Martha Stewart gets a new home; Disney gears up for major franchise films; 7-Eleven promotes Pokémon movie; Walmart unveils kids subscription box; plus, other top brand licensing and retail news.

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 for the retailers, licensors and brands.

Sequential Sells Martha Stewart Brand

Marquee Brands LLC has acquired the Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse brands from Sequential Brands Group. The deal was worth a reported $175 million which is significantly less than the $353 million that Sequential paid for the company in June 2015.

The acquisition strengthens the Marquee Brands portfolio and extends its business into the home category, while giving Sequential Brands the opportunity to pay down its debt and focus on its other properties that include Gaiam, Jessica Simpson, And 1 and Avia.

However, the key question with this acquisition is the long-term viability and potential upside of the Stewart and Lagasse brands. While their popularity among consumers and position at retail appears to be strong, with Martha Stewart still a mainstay at Macy’s, several factors could impact growth and present major challenges for Marquee Brands in the future. They include the trend among retailers to focus on private brands, the need to target millennials, and numerous other popular celebrity names and social media influencers competing in the home category.

Over the past several months, Martha Stewart announced deals with Canopy Growth to develop CBD products and True North Seafood to develop food products. According to Marquee Brands, which is owned by investor funds managed by Neuberger Berman, its portfolio now represents more than $2.3 billion in annual retail sales. Its brands include BCBGMAXAZRIA, Ben Sherman, Bruno Magli, and Dakine.

Martha Stewart will join the Marquee Brands team and continue to guide the brand she founded, while Carolyn D’Angelo who led the brand at Sequential will serve as president of Marquee Brand’s home division.

“Martha Stewart is a visionary whose educational mission and innovative approach has inspired millions of people to live more meaningfully. Martha Stewart branded products, known for their high quality, superior function and beautiful design, have enriched homes around the world,” said Sam Porat, managing director, Neuberger Berman.

“This transformative acquisition allows Marquee Brands to enter the home, food, and media sectors,” said Zachary Sigel, managing director, Neuberger Berman. “The addition of new partners, customers, and capabilities will further diversify Marquee Brands, improving its position as a preeminent global brand owner.”

“We are committed to making impactful investments across marketing and our established e-commerce platform to support these brands. We look forward to this best-in-class team joining our organization to help us drive continued growth,” said Michael DeVirgilio, president of Marquee Brands, which was founded in 2014. The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter.

Disney Gears Up for Strong Performance

As the Walt Disney Company gets set for its new streaming service, which was the primary focus of its recent investor day and all subsequent media and analyst coverage, the company has a robust lineup of major franchises gearing up for movie premieres and, of course, extensive collections of licensed merchandise.

As I have covered in previous articles, 2019 is an unprecedented year for Disney with the number of major films and potential blockbusters being released along with extensive promotional and merchandising initiatives. For example, this week in anticipation of Toy Story 4, Disney Stores launched a full line of exclusive merchandise. Other franchise films in ’19 include: Penguins, April 19; Avengers: End Game, April 27; Aladdin, May 24; Toy Story, June 21; Lion King, July 19; Frozen 2, November 22; and Star Wars, December 20.

Coupled with the launch of Stars Wars land, among other events, it’s undoubtedly shaping up to be a banner year for the studio.

7-Eleven Promotes Pokémon Movie

7-Eleven is supporting the first live-action Pokémon film Detective Pikachu, which will hit theatres on May 20, with various products, merchandise and experiences. The convenience store retailer is the perfect venue for this extensive movie promotion and should create a strong buzz.

“Pokémon Detective Pikachu’ is a great entertainment tie-in for 7-Eleven because it appeals to so many of our customers—kids, Gen Z, millennials,” said Tarang Sethia, 7‑Eleven vice president of digital customer experience. “Millennials, who played the original videogame 20 years ago, are parents now and can enjoy the Pokémon phenomenon all over again with their kids. The entire Pokémon franchise launched as a videogame, making it the perfect vehicle to create experiences that maximize the new and growing AR capabilities in the 7-Eleven app.”

