizabeth Darst Leykum, Josephine Linden, Jignesh M. Patel, Tracy Gardner and Jonah Staw. Edward S. Lampert, the chairman and ceo of Sears, is the largest Lands’ End shareholder, with about 48.4 percent of the stock.
In the year ended Jan. 31, 2013, Lands’ End’s sales slid 1.5 percent to $1.56 billion from $1.59 billion in 2012, while net income grew 58 percent to $79 million from $50 million.
Lands’ End was a public company until it was acquired by Sears, Roebuck & Co. in 2002 for $1.9 billion. That was prior to the merger with Kmart Corp., after which the merged entity became Sears Holdings Corp. Sales in 2001, Lands’ End’s last year as a publicly held firm prior to the Sears acquisition, were $1.57 billion.
Lands’ End remains highly focused on phone and online orders, which accounted for 82 percent of sales in 2012. Sales inside Sears stores make up 16 percent of revenues.
Shares of Sears closed down 6.4 percent to $38.10 in Nasdaq trading.
With the latest spin-off, Sears Holdings supposedly can continue focusing on its core Sears operation. Its past spin-offs haven’t always boded well for shareholders or even the company that was spun off. Orchard Hardware Stores was spun off in December 2011. Less than two years later, Orchard filed for bankruptcy court protection in June.
In addition, some on Wall Street felt that Lands’ End was the one component of Sears that was doing reasonably well. With the spin-off, some of them are wondering what’s left of Sears that has value other than some real estate holdings still owned under the Sears umbrella. That’s because other assets, such as the intellectual property assets for Sears’ iconic brands — Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard — were transferred by Lampert to a bankruptcy-remote entity that now charges the company royalties to license the brands.