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ATTENTION, B.E. SHOPPERS K mart takes on the Gap with a new line of casual wear


Get ready, Gap. Move over, A-X Armani. You're both about to get some stiff competition from K mart.

Those familiar terms -- classic, clean, casual, basic and comfortable -- often used to describe the offerings of the Gap and the newer Armani Jeans line are the very ones K mart is using to tout its new B. E. collection of clothes for women.

B. E., which stands for Basic Essentials, is a line of T-shirts, shorts, tank tops, camp shirts, pants and rompers in orange, fuchsia, yellow, green, turquoise, red, blue, violet, black and white solids, and stripes, madras plaids and Hawaiian florals. Some pieces are sized small, medium and large, others are 5-6 to 17-18. Prices for the spring and summer line are $5 to $17. The fall collection tops out at $43 for a jacket.

Sniff if you like, but you may want to do it quietly.

Women's Wear Daily, in a recent front-page story, proclaimed K mart "the hip new shopping stop among the value set." A consumer survey for Gitano found 75 percent of all Americans shopped there last year -- more people than shopped at such "fashionable" stores as Macy's, I. Magnin and Neiman Marcus. And who can forget that photo of Ivana and Donald Trump in the K mart parking lot after making a few purchases?

"It doesn't matter if you earn over $100,000 or under $30,000; everyone's consciousness has been awakened to the need and desire for value," says Dina Tenser, K mart fashion director. "Fashion is a concern and always will be, but frugality has become a new fashion."

Ms. Tenser says B. E. originally was offered "in the Gap and some better department stores, but not available to the mass market customer. We felt if it were available, the customer we owned would find it appealing, and we could also draw a new customer base."

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