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Licensing Helps Deliver 'Something Different'

The roster of licenses scooped up by home textile makers shows the full-fledged effort both vendors and retailers are making to attract consumers and give them something different to walk out with. While pricing remains an issue and consumer confidence is waffling, it's the lure of "new" and "value" that have makers carefully choosing licensed partnerships.

"Even in this tough economic climate, consumers do not abandon well-known brands or licensed products. Consumers have and will always care about brands, characters and aspirational celebrities with which they identify," said Michael Stone, president and ceo of The Beanstalk Group, which is helping spearhead the launch of the HGTV brand into home products.

He added, "Value is less about price these days and more about a brand's worth, and increased brand experiences are giving consumers a reason to purchase licensed product. So, a great, well-known property, smartly licensed in the right category where it will provide a point of differentiation, perhaps capitalize on any number of present-day trends, and which resonates with consumers, will always find a place on the retail shelf." HGTV will enter into the licensing arena with a myriad of home products slated for 2010/2011.

"All business has been tough in the last six months, but strong brands will continue to have authority with the consumer through the ups and downs, as long as we keep in touch with the trends and maintain quality and brand image," noted Diane Piemonte, vp, creative services Revman International. According to Piemonte, color is key to its licensed brands for the spring 2010 season. Revman's roster includes Michael Kors, Tracy Reese, Tommy Bahama, Laura Ashley, Steve Madden, Perry Ellis, Columbia and Wallcandy.

Gretchen Dale, coo, Loftex USA, agrees that the right brands will capture consumer's attention. Though she jokes about the timing of a luxury towel introduction during a difficult economic climate, the company is pleased with how its new line of Natori towels are being received. "We're very happy with the value we're giving consumers." She said. According to Dale, the embellishments and the unique color styling of designer Josie Natori sets the collection apart. "It will make a visible difference on the retail floor," she said. The towels will be sold at Bloomingdales in early September.

"Regardless of brand or not, it is key to have a great product at a great value in today's economy. Value means different things to different people, so Downlite spends a lot of emphasis in getting to know today's consumer — what she is looking for, where she is shopping and how she is spending her money," said Jyl Davis, director of marketing, Downlite. Downlite currently sells utility bedding products under the Tommy Bahama and the recently added Jessica McClintock Home licenses, including pillows, blankets, comforters and toppers.

"There's no one determining factor in choosing to partner with a brand, but you have to make sure it resonates with consumers and that its part of your strategic plan," noted Andy Petricoff, director of brand management and sales, Welspun USA. Welspun runs an extensive program of Nautica-branded products, including fashion bedding, bath accessories, window treatments and indoor area rugs, sheet, bath rug, bath towel and beach towel rights. Another license in its roster is designer Amy Butler. According to Pertricoff, Amy Butler products offer unique looks and fashionably target the green consumer with a line of bright, organic towels. "Going forward, brands will be a key part of Welspun's growth," he said.

"As the economy weakened, the brands we represent got stronger," said Mandy Talbert, product development manager, Louisville Bedding. "People tend to make their decisions to buy based on past experiences, brand integrity — at the end of the day, we buy product we know, product we trust. House brands while they serve a purpose, are generally not as established or recognized as a National Brand. Consumers don't see a weak economy as a time to take risk and generally purchase the brands they know and trust."

Beanstalk's Stone is optimistic about licensing's future, but also sees some changes already underway. "The paradigm of licensing is shifting: financial terms in license agreements are changing, licensors are becoming more flexible in their agreements as well as in the kind of support they offer licensees, retailers are much more involved in the process, agents are required to be more service-oriented after the deal is signed, and programs cannot succeed without management, oversight and service." He noted. "Licensing is more about collaboration today than ever before, and that is a good thing. The business is maturing. When the economy rights itself, licensing will look different than it did before the collapse and welcome the challenges ahead."

Below is a sampling of licensing news from the first half of 2009.

Angela Adams

Sunham debuted a broad assortment of bedding, bath and rugs featuring the designer's motifs.

Animal Planet

TexStyle last spring debuted a collection of bedding and room décor under license to the Discovery Channel property. SaraMax launched the brand in beach.

Calvin Klein

The designer brand signed a licensing agreement with Kravet last month for fabric.

Cindy Crawford

JCPenney will launch a home collection this fall built around former supermodel Cindy Crawford. Cindy Crawford Style, to debut in September, will encompass in bedding, window coverings, bath, decorative accessories, table top, area rugs, lighting and wall décor. Furniture will be available in select markets.

