US retail giant Sears, Roebuck and Co is to buy catalogue and Internet apparel retailer Lands' End Inc for around $1.9 billion it was announced on Monday.

In a joint statement, the pair said the deal should be completed in June and will see Lands' End becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears. Lands' End will continue to be headquartered in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.

The agreement will see Sears will stock selection of Lands' End products in many of its 870 full-line stores by fall 2002 and is expected to complete product rollout to stores by fall 2003.
 
Sears chairman and CEO, Alan Lacy, said the chance to be the exclusive retail distributor of Lands' End merchandise is significant to his firm's overall apparel strategy.

"We were drawn to Lands' End's brand strength across all apparel categories, including men's, women's and children's," he said. "It is an excellent fit for Sears and our customers, and will aid us in becoming the preferred shopping destination for families."

"Today's transaction allows us to increase the market penetration of the Lands' End brand through exclusive retail distribution in approximately 870 Sears stores," commented Lands' End president and CEO, David Dyer.

"Strategically, we view retail distribution of our products as an important growth opportunity. We were considering the prospect of opening stores ourselves or seeking a strategic partner, and ultimately decided that our alliance with Sears offered the most exciting opportunity."

He added: "Sears is the logical partner for us, considering its heritage of quality and strong proprietary brands, such as Craftsman and Kenmore. I feel confident that customers will respond well to another exceptional brand at Sears."

Dyer will continue to lead the Lands' End business, reporting to Lacy after the transaction closes. Dyer also will assume responsibility for Sears' existing customer-direct business, which includes sears.com, catalogues and specialty merchandise.
 
Lacy said the transaction does not alter Sears' outlook for the year and he does not expect to record a special charge for the Lands' End transaction.