Target gears up for Magnolia, Minecraft, Teigen brand products; Sears losses mount; Forever 21 showcases Kodak apparel; NFLPA thinks big; photos of new Toy City store and other licensing news highlights of the week.

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 Gets Set with Magnolia, Minecraft and Teigen

While Target has heavily focused it merchandising initiatives on private label introducing several brands over the past several months, the trendy retailer hasn’t forgotten the importance of popular licensed brands. The retailer has big plans beginning Monday for Fixer Upper star Joanna Gaines, Mojang’s popular Minecraft game franchise and celebrity Chrissy Teigen.

These are smart merchandising and marketing moves by Target and reflect the retailer’s savvy understanding of brands and celebs that its customers will connect with. These exclusive deals clearly differentiate Target from its competitors.

Gaines’ new Home & Hearth Magnolia collection includes dishware, kitchenware, vases and accessories in fall colors and styles.

Target’s partnership with Minecraft includes various exclusive products across apparel, toys, home décor and bedding as well as various special instore events such as a scavenger hunt and appearances by the game’s creators. The retailer is also releasing exclusive products to tie in with MineCon Earth on Sept. 29.

In addition, Target is launching an exclusive partnership with celebrity and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen for a line of kitchenware. Called “Cravings,” it will debut on Sept. 30 featuring over 40 items ranging from $4 for drinkware to $140 for a 12-piece cookware set.

United Soccer Kicks off First Licensing Program

The United Soccer League launched a new league-wide licensing program for the coming season and named former Major League Soccer veteran Stu Crystal to lead the initiative.

The new program will focus on apparel, novelties and accessories, with opportunities to partner with industry-leading licensees in each category.

“As part of our continued growth, demand for club licensed products has increased significantly—doubling over the past two years,” said USL President Jake Edwards. “Interest in the program from the clubs and potential licensees thus far has been outstanding and speaks to the continued growth of the USL,” said Crystal, head of the Crystal Agency, who has spent the past 25 years in licensing and marketing roles for several major sports entities.

Forever 21 Connects with Kodak

Kodak and fashion retailer Forever 21 have launched a new apparel collection featuring Kodak’s iconic logos and designs. The artwork uses original colors from Kodak branding and packaging from the ’90s including the company’s NASCAR team sponsorship.

The collection, which features 26 products produced by licensee Hybrid Apparel, includes women’s t-shirts, crop tops, jackets and lounge wear. The men’s line includes tees, polos, pullovers and jerseys.

The once film and camera giant, Kodak has transitioned into a tech company that is focused on imaging products and licensing. The Forever 21 fashion deal not only reinforces the Kodak brand and its rich history, but also introduces the brand to a new generation. It’s a fun program that other brands should evaluate.

“Rather than be a fad or trend, we want to retain an aspirational product aimed at our core audience and those that they influence,” said Dany Atkins, chief brand officer.

“Kodak has always been synonymous with our life’s best memories, including past, present and even future aspirations,” said Bonnie Segall, EVP of new business development, Hybrid. “We were able to capture this by leveraging the current streetwear trend and creating a new ‘Kodak Moment’ for a new generation of enthusiasts.”

Brookstone Bankruptcy Auction Date Set

Following the first bid for bankrupt Brookstone from Authentic Brands Group, rival Bluestar Alliance jumped in with an offer of its own. The brand management company, which owns bebe, kensie, Tahari and nanette lepore, bid $56.35 million for Brookstone topping ABG’s revised offer of $50 million.

A bankruptcy auction is scheduled for Sept. 26 and will determine the fate and new owner of the gifts and gadgets retailer.

As I previously reported, the Brookstone brand—similar to Sharper Image and Poloroid, which both have grown significantly adapting a licensing strategy—has potential to be a strong licensed brand with a strong retail sales potential over the next several years.

Depending on which company acquires the brand will also determine the fate of its retail stores.

NFLPA Goes for Big Heads

Fun and different products are critical for licensed brands and the NFL Players Association’s latest deal is a pretty big example.

Build-A-Head and NFLPA have launched the online service for fans to create player giant face cutouts for NFL players.

Build-A-Head’s CEO Bryan Price said, “We are excited to be working directly with the NFLPA to bring the huge big head cutouts to the great fans of the NFL’s favorite players. We have already seen fans use them in Instagram photos, on the wall at the office, at games, at tailgates, and the most popular have been kid’s favorite player football themed birthday parties. We‘ve even seen other players use them in the locker room. Working with the NFLPA has been a pleasure and the reaction to the face cutouts have been great.”

Warner Bros. Forms New Brand Division

In an effort to better align its brands and franchises, Warner Media has formed a new division bringing together key business areas. This approach will enable the studio to better leverage synergies and streamline its operations.

The new division, Warner Bros. Global Brands and Experiences, combines Warner Bros. Consumer Products, DC, Themed Entertainment and a new global franchise team.

Pam Lifford, previously head of WBCP since February 2016, was promoted to president of the new group. According to the company, the formation of WBGBE supports the Studio’s ongoing initiatives to move its businesses and products closer to the consumer.

“With competition for consumers’ attention more intense than ever, and brand awareness and loyalty more important than ever, this is a great way to help focus on creating opportunities for fans to meaningfully interact with our brands and franchises at a level beyond the screen,” said Kevin Tsujihara, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. “Pam has deep experience across consumer products and building emotional connections with fans, and in the two years she’s been at Warner Bros., has proven herself and her vision. I’m excited to have her bring that vision to this new business.”

“This is an incredible opportunity for us to super-serve our fans across a variety of platforms and venues throughout their lifetimes,” said Lifford. “Warner Bros. has world-class characters and brands that are beloved around the world—from our licensed DC Super Heroes and the Looney Tunes and Hanna Barbera animated superstars to a library of over 10,000 films and TV shows—and we’re now making it a priority to bring these properties to fans in new and exciting ways.  I’m thrilled to take on this challenge and look forward to working with my colleagues across the Studio to make this new business a great success.”

In addition to working with all the divisions, Lifford will also coordinate with sister companies HBO and Turner as well as various other AT&T divisions.

Sears Reports Wider Losses in 2Q

Sears Holdings Corporation reported a net loss of $508 million for the second quarter of 2018, compared to a net loss of $250 million for the second quarter of 2017. The Company generated total revenues of approximately $3.2 billion compared with revenues of $4.3 billion in the prior year quarter.

The clear message here is that the bottom line is the bottom line and no matter how you spin this story, Sears is seriously challenged and once again its performance this holiday season will be what will determine its fate in 2019. It may still see a cash influx from the sale of its assets, Kenmore for example, but that will only possibly extend its business as it has done in the past with the sale of its Craftsman brand.

Edward Lampert, chairman and chief executive officer of Sears Holdings, said, “While we are encouraged by the improved comparable stores sales trend we experienced in the second quarter, and the positive comparable store sales of 3.0% and 2.5% achieved in the months of July and August, respectively, we have yet to achieve our goal of returning the company to profitability. We continue to close unprofitable stores, and we are hopeful that we can stabilize our store base at a meaningful level in the near future. Our goal is to right-size our store footprint to a solid base from which we can operate and grow profitably, while leveraging our online and Shop Your Way platforms.”

In the Aisles: The New Toy City

Here’s a look at Party City’s first new pop-up toy store that opened last week alongside its Halloween City format.

Jurrasic World display at the Toy City store.

Princess toys were abundant at the Toy City store, among other items.