Sears today began its tender offer for shares of top-selling catalog and Internet retailer Lands’ End, marking the beginning of Sears’ bid to spice up its lagging apparel operations.

Sears began offering $62 cash for Lands’ End shares in a $1.9 billion tender offer set to end June 14.

Upon completion, Lands' End, which is among the largest catalog and Internet retailers in the specialty apparel category, will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears. Lands’ End will continue to be headquartered in Dodgeville., Wis.

On the New York Stock Exchange, Sears shares closed Thursday at $56.75. The 52-week high is $56.90. Lands' End shares closed at $61.84.

The tender offer requires that at least two-thirds of the fully diluted shares be tendered. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions.

Sears says it will begin introducing Lands' End products into many of its 870 full-line stores by fall 2002. The retailer is expected to complete product rollout to stores by fall 2003.

Sears recently rolled out its own line of family apparel called Covington, but analysts say the Lands’ End merchandise will likely prove more popular with consumers. They note that the acquisition could give Sears’ apparel business the strong brand-name recognition Sears now enjoys with hardline brands such as Diehard, Kenmore and Craftsman. -- Staff and wire reports