The forecast for robust retail sales this holiday season bodes well for licensors; NBA star Kevin Love lands at Banana Republic; Instagram enhances it shopping story; Meredith names new head of licensing and streamlines titles; 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. 

Licensing Deal Watch

Brookstone IP Auction is set for September 26. Will the retail brand’s new owner be Authentic Brands Group, Bluestar Alliance or another company?

Another auction, pending a last-minute resolution, will be held on Sept. 22 in London, to determine the new owner of Sky, the media conglomerate. Will it be Comcast or Walt Disney/Fox? There is a lot at stake for both media companies as Sky’s business will provide a competitive advantage in pay-tv throughout the U.K. and Europe.

NBA star Kevin Love(s) Banana Republic

Banana Republic and Cleveland Cavaliers forward and brand ambassador Kevin Love introduced their first collection this week. BR/K.LOVE-18, according to BR, is “a limited-edition men’s capsule grounded in performance, tailoring and classic American sportswear.”

It’s a good move for BR to generate consumer interest and reinforce the retailer’s commitment to cool and contemporary fashion. BR needs to differentiate itself and generate excitement among its shoppers and the Love collaboration will help to deliver its marketing message.
To introduce the collection, BR created an ad campaign called, “Who is Kevin Love?” which shows Love with his friends—including the drummer for The Roots, Questlove; Olympic athlete and gold medalist, Lindsey Vonn; and chef and restaurateur, Marcus Samuelsson—as they recount adventures they shared together on voicemails left for Love.

The BR/K.LOVE-18 collection includes accessories from $14.50 to a leather biker jacket for $548. It features a varsity jacket, motion-stretch suit separates, fitted corduroy trousers, topcoats and sweaters.
“I’m proud of the BR/K.LOVE-18 collection Banana Republic and I created together,” said Love. “I was inspired by Banana Republic’s utility heritage, premium quality and tailored performance sportswear staples, and we combined those with nods to my Portland roots, which make this capsule my own and truly reflect my personal style. I’m excited for our fans to experience it all.”

“To launch BR/K.LOVE-18, we wanted to showcase Kevin’s off-court talents through a series of exaggerated, entertaining stories that reveal all the dimensions of Kevin Love, including co-designing a collection for Banana Republic,” said Banana Republic chief marketing officer Mary Alderete.

Instagram Offers Click and Buy Shopping

Following its recent shopping test with a limited number of businesses, Instagram has now expanded this shopping opportunity to all businesses.

The company is enabling businesses to add a product sticker in stories, thereby easily integrating products and content. When a shopper taps on a product sticker, they are taken to a product details page providing additional product images, information and a link to the respective mobile site to make a purchase.

So, my first reaction is to say it’s about time! The capability to simply click and buy a product a user views is what consumers and brands want. You see it, you like it, you click it and you buy it. It’s that simple and it’s a strong opportunity for licensed brands, especially for popular collections, limited celeb products and fan driven merchandise. It’s all about taking advantage of the “moment,” otherwise known in retail terms as impulse purchasing.

In addition, Instagram is testing a topic channel for shopping in Explore.8. The shopping channel will be based on each user’s specific shopping interests and will display shopping posts from a variety of businesses.

Deloitte Forecasts Strong Retail Holiday Sales

Considering the current strength of the economy coupled with a historic high level of consumer confidence, it appears that it will be a very merry holiday for retailers.

According to Deloitte’s annual retail holiday sales forecast, retail sales are expected to increase 5­ to 5.6% over last year’s shopping season. Deloitte projects total holiday sales to exceed $1.1 trillion between November and January.

Deloitte also forecasts a 17 to 22% increase in e-commerce sales in 2018 compared with 16.6% in 2017. E-commerce sales are expected to reach $128 to $134 billion.

“The anticipated growth in holiday sales is likely because of solid disposable personal income growth, which we expect will be in the 5 to 5.4% range. That is above last year’s 4.7%,” said Daniel Bachman, Deloitte’s U.S. economic forecaster. “A strong labor market should also aid retail spending, along with elevated consumer confidence and a stable personal savings rate of around 7%.”

Meredith Names VP of Brand Licensing

Top licensor Meredith has named a new head of licensing filling the position long held by Elise Contarsy, who spearheaded growth over past decade most notably with the huge Better Homes & Gardens extensive program with Walmart.

Steven Grune takes over as vice president of Meredith Brand Licensing reporting to Meredith consumer products president Tom Witschi.

Grune will oversee all of Meredith’s licensing activities including more than 60 partnerships and 12 Meredith brands, including its flagship line of 3,000 Better Homes & Gardens-branded products at Walmart. His senior leadership team will include executive directors Sondra Newkirk, Toye Cody and Kristen Payne.

“Licensing represents an important piece of the consumer products portfolio as well as a key strategic piece of the Meredith National Media Group’s revenue diversification strategy,” said Witschi. “We believe Steve has the ideal background to lead the business at this important juncture as we merge Meredith’s current robust licensing portfolio with the Time Inc. brands acquired earlier this year.”

