NEW YORK — Nike’s decision to stop selling its footwear and socks in Sears Holding Corp. was attributed to “the regular course of brand management” according to a company spokeswoman Wednesday.

The spokeswoman declined to comment on whether its plan to halt its footwear distribution to Sears in late October was due to concerns that the new Sears Holdings Corp. might sell the brand in its Kmart discount division as well. The company spokeswoman said these kinds of distribution changes are not uncommon when contracts are up.

Nike is highly protective of its image and distribution. To facilitate its move into the discount channel, the company bought Official Starter Properties last year as a way to expand into the mass arena under other nameplates. Nike operates that business as a subsidiary under Exeter Brands LLC, and has said it has no plans to sell the Nike brand in the discount channel. Under that division, the company relaunched Starter footwear at Wal-Mart stores in March with more high-tech products.

While it will no longer carry Nike, Sears sells a large number of athletic and other footwear brands, including New Balance, Adidas and Skechers. It also sells activewear from Russell and Danskin among others. A company spokeswoman at Russell Athletic said the activewear giant has no plans to review or change its distribution at Sears, and declined to comment further.

This story first appeared in the May 5, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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