Sears bought Lands’ End back in 2002, part of a season of spastic acquisitions which included my high-school favorite mall clothing brand Structure, the menswear branch of clothing retailer Express. I loved their tone-on-tone suit / shirt / tie combinations, popularized by Regis Philbin during his tenure as host of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Boy I hope no pictures of me from that time survived. But I digress…
Lands’ End was one of the best things Sears had going – one of their only profitable divisions, but it still languished under Sears management. It was a relief when Sears spun the company off in 2013 for under $900 million, a decade after purchasing it for $1.9 billion in cash. It made it off that sinking ship!
On February of this year they appointed a new chief executive with an unlikely CV – Frederica Marchionni’s last job was a three year stint as president of luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana. I doubt she had even seen the Softer Side of Sears before taking the job.
Since then they’ve shown every sign of wanting to move upmarket – advertorials in Vogue, a new sans-serif logo (!), and a wider range of price points. Which is to say, they have more expensive stuff now.
I’ve got to admit I find it a little jarring to be scrolling past a bunch of $49 sweaters and suddenly see a $395 sportcoat. To their credit, I want that sportcoat. I loved Lands’ End Canvas, and now it seems like the entire brand wants to be what the Canvas collection was. But it’ll take more than hiding the school uniforms behind a link called “Lands’ End Classic” and introducing a handful of new expensive items to change public perception of the brand.
If they follow J Crew and other brands who’ve successfully made this move’s lead, get ready for fragrances, more jewelry and accessories, and collaborations with heritage brands – Lands’ End x Hudson Bay, Lands’ End x PF Flyer – to get a little cool by association. ‘Accessible luxury’ is a huge buzzword in the fashion world, largely because of the success of companies like J Crew and Michael Kors. It’s a status symbol, but everyone can afford at least some of it.
What do you think? Would you buy a $300 cashmere sweater from Lands’ End? Can they succeed in doing what J Crew did – slowly increasing the prices of their items over years until they become an American luxury brand?