Report: Buyer Wanted for Lands’ End

Discussion
Mar 30, 2012

Edward Lampert has been trying to get Sears Holdings’ fiscal house in order and that has meant store closings, business spinoffs and other cost-cutting steps in recent months. Another move being explored by Mr. Lampert, according to the New York Post, is the sale of Lands’ End.

According to an unnamed source who spoke to the Post, Mr. Lampert is looking to find a buyer for Lands’ End that will license the brand back to Sears.

"The idea is that Lands’ End would become something like Tommy Hilfiger," the source told the Post.

Many believed that Sears and Lands’ End were a bad fit when the $1.9 billion acquisition was reported back in May 2002.

Dechert Hampe senior vice president and RetailWire BrainTrust member Ben Ball said at the time, "I shall be very sad to witness the death of another of my favorite brands, Lands’ End, for this is the highest probability outcome of this acquisition. Lands’ End is a destination brand in the truest sense. Consumers go there to experience the uniqueness of Lands’ End. They wear the clothes to experience that feeling that says, ‘I’m a little unique too’ (sort of like that teenage need to ‘all be different together’). That feeling does not live at Sears, and I don’t think it can."

The question now becomes whether Lands’ End has enough left to go it alone after 10 years under the Sears Holdings umbrella.

Discussion Questions: Can Lands’ End stand alone? What do you see as the best case acquisition scenario for the business?

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18 Comments on "Report: Buyer Wanted for Lands’ End"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
7 years 25 days ago

Lands’ End can stand on its own if it becomes a brand once again, that is powerfully marketed to the consumer. Sears in itself probably needs to become a much better marketer and merchandiser once again. My impression is that Sears has become more of an asset management company, buying and selling its assets while not paying enough attention to the business inside the assets it owns. Yes, I could be entirely wrong, but that’s my impression and until further notice I’m sticking by it.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
7 years 25 days ago

I’m speechless (well, almost, anyway :)). Yes, it was a bad fit — no question — but it’s still a viable brand. Why not spin it off as the separate business it should have always been and make a go of it, retaining partial ownership?

I don’t understand Mr. Lampert’s thought processes. He seems dedicated to those big-boxes he bought, to the detriment of what were his greatest assets — some strong retailing brands.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
7 years 25 days ago

Ben was — not unsurprisingly, by the way — prescient in his initial assessment.

Now … despite any Boomer sentimentality … does the world really need Lands’ End? Of course, any brand can be built, relaunched, reimagined, yada, yada, yada … BUT … is it worth it or would somebody be better off just launching a new brand? And, if the reports are correct, what is the value of a brand still so closely tied to Sears Holdings?

I’m afraid Ben will have to continue to cry into his decade-old towel. The King is dead, but I don’t see an effective Prince waiting in the wings.

Now, that said, will somebody try to revive the brand? Probably. After all, nowhere does hope spring so eternal as it does in Branding Land.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
7 years 25 days ago

What a shame. If this happens, the new owners of Lands’ End should figure out a way to survive, assuming the terms of the deal are not too onerous. Meanwhile, Sears seems determined to inflict a death of a thousand cuts on itself.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
7 years 25 days ago

It’s Friday and here we are again in the retail cafeteria of Lamperteria. Much has been cooked up and offered by Sears Holdings in the past decade, but nothing has emerged to make one think there’s a great retailing mind lurking therein. That gives rise to the 9th beatitude: Blessed is the self-envisioned aggressor company from a different world that offers nothing new, for it shall not prevail in retailing.

As a prevailing force in today’s retailing, SHLD seems like a loud chiming clock in a empty house.

Much has changed since Lands’ End was forced out of the sunshine and mushroomed under the Sears Holding umbrella. That has not strengthened Lands’ End. And if an acquisition is called for because SH needs more cost cutting to prove its untapped retail acumen, a savior might be L.L.Bean, but do they have any common sense reason to acquire Lands’ End?

Gene Detroyer
Guest
7 years 25 days ago

This makes total sense. Sell or spin off this asset while it still has value. If it sticks with Sears, it will only go down with the sinking ship.

Rightfully, Sears is a real estate business for Mr. Lampert. Lands’ End is a retail business and doesn’t fit with the corporate strategy. If they don’t separate it soon, it will simply be part of an asset auction when Sears finally falls. That sell price will be a fraction of what they can get now.

