If there's one thing you can say about retailers it's they're not shy - about anything. Merchants know what they want. And if you're going to create partnerships, retailers will tell you what they want you to do, how they want it done, by when and what results they're looking for. The key is getting that face-to-face meeting that gets the ball rolling.License! magazine did just that - with 13 retailers and some of their best promotional partners.What do retailers want? Strong merchandise, top performing licenses and clever promotions. Some, like Wal-Mart, also want merchandise exclusivity and programs that answer a demographic marketing need, as is the case with its Mary-Kate & Ashley product line, now a budding store concept.At Saks Department Store Group, president & CEO George Jones says shorter lead times and greater responsiveness to customer needs are priorities. For Mervyn's, retailtainment is important, says Mark Nawrocki, senior manager, marketing planning. Cool
VP, GMMHot Topic
One thing I'd like to see change is the length of time needed to move, start to finish, with a license, especially in regard to older movies. Six months is too long for us. We'd like to see less lengthy legal processes.
As a positive example, our supplier/licensing consultant, Headline Entertainment, quickly helped link us to Sony for an exclusive order of Ghostbusters merchandise, like tops with the No Ghosts logo, and other product with Marshmallow Man and Slimer.
Some entertainment firms, like Nickelodeon, Fox and Marvel, have been very easy to work with.
Another point is exclusivity, which is getting harder to secure and more important to us then before.
Exclusivity makes properties more enticing for us. Smaller licensors, like some artists, don't always understand that an exclusive deal means that we want to see their characters on product at our stores only."
Senior VP & GM, Wal-Mart Stores
The holiday season is on McMillon's mind and he's looking for winning results from a number of licensed properties and popular brand names.
Movie toys will be big this year, he says. Harry Potter movie-based product was meeting expectations during the promotional warm-up and McMillon was expecting a "lift from the movie" once it hits theatres.
Monsters, Inc., with $63 million in ticket sales on opening weekend, was another winner, he says, noting that "Disney toys are trending above plan." He also is excited about Bionicle (Lego), Nintendo product, the Xbox launch, and Mattel's Barbie in the Nutcracker.
Sports licensed merchandise has potential, but product quality is paramount. "If you have a great windsuit with a great license, then you have a winner."
President & CEO Saks Department Store Group
From vendor partners, what we need is merchandise that sells. Merchandise that is really targeted right and meets customers' needs. And a broader understanding of how it fits the overall product mix on our floor. Our customers need for us to have a lot more freshness than what we've had. It's not a matter of loading up from key vendors.
We also need our vendors to work with us to shorten lead times so that we can be more responsive to what customers want.
Brands are extremely important for us. We're not as much of a player in the licensing business, although we're open to looking, particularly in the kids area. We'd consider something that's a product or a property that is not proliferated among the mass guys. The key thing is it needs to have broad appeal. There's an opportunity that it could also could be launched as a brand."
Coo & director of merchandising, FAO Schwarz
Getting business back to normal tops Niggli's list. With the company's flagship store in terrorism-targeted New York City, FAO Schwarz has learned that strong vendor partnerships pay off big. "We've seen what good partners we have. Our vendor partners have been very helpful, working to create fun and excitement in our store for our customers," says Niggli.
When things finally do get back to "normal," Niggli reflects on the importance of great product. "Just come up with product that is innovative, quality, unique and classic. It's all about the product. And if you have the product they want, consumers will find a way to get it."
Director of merchandising, Zany Brainy
With the mission of presenting "the best stuff for kids," Zany Brainy looks to its partners for exclusive merchandise. "We know our customer: she wants something special at Zany, and it's our goal to deliver," says Compton. The chain always welcomes unique offerings that are developed with Zany's customer and mission in mind. A plus, says Compton, is a product that includes plans for both an in-store event and a direct customer communication.
As for licensors, Compton believes they could be better at leveraging their internal resources and sister divisions to help promote the chain as a source for their product. This would include offering support through websites, print media, TV as well as any other resources they have at their disposal. As for the current economic climate, Compton admits the chain is taking a much more cautions approach. However, "we have seen an upswing in customer support and interest in our brand as Zany Brainy promotes great family-focused categories, and is a source of inspiration for kids."
