Hoffman Estates, IL—Sears is stepping up its offering in the contemporary market with the launch in early 2011 of UK Style by French Connection under a new license agreement with LF USA’s Regatta division, a U.S. subsidiary of Li & Fung.
In an agreement announced today, Sears plans to roll out its exclusive collection of apparel and accessories for women, men and children as in-store, branded boutiques in 500 doors. Sears’ UK Style by French Connection women’s collection offers floral leggings and striped tanks from $9.99 while the men’s collection includes dark-washed jeans for about $25. Following the initial launch, Sears will introduce swimwear, footwear, sunglasses, jewelry, and other accessories along with home furnishings.
A “Powerful Alliance”
“French Connection is a world leader in contemporary fashion,” said John Goodman, executive vice president of apparel and home for Sears Holdings. “This addition to our brand portfolio will significantly increase our relevance among younger customers while strengthening our effort to re-energize our fashion offerings at Sears. The launch of UK Style by French Connection signifies our continued commitment to compelling fashion and great value.”
The announcement of the exclusive agreement comes as Sears faced stiffer competition from department stores such as Macy’s, JCPenney and Kohl’s which have all concentrated efforts on developing exclusive brand deals that target a younger demographic.
Earlier this year, Iconix signed a longterm direct-to-retail license agreement with Sears Holdings to sell its junior brand BONGO exclusively in Sears and Kmart stores. Some retail analysts said that sharing BONGO with Kmart might diffuse Sears efforts. The French connection exclusive is more in line with what other mid-tier and department store retailers have developed in their private brands.
“French Connection is the pioneer of fast fashion and is an international leader in the contemporary category with original, groundbreaking consumer marketing year after year,” added Rick Darling, president of LF USA. “This a powerful alliance between one of America’s top retailers, London based French Connection with its fashion heritage, and LF USA with its design capabilities and global sourcing network.”
Sears executives said they plan to an extensive marketing campaign including print, broadcast, and in-store signage being developed by Lloyd & Co, the ad agency known for known for its work with Tom Ford and Gucci.
“A Significant Turnaround” for French Connection UK
The license agreement with LF USA is expected to generate about $2.3 million in income for French Connection UK by the end of January 2012. “This launch gives us the opportunity to use the strength of French Connection as a global brand to reach a wider audience at new, accessible price points,” said Stephen Marks, founder and chairman of French Connection. “We believe this will complement our existing French Connection brand. We’re very much looking forward to introducing UK Style by French Connection to the American market.”
Founded in 2917, French Connection UK operates in 25 countries with some 1,500 outlets worldwide. The London-based company recently posted first half year profit , the result of a “significant” turnaround after a loss of 5.4 million pounds last year. The company sold its Nicole Farhi brand in July and closed its businesses in Japan and Northern Europe. The company also plans to close 15 French Connection UK stores in the United States as part of the restructure.