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License to stretch

Looking at the landscape of licensing, with the most recent marquee entry into home furnishings from Kate Spade, one wonders what all these names really mean to consumers.

There are the obvious headliners. But looking beyond those that have a marketable track record in their primary field of design or notoriety, there is a growing concern that in home textiles, especially, adding a partnership with a license is a grasping point for differentiation at the supplier level.

And as differentiation becomes the mantra for more and more retailers, it seems that picking up a license will bring this so-called plus to the fight for consumer bucks.

What is fascinating in looking at the broad consumer goods marketplace is that names from the last century, especially from its exuberant mid-section, are both new favorites with younger consumers and welcome old friends for those who knew and loved them originally.

So this is one segment of the licensing landscape. Then there are the established apparel fashion icons such as Ralph, Donna, Calvin, Tommy and their other cohorts who have moved into home with various levels of prestige and success.

Add to this many of the lesser known apparel designers who feel that home is a golden field of opportunity for their need for revenue stream increases and so set out to license any kind of home widget they can dream up — with a constantly diminishing range of potential licensees and a distribution challenge that is formidable.

What we are now seeing is retailers reaching out for exclusives from designers or in brands in hopes of achieving that certain differentiation that they believe is necessary.

On the other side of the picture are the producers of product or designers of stuff so remote from home or home textiles specifically that the stretch is almost laughable. Add to that the distribution challenge, and it almost is time to step back and reassess the entire licensing environment.

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