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Lizzie's back in town

Carole Sloan, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, May 13, 2002

As this licensing whirling dervish continues unabated, we're fast approaching the point where Auntie Annie, who crochets cute toilet-paper-roll covers, is licensing her name for a bevy of home products.

There seems to be little clear understanding from many on either side of this licensing avalanche that there needs to be a definite message from the licensor and an awareness by the licensee that having a license does not assure fame and fortune.

We won't bother to detail those so-called names that are now in the licensing graveyard. But they are there in abundance.

The pages of Home Textiles Today over the past few years have been filled with the hopes and promises of most of these liaisons — many of which ultimately failed.

What we're seeing now is that the licensors that treat their names as brands rather than just a label for another in a series of unrelated products are the ones that are succeeding.

And a number of these licensors are realizing that their brand doesn't have infinite legs. Not everyone wants their homes or bodies completely covered with stuff from a motorcycle or a wacky bird.

There needs to be rhyme and reason for the product with the name or image attached.

Now we have the news that an 800-pound gorilla is moving into the world of home furnishings. It's been here before but not with singular success. It's here now in a new way with a new approach that doesn't focus just on the Liz Claiborne piece of the company.

And it's not a designer brand like Ralph, Calvin, Donna or Tommy. And even they have audiences in sub-designer levels. But for the Liz family, it's really mainstream USA.

And in the '90s it learned how to apply its brand muscle. Just looking at the Liz Claiborne annual report is a lesson for marketers everywhere. It's not an easy path, but one that the company took as the apparel manufacturing business in this country tanked — and Liz needed to reinvent itself.

So when Liz Claiborne puts all its corporate muscle behind 26 brands and spreads its design, sourcing and brand management talents through a plethora of distribution channels, there should be a significant impact on the entire world of home furnishings and home textiles especially. Watch out.

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