Veronica Kraushaar
Guest
Veronica Kraushaar
7 years 25 days ago

Case history of a bad fit with Sears. Lands’ End can stand alone if it repositions itself as the outfitter of the quirky, outdoorsy type, and uses social media to connect deeply with this group; while also bringing adventure/eco-travel and social consciousness into the mix.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
7 years 25 days ago

I’ll take a different approach here. Lands’ End never fit in at Sears, although Sears is to be congratulated for not having tampered with the Lands’ End secret sauce. I predict that the brand will again flourish if it finds the right owner.

Anne O'Neill
Guest
Anne O'Neill
7 years 25 days ago

Lands’ End is the diamond in the rough for Sears. Sears’ only capital expense has been to set up LE shops within the stores. LE is a good brand with quality product, but it needs to be distanced from old, dirty Sears.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
7 years 25 days ago
The news flash isn’t that Lands’ End is going out of business, never to return again. Eddie Lampert is simply changing the business model that will give Sears (and potentially other retailers) access to the Lands’ End brand while monetizing the brand’s equity. This is a similar model to the one he pioneered when he created a $1.8 billion entity to house Craftsman, DieHard and Kenmore (and look how they are creeping into new environments). What I find most interesting is how people get so up in arms about Eddie Lampert’s portfolio management approach to retail. He may not “win” with this strategy by traditional retail standards (selling lots of stuff in Sears and Kmart stores), but he certainly has opened up new possibilities for what it means to be a “retailer.” Lease space and sub-divided real estate, endless aisle online marketplaces, private-brands-as-assets, “externalizing” brands…all concepts that multiple retailers are either considering or actively participating in post-Eddie. He has been quite instrumental in evolving retail from an insular merchant model to a game of of… Read more »
Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
7 years 25 days ago

I don’t know all the details surrounding Lands’ End, but it certainly seems the current environment is much more conducive for a manufacturer selling direct to consumers. With the next generation of shoppers completely familiar with online shopping and the whole US distribution network being converted to fulfillment centers, it seems a perfect time for a quality manufacturer to be able to sustain itself on an enthusiastic niche of shoppers. It is the old “long tail phenomena” in reverse, where instead of using the internet to make it economical to deliver the slow moving items that only a few customers want you use it to offer a broad range of superior quality to the few customers who want to pay for it.

I never really understood why either side thought the Sears association was beneficial. Maybe now Lands’ End can reassert their true character.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
7 years 25 days ago

Carol says it perfectly above. The best strategy for a retailer may not be a retail strategy at all. Lampert probably knows more about strategy in this retail environment with these assets than 90% of retailers out here. There is no turn-around for Sears, so why keep talking about it. And there was no turn around when he bought it.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
7 years 25 days ago

Fortunately, and it’s a small thing, and not much more than a glimmer of hope — which always seems to be the case when we talk about Sears (I’m reminded of when the Grinch reaches down and takes the very last crumb of Who Hash)– but I think so few people actually venture into a Sears that no one really knows they’re connected with them now. From a strategic viewpoint, the Sears acquisition was an immediate disaster, since it meant LE automatically became subjected to sales taxes…an X% price increase in every locale that had a Sears (which used to be many).

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
7 years 25 days ago

Even though Sears has made a hash of Lands’ End in their stores, I feel the catalog side of the business remains alive and well. I’m not sure who would be a buyer for Lands’ End, but the one recommendation that I would make to any buyer is to not let the brand remain in the Sears stores.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
7 years 25 days ago

Lands’ End has a core of loyal shoppers who would likely support a transition away from Sears. There should be a way for Lands’ End to go it alone through direct selling. The best case is likely a partnership with the right retailer who can leverage the strength of the Lands’ End brand, but finding the one with right reach and mindset to deliver will be challenging.

Steven Baum
Guest
Steven Baum
7 years 25 days ago

Lands’ End could return to its status if it rids itself of Sears. This has been its downfall. It does not fit the mentality of the Sears shopper. It could return to the position it once held if and when Mr. Lampert can shed this line. It should not be licensed back to Sears in any event. A quality retailer could make it work again.

Brian Kelly
Guest
7 years 25 days ago

Lands’End will be fine once more, once it gets out of the mall. In a boring store, the assortment was very boring. But to the naysayers, it would have worked, if merch categories weren’t siloed. You see, hardlines customers didn’t buy Sears poly-apparel. If Craftsman and Kenmore customers were introduced to the goods….

Or as we like to say, “retail ain’t for sissies.”

Sid Raisch
Guest
Sid Raisch
7 years 24 days ago

Raising money to do what he does better? JC Penney would be a better fit for him and this cash would help him pull it off. It’s his MO and would be strategic to survival of all three, JCP, Sears, and Kmart.

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