A look from Everlast.

The fitness apparel and footwear brand revealed it has signed an exclusive long-term licensing deal with Sears Holdings Corp.

Everlast apparel and footwear will be available exclusively at Sears and Kmart stores beginning next year.

This story first appeared in the December 17, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

On Thursday, the $500 million fitness brand revealed it has signed an exclusive long-term licensing deal with Sears Holdings Corp. for apparel, footwear and accessories for men, women and children. Under the terms of the deal, the Everlast brand will be sold in 850 Sears stores, and a new diffusion brand, Everlast Sport, will be available in 1,325 Kmart locations. The product will also be available online.

“Our parent company [Brands Holdings Inc.] bought this brand three years ago,” said Neil Morton, chief executive officer of Everlast. “And since then, we’ve been looking at the structure of the business and the opportunities both regionally and globally. In the U.S., we believe that a direct-to-retail partner is the best way to get the product into the consumers’ hands.”

He said that in traditional sporting goods stores, where Everlast has been sold, space is “locked down with Adidas, Nike and Under Armour,” Morton said. “They control an enormous amount of [floor] space.”

Because Everlast offers “ath-leisure” merchandise as well as technical apparel, he said, “we wanted a partner who could offer us both. And sporting goods stores were just not working for us.”

Everlast decided to go with Sears, Morton said, after meeting with John Goodman, the company’s executive vice president for apparel and home. “We ­really bought into his vision and the way he’s repositioning the business,” Morton said. In February, Sears will launch UK Style by French Connection, a new line created by the London-based French Connection. Goodman has also committed to adding other labels, particularly in young men’s, juniors and tweens; improving the store experience with 200 stores recently upgraded with new fixtures, mannequins on platforms and fresh paint, and opening a San Francisco buying office for the Sears and Kmart divisions, staffed with 200 merchants involved in product design and development, shopping the markets and seeking brands.

“With this agreement, we will add an authentic fitness brand to our Sears and Kmart stores, offering quality apparel and footwear to our customers from a brand they know and trust,” Goodman said.

The Everlast product will be launched in the spring and be supported by national advertising, public relations, social media and sports marketing campaigns starting in 2011.

Everlast hard goods will continue to be offered at sporting goods and sports specialty retailers around the U.S.

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