Meredith this week also announced the sale of Time magazine and the combination of titles EatingWell and Cooking Light into one magazine with a combined circulation of almost 1.8 million. The new EatingWell will debut in January.

Grune, who was most recently VP & group publisher of the Meredith Parents Network since 2016, has held a series of senior brand leadership roles during his 30+ years in the media industry. “I am delighted to be joining the talented team at Meredith Brand Licensing,” said Grune. “Given the strength of our existing relationships and the expansion of our brand portfolio since the Time Inc. acquisition, Meredith is positioned for continued growth in the Brand Licensing business.”

Meredith’s leading national brands include PEOPLE, Better Homes & Gardens, InStyle, Allrecipes, REAL SIMPLE, EatingWell, Shape, Southern Living and Martha Stewart Living. The company is still trying to sell Fortune, Money and Sports Illustrated.

Food & Wine Brews Anniversary Beer

Iconic Meredith title Food & Wine, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, has joined with Blackberry Farm Brewery to create a limited-edition beer called “Ampersand Saison.”

This is another example of a creative way that Meredith’s brands have used to create interest, build awareness and engage consumers.

Food & Wine began the celebration of its milestone anniversary with the launch of the September issue.

The beer acknowledges the focus on French cuisine in the mag’s first issues in 1978, combining two hop varieties, Nelson Sauvin, a New Zealand hop that displays similar flavors to Sauvignon Blanc grapes, and French Aramis Hops, which are grown in the Alsace region of France.

Ampersand Saison refers to the “&” symbol from Food & Wine. The beer will be available at Blackberry Farm Brewery as well as select restaurants across the country.

“Beer is community, and this special collaboration with our friends at Blackberry Farm Brewery marks a fun way to celebrate the 40th Anniversary with our community of chefs and tastemakers,” said Food & Wine editor Hunter Lewis.

Camp MasterChef 2019 Plans New Locations

Endemol Shine North America, producers of MasterChef, MasterChef JUNIOR, and Campus Cerdanya, announced the expansion of Camp MasterChef in three new locations in summer 2019. Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston will join the Connecticut and Georgia locations that will return for a second year.

Camp MasterChef will also add to its all-star talent roster with current MASTERCHEF finalists Gerron Hurt (Nashville), Cesar Cano (Houston) and Ashley Mincey (Miami).

Camp Masterchef is another example among major licensors for the development of experiential initiatives. This event brings together the show’s audience and chefs in ways that truly emerge fans in the brand’s strategies and focus. It provides not only a real-life experience but also an educational opportunity that strengthens the franchise and expands its reach.

CAMP MASTERCHEF programming includes special competitions, hands-on cooking lessons, outdoor sports activities, interactive challenges and more. Campers stay in accommodations with premium facilities at Scripps College (Los Angeles, Calif.), Lake Forest Academy (Chicago, Ill.), The Village School (Houston, Tx.), Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School (Rabun-Gap, Ga.) and The Kent School (Kent, Conn.). As featured culinary talent, the finalists will teach campers hands-on cooking skills and techniques. Gerron, Cesar and Ashley are all teachers with a passion for cooking, as well as for educating youth.

Nickelodeon and Playmates Unveil New TMNT Toys

The “Turtle heroes” have yet another new look and toy line based on Nickelodeon’s new Animated Series, “Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” which debuted this week. The TMNT toy line will launch at retail Oct. 1.

Nickelodeon has done a masterful job expanding this franchise and keeping it fresh since it acquired the property in 2009. Whether its content, products, experiences and collaborations, Nick has built this franchise into one of the top licensing brands in the world.

Longtime master toy licensee Playmates Toys developed the new TMNT product line, which includes various action figures, vehicles, a playset and role play toys.

“The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a property that has reinvention in its DNA and Playmates has been there every step of the way,” said Nick’s Jon Roman, senior vice president, toys. “Show creators worked hand in hand with Playmates to ensure that the bold, colorful design of the show translated into product at retail and we can’t wait to introduce them to a new generation of fans.”

Deal of the Week

Forever 21 continues to be a strong supporter of licensed brands with another Pepsi deal. The Joester Loria Group partnered with Pepsi licensee, C-Life Group to release ongoing capsule collections throughout 2018 at Forever 21. The collection, which includes silhouettes for juniors including crop tops, jerseys, windbreakers and an assortment of men’s t-shirts and outerwear, feature Pepsi’s iconic logos and graphics from the 80’s and 90’s. Additional Pepsi licensed items will be released for the 2018 holiday season.

Last Word (and Quote) of the Week

There will undoubtedly be more licensing from the iconic rock band, KISS, as its farewell concert tour titled “End of the Road” gets underway. The band appeared on “America’s Got Talent” finale this week, announcing the tour after performing “Detroit Rock City.”

I’ll never forget this classic comment during one of my interviews with Gene Simmons: “We license everything from condoms to coffins. We got you coming and going.”

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