The company has also collaborated with UK-based fashion retailers Next and French Connection to broaden its contemporary assortment. Sears has been the exclusive US online retailer of Next branded apparel, footwear, and accessories for men, women, and children since fall 2010, and of UK Style by French Connection branded clothing and accessories for men, women, and children since spring 2011. (Kumar, 2006)
The power of big retailers is a major challenge for many apparel vendors and manufacturers. As retailers shrink their inventories and order closer to the time that merchandise is needed, manufacturers are forced to assume more inventory risk. In addition, their sheer size puts big retailers in a strong position to negotiate favorable terms with manufacturers, with regard to pricing, shipping, co-advertising (in which retailers and manufacturers share the cost of advertising), and product labeling.
Consumers also wield considerable power over apparel and accessories brands, as they can switch readily from one product or brand to another. To dissuade them from doing so, manufacturers attempt to raise brand awareness and build brand loyalty among consumers. A strong brand image typically gives a manufacturer more pricing flexibility by creating a “must-have” perception to the consumer. Of course, some segments, such as the popular-price segment, compete strictly on price: consumers purchase whichever product is the cheapest. Manufacturers in this segment must focus on obtaining low-cost manufacturing. (Kumar, 2006)