NEW YORK — Strengthening its appeal to the Hispanic consumer, Sears, Roebuck & Co. is gearing up a new women’s apparel collection in conjunction with Latina, the beauty and lifestyle magazine, according to sources.

Executives at Sears, which has a history of courting the burgeoning Hispanic market, couldn’t be reached for comment, nor could executives at Latina.

Set to bow for fall, Latina joins Lucy Pereda, a collection Sears launched with the popular TV personality in 2003. That same year, the company launched, a Spanish-language shopping guide to

The estimated 42.5 million Hispanics in the U.S. account for 14 percent of the population and make up the nation’s largest and fastest-growing minority group. By the end of the decade, the group will be 52 million strong, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

When Hispanics make up more than 15 percent of the population within 10 miles of a Sears store, the company adjusts its merchandising and makes a point of using bilingual signs and hiring bilingual associates. The retailer also has directors of multicultural marketing and multicultural merchandising.

The deal with Latina was aided by Cherokee Inc., a fashion licensing company, which also works with brands such as Cherokee, Mossimo, Sideout and Essence.

In a September filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Cherokee said Latina had signed a licensing contract with a large domestic retailer and that Cherokee would receive a fee, based on a percentage of the brand’s royalty revenues.

Last year, Sears, through 870 full-line  stores as well as specialty stores and branded affiliates, pulled in revenues of $36.1 billion.

The company expects to merge with Kmart next month, creating the third-largest retailer in the U.S. Should the deal go through, the new company, Sears Holding Corp. would boast a slate of Hispanic brands, including Latina, Lucy Pereda and Kmart’s Thalia line of apparel and accessories, launched in 2003 with the Latin entertainer.

This story first appeared in the February 18, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.