Following are key elements of the 7-Eleven/Pokémon promotion:

  • 7-Eleven has created a Ryme City Neighborhood WatchAR experience in its app, named for the movie’s fictional setting, that includes a new “Find the Missing Pokémon”activity each week. Drawing from the movie storyline, each activity will fully immerse users in a unique story to find the missing Pokémon and unlock exclusive offers for free products.
  • The Mystery Slurpee Sweepstakes offers customers an opportunity to do a little sleuthing for a chance to win a year of free Slurpee drinks. The Instagram-based contest invites users to follow Slurpee on Instagram; post a photo, video or gif of themselves; guess the three flavors in the Mystery Slurpee drink; and include the required hashtags in the caption.
  • Named for a café featured prominently in the movie, the new Hi-Hat Mochahot beverage blends a rich balance of chocolate and coffee flavors with steamed milk and is topped with frothy foam.
  • Colorful, limited-edition Slurpee bottles and strawsfeature Detective Pikachu and other movie characters–Psyduck, Ludicolo and Snubbull. Refillable, insulated coffee mugsalso feature Detective Pikachu, Psyduck and Ludicolo.

7-Eleven stores will also feature a variety of Detective Pikachu merchandise including an exclusive set of trading cards, trading card file, plush Pokémon characters, Pokémon Clip and Carry Pokéball belt and Pokéballs. 7-Eleven also created three 7-Select private brand chocolate bars to tie in to the movie, a Create-a-Cookie Kit, vanilla cupcakes with yellow icing and sprinkles, as well as Pillsbury ready-to-bake cookies.

Walmart Partners for Kids Subscription Box

In its effort to expand its children’s business and become a destination for fashion, Walmart has partnered with Kidbox for an exclusive style box that shoppers can customize from more than 120 premium kids’ brands including BCBG, Butter Super Soft, C&C California and Puma.

The style box will include four to five items for $48, which the retail says is approximately 50% off the suggested retail price for the group of bundled items. Walmart continues its aggressive strategy to enhance and expand its ecommerce business competing with rivals including Amazon and Target. Last October, Walmart launched a collectables strategy that included a partnership with Loot Crate for six subscription boxes.

“We are thrilled to partner with KIDBOX to introduce our first kids’ subscription apparel service offering premium fashion brands at a substantial savings,” said Denise Incandela, head of fashion, Walmart U.S. eCommerce. “Over the last year, we have significantly expanded our portfolio of kids’ fashion brands as part of our broader effort to establish as a destination for fashion. Our partnership with KIDBOX enables us to round out our offering with additional national and premium kids’ brands.”

The new Walmart KIDBOX style box will be available for sizes 0 to 14 for girls and 0 to 16 for boys, and includes a range of items, from sweaters and denim to dresses and graphic t-shirts. According to Walmart, the new KIDBOX complements its expanding kids’ fashion assortment, which features more than 100 new brands that have been added over the last year, including Betsey Johnson, Kapital K, Levi’s, Limited Too and The Children’s Place.

Godiva Cafe Debuts in New York

Premium chocolate brand Godiva opened its first cafe in the Americas in New York City. The new concept, which offers various food items and specialty beverages, is part of Godiva’s global strategy to expand aggressively in the next six years.

The company plans 10 more cafes are slated to open in New York State by yearend and to expand the concept to 2,000 locations worldwide with over 400 planned in the Americas. While Godiva cafes currently operate in Japan, China, Belgium and the Middle East, the New York café features a refreshed design and a wide array of innovative new menu items that will be incorporated into new stores.

“This is a very pivotal time for Godiva as we transition to align with the ever-changing consumer behavior. We have an aggressive growth plan for the next six years which includes expanding our footprint of 2,000 cafes worldwide with a focus on growth in the Americas,” said Annie Young-Scrivner, CEO, Godiva Chocolatier. “We are very excited, as the opening of the Godiva café in New York City is a major milestone for us. We look forward to becoming a part of our consumer’s daily life—whether it be breakfast, a midday snack or a sweet afternoon treat and creating a destination that they want to visit in order to treat themselves beyond the

Article of the Week: Trademark Case

This is a must read for every brand owner and licensing exec: Retailer Patagonia is suing InBev over its Patagonia brand beer.

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