Licensing, marketing and retail expert/opinion leader Tony Lisanti, provides insight and perspective for the top headlines of the week. “Licensing and Merchandising Report” is a must read for top execs who want objective, straightforward and authoritative analysis. 

Target Continues to Champion PL

With its latest decision, Target’s pattern of eliminating major brands from its merchandise mix continues. Last year, Target eliminated Cherokee, which it had for 20 years, and now its parting ways with Champion athletic wear, which it has merchandised since 2004.

These moves among others were made to make the valuable shelf space available for private brands, which is clearly Target’s strategy across several product categories. Over the past 12 months, Target has unveiled numerous new private brands as it attempts to create excitement among shoppers and differentiation from rivals including Walmart and Amazon, both of which have also been focused extensively on developing new PL brands.

Furthermore, Target unveiled two more PL apparel brands on August 3—a young women’s line called Wild Fable and a young men’s line called Original Use.

“We’ve been on a journey to reimagine our portfolio of owned and exclusive brands for more than a year now, and we’ve built a ton of momentum with guests of all ages,” says Mark Tritton, Target’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer.

Among other new PL brands Target has introduced are Goodfellow & Co, A New Day, Universal Thread, Project 62, Heyday and JoyLab, its activewear brand that will likely be expanded or complemented by other PL names.

Of course, Target’s move to an increased portfolio of PL brands, along with its key competitors, puts a serious squeeze on licensed brands, especially the non-entertainment brands that lack other promo and marketing opportunities.

G-III Brings Starter Brand Back to Football

G-III Sports has signed a multi-year partnership with the new football league, The Alliance of American Football, to be the official on-field supplier of uniforms and sideline apparel. The deal brings the Starter brand, which is owned by Iconix Brand Group, back to pro football.

“This is the right opportunity for Starter to make its return to the football field,” said Carl Banks, president of G-III Sports, a Division of the G-III Apparel Group. “Our partnership with The Alliance is built on a shared commitment to the game, players and fans. In 1985, while playing for the New York Football Giants, I was signed as a brand ambassador for Starter. That experience served as a crash course in learning about the connection between sports, culture and fashion.”

The Alliance of American Football will feature eight teams each with 50-players in a 10-week regular season schedule beginning February 9, 2019. The league has teams in eight cities— Orlando, Atlanta, Memphis, Salt Lake, Phoenix, San Diego, Birmingham and San Antonio. The league was founded by TV and film producer Charlie Ebersol and Hall of Famer Bill Polian. The games will be aired on CBS.

“Starter, one of the first brands to fuse fashion and fan wear, has been a part of sports and pop culture for nearly five decades,” says Jamie Cygielman, chief marketing officer and executive vice president, Iconix Brand Group. “Starter’s partnership with The Alliance of American Football marks a new connection point for the brand to the athletes, tastemakers and influencers of today who are all integral to Starter’s DNA, both on-and-off the field.”

Brookstone Files for Bankruptcy

After its bankruptcy filing in 2015 and turnaround attempt, Brookstone is back in Chapter 11. The gifts and gadgets retailer will close all of its 101 mall stores, but like other retail monikers, it just can’t go quietly in to the retail history book. Brookstone plans to continue to operate its airport stores and who knows how long that strategy will last. What shoppers are really looking for or in need of a Brookstone store when they are running to catch a flight?

Perhaps the retail brand has yet another life as a licensed brand or even a franchised brand. The Brookstone name may still have a cache similar to that of Sharper Image thereby creating a greater value for its IP than its physical stores.

 NFLPA Clicks with Streaming Service

The NFL Players Association and its OneTeam Collective continue their efforts to connect with fans in innovative ways by acquiring a minority stake in SportsCastr, a live-streaming platform. According to NFLPA, active and former NFL players will provide live commentary and share personal insights. ACE Media, the NFLPA’s content and production arm, will collaborate with SportsCastr to produce NFL player and other athlete-driven content.

“Athletes constantly explore ways to build their personal brands and creatively connect with their fans, and SportsCastr’s live-stream capabilities align perfectly with these goals,” said Ricky Medina, senior manager of business development for NFL Players Inc., the licensing and marketing arm of the NFLPA. “We look forward to working with the team at SportsCastr to deliver an exciting new way for fans to engage with their favorite athletes while watching the sports they love.”

As part of this agreement, SportsCastr becomes an official licensee of the NFLPA in the categories of mobile apps and web-based platforms that allow users to discuss a variety of sports topics, including through video streams and chats. SportsCastr is the eighth active NFLPA partner secured through the OneTeam Collective.

The first NFL players will begin using SportsCastr in Q3.

Nick Keeps Turtles Relevant

With its new animated kid’s series, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—which is set to debut in September and has already been greenlit for a second season—Nickelodeon unveiled an extensive collection of new licensed merchandise. The line is highlighted by Nick’s longstanding partnership with licensee Playmates Toys. Products include action figures, playsets and bedding.

Since it acquired the Turtles in 2009, the TMNT franchise has contributed significantly to Viacom’s revenue and CP growth. And the licensor has implemented a successful multi-pronged strategy to reinvent the franchise in numerous ways and keep it fresh and viable among fans and consumers.

Viacom’s acquisition of Awesomeness TV, the digital media company acquired by DreamWorks in 2013, could also provide other opportunities for the TMNT franchise as well as the licensor’s other properties. Variety reported the deal, valued at more than $50 million, does not include DreamWroksTV, which will remain with parent NBCUniversal.

Disney Gets Ready for Another Runway Walk

Disney Villains will headline New York Fashion Week on September 7 when luxury fashion brand THE BLONDS presents a runway show featuring their Spring ’19 collection. “Disney Villains have long lived in the dark shadows of the beloved heroes and heroines of their stories, and yet these characters are just as celebrated,” said Ken Potrock, president, consumer products and commercialization. “Through our collaboration with THE BLONDS, some of Disney’s most notorious villains will be reimagined in totally unexpected ways during one of fashion’s most important weeks.”

The collection will be inspired by villains such as Cruella de Vil, Maleficent, Evil Queen, the Queen of Hearts, Dr. Facillier, Ursula and her dark eel minions Flotsam and Jetsam.

Deals of the week

  • The Fossil Group announced a global licensing agreement with BMW to create watches and smartwatches for the automaker. The first collections will be available in 2019 and sold globally in more than 4,000 BMW retail channels and other key retailers that Fossil works with. Licensing agency Brandgenuity represents the BMW brand.
  • Magic Chef announced a partnership with NewAir Appliances to launch a line of air fryers for the home. “Air fryers represent a growing category of small kitchen appliances for individuals and families,” said Ted Kochowicz, senior licensing manager, MCA Corporation, parent company of the Magic Chef brand. “This initial project represents a multi-year partnership with NewAir. They have been working with air fryers for years, so they bring a lot of knowledge and experience to the table.’
  • Follett Corporation, operator of more than 1,200 on-campus stores and one of the nation’s largest retailers of college licensed apparel, has created a private label brand. Called Fall Rush, the officially licensed college apparel is debuting in 500 stores managed by Follett this summer. “Follett has been operating official campus stores for nearly 90 years,” said Scott Killian, senior vice president of private label. “This incredible heritage and the connection we have with generations of students and alumni is the perfect foundation for building a college lifestyle brand focused on authenticity and elevating the definition of campus apparel.”

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