Can 'lumbersexuals' save Land's End?

lands end lumbersexual
Actor James Franco dresses in the 'lumbersexual' style.

Stars like James Franco and Ryan Gosling are often spotted these days wearing flannel shirts, boots and rugged beards. The look has been dubbed "lumbersexual," and it's shaking up American clothing brands.

L.L. Bean sold 450,000 of its handmade leather boots last year, a huge increase compared to the year before, according to a report. Certain boot styles sold out for the holidays.

Lands' End is also capable of catering to today's trendsetters, but so far, it's failing to do so.

The company announced dismal fourth quarter results Thursday, and Lands' End (LE) stock plunged over 17%.

Lumbersexuals like durable, inexpensive brands, says Mark-Evan Blackman, a fashion design professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

"People aren't realizing that they can go to Lands' End to get this look, but they can," Blackman says. The lumbersexual look, "just caught on fire in every major city...I've seen it on the East Coast, I've seen it on the West Coast. I've seen it in Ohio."

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Smells like Sears: Experts believe the problem for Lands' End might be its ongoing relationship with Sears. Although Sears (SHLD) spun off Lands' End into separate company in April, Lands' End still has over 200 shops at Sears outlets.

"Lands' End has a real brand problem. I think they have a larger issue. I think the bloom is off the rose with that brand," says Robin Lewis, CEO of The Robin Report, a fashion newsletter.

Sears closed hundreds of stores last year and is quickly heading south.

Fewer people are going to Lands' End shops and its women's clothing line had "mixed customer reaction," according to the company.

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One solution: Lands' End needs to find a new place to sell its clothing, says Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at RSR research, a retail research firm.

"It's been tarnished by its presence in Sears' store," Rosenblum says. "If traffic isn't going into Sears' stores, and I suspect it's not, it's going to impact Lands' End."

Lands' End's preliminary results aren't trendy: its net income fell about 20% in the fourth quarter compared to the same quarter in the prior year. Its sales declined as much as 18% from the same quarter a year ago.

It's clear that Lands' End needs to do something different, experts say.

Blackman's advice: "They're neglecting a customer who would buy them until the cows come home...On their next photo shoot, hire a guy with a beard."

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