Country Living

Sears and Kmart will both begin offering Country Living branded home furnishings by August, in a licensing deal announced Sears Holdings Corp. and Hearst Magazines. The line will include bedding, bath, tabletop, furniture and home décor.

Dockers

CHF landed the Docker's license in spring and will preview this fall for an early 2010 launch at Kohl's, where it is a captive brand. CHF also picked up the Quiksilver and Roxy licenses.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises

The owner of the legendary children's characters signed a deal with Trend Lab for nursery and baby furnishings, including bedding, which will launch at retail this fall.

Ellen Tracy

Fashion brand marketing firm Brand Matter, owner of the Ellen Tracy design house brand, has entered a licensing agreement with Olivet International for all stylesa of luggage, part of the company's strategy to expand the brand beyond its apparel orientation. The Ellen Tracy brand will likely see an extension into home textiles product categories, the company said.

Farberware

Town & Country Living has signed an exclusive agreement with Farberware Licensing Company to create a new collection of kitchen textiles and table linens. The line will be officially introduced in September and includes kitchen towels, oven mitts, potholders and aprons. Shipments are expected to roll out starting in spring 2010.

HGTV

Agency The Beanstalk Group is developing a two-pronged approach to the license: solution-oriented products and design-driven goods, the umbrella under which home textiles will fall. Most of the products will focus on the brand, with only an occasional visit from a network star. Products are expected in-store in 2010–2011.

Izod

WestPoint Home has signed a licensing agreement with Phillips-Van Heusen to produce Izod branded bedding, bath and kitchen products. WestPoint Home will offer Izod sheets, fashion bedding, bath towels and accessories, blankets and throws, down comforters, pillows and mattress pads to leading department and specialty stores in the U.S. Deliveries of this new offering are scheduled to begin in Spring 2010.

Jane Seymour

Capel Rugs and Jane Seymour Designs have teamed up to create and market a co-branded line of casual lifestyle area rugs.

Jaclyn Smith

With Martha Stewart's deal with Kmart and Sears almost done, the retailer will focus on expanding Smith's products from apparel to home goods and textiles. It introduced tabletop and outdoor décor this spring.

Jessica McClintock

Downlite has signed a multi-year license with the Jessica McClintock Home Collection and will launch a collection of down and down alternative bedding products.

Lolita

The maker of cocktail glasses with whimsical designers signed a license with Avanti for home textiles. The supplier will debut an inaugural line of beach towels and giftable totes at September market.

Natori Home

Loftex USA introduced a line of luxury towels bearing the Natori label. The towels will be at retail this fall.

Nautica

The expanded line at Welspun now includes fashion bedding, bath accessories, window treatments and area rugs. Welspun already held the license for sheet and towels programs.

Peanuts

CHF this spring signed a license for the comic strip property for bedding and bath.

Pepsi/Mountain Dew

SaraMax launched beach sets and totes.

Quiksilver

Quiksilver, surfboard brand, has entered a license agreement with CHF Industries, to produce a line of home products for its Quiksilver and Roxy brands.

Sharper Image

London Luxury debuted bed and bath with a techno twist last spring.

Snuggie

WestPoint Home has teamed up with consumer products branding, marketing and distributor Allstar Products Group to produce, sell and distribute the Snuggie brand. WPH has gained exclusive rights to produce and distribute the Snuggie to volume department stores and specialty off-price retailers. The brand — the blanket with sleeves — was a big infomercial hit.

Southern Living

Perfect Fit in March debuted Southern Living utility bedding in concert with PEM America, which holds the fashion bedding license.

Steve Madden

Revman International unveiled the a bedding collection from Steve Madden, the apparel and show designer. The initial introduction was an ensemble that included a comforter, sheet set, two shams, two dec pillows and a signature Steve Madden tote bag.

Tommy Bahama

Bardwil Linens is creating a line of elegant but casual table linens donning tropical themes for the upscale island lifestyle brand Tommy Bahama. Revman International does bedding for the brand.

Vera

Following a debut in kitchen and table linens at Bardwil this past spring, Vera will debut in bed and bath HomeSource during September market.

Wallcandy

Revman International will introduce bedding based on the popular line of wall-decorating kits featuring repositionable designs and patterns. For the initial introduction, Revman will coordinate bedding to match Wallcandy's most popular kid designs, two for young children, and two for the college crowd.

Warner Brothers

The Northwest Company will manufacture decorative throws with coordinating pillows, cuddle wraps, character hugger pillows, decorative rugs, inflatable chairs, travel set and more for Harry Potter, Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo, Tom and Jerry and other Hanna Barbera properties. Northwest will also produce bedding, sheets, pillowcases and shams, bedding sets, comforters and beach towels based on the recent release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

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