In a move to limit its exposure north of the U.S. border, Liz Claiborne Inc. has sold its 38 Liz Claiborne outlet stores in Canada to Laura Canada, a privately held specialty retailer based in Montreal.

This story first appeared in the January 20, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Terms weren’t disclosed, but Claiborne said financial details and closing information would be made available in subsequent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The remaining six Liz Claiborne outlets in Canada are expected to be closed, either prior to or at the expiration of their leases, or converted into other formats. The company emphasized that the move will have no impact on its Canadian wholesale business, which it expects to expand, or its U.S. Liz Claiborne outlets. The 99 Mexx stores and 12 Lucky stores Liz operates in Canada aren’t affected by the transaction either.

“The Liz Claiborne Canada retail division has struggled over the last two years and, after reviewing our options, we concluded that the assignment of the Liz Claiborne Canada retail leases was the best decision for the future of the brand in that country,” said Andrew Warren, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Liz Claiborne.

The Liz Claiborne outlet stores in Canada each averaged 4,300 square feet, according to the company’s 2008 annual report.

Broken down by province, the stores include 17 in Ontario, seven in Alberta, six in Quebec, five in British Columbia, two in Nova Scotia and one in Manitoba. While the acquisition of the stores doesn’t expand Laura Canada’s provincial footprint, “it was an opportunity to move into good locations real estate-wise that are in power centers,” Brenda Wilson, vice president of marketing for the chain, told WWD. Most of the units are expected to be converted to either Laura or Melanie Lyne nameplates beginning in March and operate as full-price stores, although “one or two” could be used as outlet locations, Wilson said.

Laura is targeted at women 35 and over and incorporates plus sizes and petites; Melanie Lyne specializes in more contemporary career apparel, day and evening dresses, casualwear and accessories. With the units acquired from Claiborne, the firm expects to have about 170 stores in operation, some of them including multiple nameplates.

Shares of Liz Claiborne rose 12 cents, or 2.3 percent, to close at $5.36 Tuesday.

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