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Jennifer Marks

Portico in Development by Haft and Schlang

Although Portico disappeared from the retailing scene when it closed its doors nearly three years ago, the brand is about to get a second life under new ownership.

Industry veterans Gregg Haft and Charles Schlang last month acquired the brand and intellectual property assets of Portico Bed & Bath Inc., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2004. The $310,000 transaction took place via Portico Acquisitions LLC, a new company owned 50-50 by Haft and Schlang.

Although the acquisition price was modest, Schlang noted that tallying up the costs of research, legal and brand platform planning, Portico Acquisitions has made "a strong financial commitment to the Portico brand and assets."

The Portico business will be two-pronged: expanding the existing personal care products business and establishing a branded home furnishings business across several categories, including furniture, mattresses, down products, spa bath, fashion bedding, and selected giftware items.

Portico personal care products are currently sold at www.porticospa.com and at www.hyattathome.com, Hyatt's online retail outlet for products used in its hotel rooms. "Right now, we have hospitality distribution at every Hyatt in North America — that's over 50 million units a year in product," said Haft.

Haft is the owner of Fayette, and Schlang the owner of Renaissance America. Both businesses involve branding, licensing, product development and distribution, as well as consulting work. Fayette and Renaissance share offices and frequently contract work to one another.

Portico will operate separately from Fayette and Renaissance — in a separate office with its own staff, both men told HTT.

Home furnishings will be operated as licensed businesses — including bedding and bath. Although Haft and Schlang have years of experience developing licensed products — and between them currently produce and distribute branded bedding and/or bath for Esprit, Kitan, Mexx, and others — they will not take on the textiles piece themselves.

"Portico Acquisitions is a licensed model," said Haft, adding that licensee guidelines will restrict the brand "to the best in each category." He added, "We would rather take years to launch this than compromise on the integrity of the brand."

In practical terms, he expects to see the first wave of home furnishings product in 12 to 18 months, he said.

The brand will also set strict terms for retail merchandising and support, including educational signage at retail and product-specific booklets that must be displayed alongside the merchandise. Retailers not able or willing to execute to plan will not be given the brand.

Specs and brand positioning will be non-negotiable, both agreed.

"We feel there's no justification for any discrepancy between the hospitality quality requirements and the retail quality requirements. The product has to speak to a higher standard," said Haft.

Textiles products in most cases will be organic, "but to the true standard of organic," Haft said. There will be two tiers: 70% organic and 100% organic. Select items will also be subject to environmentally friendly finishing processes, when available for that type of product.

"In terms of point of view, the Portico brand is defined as attainable sophistication. The customer is female, age 30-50, savvy and very image conscious," Haft said.

Portico Acquisitions currently holds the Portico trademarks for North America and Japan. The company has applied for trademark rights throughout Asia, as well as in Dubai.

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