Sears has signed a deal with rapper/actor LL Cool J to produce a new clothing line.
The collection of jeans, graphic T-shirts and sweatshirts will debut the second week of September at 450 Sears stores nationwide and expand to about 600 stores in time for the holiday season. The line will include apparel for juniors, kids and young men. The success of the offering could lead to expansion, such as accessories, according to Sears, Hoffman Estates. Prices range from $22 for a T-shirt to $50 for jeans. In the juniors area, the LL Cool J brand will sit near the current mix of sportswear from Southpole, Levi's, Personal Identity and Joe Boxer.
By partnering with a celebrity like LL Cool J, the struggling retailer hopes to reach multicultural shoppers, particularly African Americans. Sears said LL Cool J's line represents shoppers who desire authentic, affordable streetwear.
"I see the LL Cool J brand bringing families closer together. It was a priority for me to launch with a partner who connects with all of America and Sears does it best," LL Cool J said in a statement. "One of the happiest times I can remember was my grandfather taking me to Sears every weekend when I was a child. I am pleased to bring an authentic brand to Sears customers across the county who represent those people and family members who influenced the person I am today."
Sears insiders believe the line could generate as much as $100 million to $150 million in its first year. If all goes as planned, the LL Cool J brand would be a boost for the store's "softer side," said Irv Neger, Sears' senior vice president of apparel, serving an urban consumer the retailer hasn't been addressing. "We know this [urban] customer is in the store, but it's a customer we weren't reaching. With this brand, we see tremendous growth opportunity."
As for what LL Cool J knows about women's apparel, the hip-hop artist insists he's had plenty of experience. "I was raised by a matriarch, I have a wife and three daughters, so I know what women are looking for when they shop for clothes," he said. "My main concern with juniors is to make sure the fit is right. The fabrics have to feel nice on a woman's body, but sizing and fit are very important. I know that if she comes in, puts it on and it doesn't fit, she won't come back. Clothes have to make a woman feel good, relaxed and sexy. We are going to be constantly looking at fine-tuning the fit and we'll get it right."
Evidence of LL Cool J's involvement is evident throughout from an embroidered tattoo on the back of a jacket to song lyrics printed on a T-shirt.
Fans should look for a major marketing push behind the LL Cool J brand both in print and TV.
The ads will feature LL Cool J himself, along with his family his wife, Simone, son Najee and daughters Italia, Samaria and Nina. The idea, the rapper said, is to bring the brand to the whole family by showcasing his own family in the campaign. In addition, LL Cool J said he will be working on more ways to give customers access to him, by holding in-store contests where a shopper can win a chance to hang with him in the studio or on the set of a video.
It's all about making the great life attainable," LL Cool J said.