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January 7, 2019

Lands’ End to close boutique in Buckland mall Sears store

Photo | Lands' End A Lands' End storefront.

Clothing retailer Lands’ End is preparing to shutter its in-store boutique at Sears at Buckland Hills mall in Manchester as the company distances itself from its struggling former corporate parent.

In an October conference call, Lands’ End executives said they expected to wrap up operations at 76 shops at Sears in coming months, and an online Lands’ End store locator now lists the Manchester outlet as “in liquidation.”

The Sears location at Buckland Hills mall has so far survived the waves of closures meant to make the ailing company leaner and more sustainable, but the distinction apparently mattered little to Lands’ End, which is plotting a course forward after 17 years essentially tethered to the former retail giant.

Lands’ End officials said they plan to reduce the number of shops at Sears from 125 to 49 as they begin a transition to independent, standalone locations. The company plans to open between 50 and 60 such stores over the next four years.

Unlike Sears, which is nearing liquidation after a decade of declining sales and various business missteps, Lands’ End is seeing some of its strongest growth in years.

In October, President and CEO Jerome Griffith said the company’s renewed investments in outerwear and knit products, coupled with a streamlined online shopping platform, put the retailer in a strong position ahead of what proved to be the most lucrative shopping season in six years.

Jim Gooch, Land’s End’s chief operating officer, said that, with the company on the upswing and plans for separate brick-and-mortar locations quickly materializing, the brand shouldn’t see a substantial setback from the end of its partnership with Sears.

“While we cannot predict what will happen with Sears, we estimate the closure of these stores collectively will have very little impact to our earnings on an annual basis,” Gooch said.

Sears, which has fewer than 700 stores still open, has been closing its once ubiquitous locations since around 2014. Over the last four months, the company has announced three closures in Connecticut — two Sears stores, in Milford and Waterford, and the Kmart in Vernon.

The future of Sears could be known within days, Bloomberg News reported today. Only one bid to rescue the chain from bankruptcy was submitted by a Friday deadline, Bloomberg said, citing people with knowledge of the discussions.

That bid, from ESL Investments, came up short, but the company is giving hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert additional time to address its concerns, one of the people said. A hearing has been set for Tuesday to brief Judge Robert Drain, who’s presiding over the bankruptcy.

The outcome will determine whether the 125-year-old retailer survives as a going concern or is sold off in pieces.

Sears bought Wisconsin-based Land’s End in 2002 for $2 billion in an effort to shore up its apparel business. While the immediate benefits to Sears were clear, the buyout made less sense for the preppy apparel company, which had enjoyed a reputation for well-made, understated attire. The brand struggled as part of the Sears corporate bureaucracy and inherited many of its parent’s flaws, including a reluctance to embrace the online marketplace and a failure to connect with a younger demographic as millennial shoppers came of age.

After 12 years together, the two companies parted ways in 2014. Lands’ End, however, made no immediate move to physically relocate its stores from well-established Sears locations.

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