Senior manager, marketing planning, Mervyn's
Dare to be different. That's the key for Nawrocki, who looks to his partners for differentiating power, through property or style, on licenses with universal appeal.
"We cannot get into price wars with the Marts, so exclusivity gives us a head start. To play in that world, we need something of an edge to draw people into our doors." Signage is also important as it "elevates the property and creates a retail theater in the store."
Such theater was on view at Mervyn's in March with its promotion of some Warner Bros.' Cartoon Network properties. "Some of our best decisions in 2001 were when we were proactive in developing a shop concept approach," he says.
Nawrocki believes in licensing and contends "merchants have the initial feeling that licenses are downtrending, but I wish we would recognize the upside of licensed goods when they are bought, merchandised and promoted properly."
Vice chairman, president & COO, Best Buy
Last decade, Best Buy (Minneapolis) had Beatles fans in its pockets, offering exclusive recorded product inspired by the Fab 4. Today the 461-store chain goes deeper and broader with promotions involving Irish rockers U2 and soon, *Nsync.
Last month, BB had a two-week window of exclusivity with the DVD Elevation 2001/U2 Live from Boston and it gave away a U2 CD sampler that featured previously unreleased live tracks, plus a limited edition re-release of U2's Best Of 1980-1990. Past promotional partners include artists like Sting and Moby and the next headliner is *Nsync.
According to Anderson, these are some of the ingredients that make a promotion work: "We seek artists who connect with our audience. *Nsync and U2 are not the same kind of band, but they connect with key parts of our customer base."
VP licensing, Spencer Gifts
In the always hurried and now emotionally charged post Sept. 11 mall environment you have about a megasecond to catch the eye and interest of your potential passing customers. Those customers in-store and online are all graduates of the school of 'been there, done that.' Therefore, a good licensed promotion must deliver a unique, well-coordinated message and opportunity.
A good promotion should:
Capture the esprit of the property.
Creatively coordinate a unique usage of the property's image, merchandise exclusives and promotional handle.
Maximize all the channels of all partners' outreach."
Schlansky asks: "Do you really believe you have a creative point-of-difference promotion with sufficient outreach? If not, re-work it."
National buyer/licensing coordinator, Musicland
We want exclusivity on products and promotional windows, marketing support and event support. We need clear separation of retail tiers in style guides, assigned vendors and planned promotions. We need more direct communication and honesty regarding competing retailer programs. We could use more synergy between various departments of a corporation.
For us, having the CD or special edition DVD release, during the promotional window, augments consumer product sales.
What makes a deal cook? Timing (ahead of the trend, and ahead of other retailers) plus great product design. Execution is No. 1.
We work well with added customer draws, like in-store celebrity appearances and sweepstakes for autographed product or for walk-on roles in films or TV. Last fall we held an online sweepstakes for four exclusive, Nightmare Before Christmas items (valued at $20-$50 each), signed by director Tim Burton. That sweepstakes generated record high online responses."
Senior VP marketing, Payless Shoe Source, & president, Payless Worldwide
A license has to have broad consumer appeal and consumer staying power. A consumer has to be interested in it for more than two or three weeks," says Haugh. "We're also looking for the opportunity to have some kind of exclusive."
Developing long-term relationships with licensing and promotional partners is critical to the shoe retailer.
In the future, Payless Shoe Source will look for licenses that translate well in international markets as it expands outside the U.S.
The company also is utilizing licensing in new ways: It is now moving beyond just carrying licensed children's shoes. It is using licensing to market to adults. One example: Payless' partnership with Wolverine for a Stanley brand of work footwear.
Promotions at Payless "should always pleasantly surprise our customers," Haugh declares.
Chairman and CEO, Ames Department Stores
He wants a good Christmas. "I can't conclude it will be a bad Christmas [market] but in my 40 years experience, Christmas always comes."
He's found that shoppers are drawn to the familiar, and at this time of year, that means toys, trim-a-tree, patriotic-themed merchandise, electronics (especially DVD and the new game systems, Sony GameCube and Microsoft Xbox). At Ames, phone cards are doing well as is basic and fashion fleece in apparel, chenille sweaters, personal care items like the hair braider from Conair and George Foreman grilling products.
Ettore notes that "licensed products in general, are OK, but not as strong as two years ago." However, Ames is looking for licensing winners this season, including some exclusive Clifford the Big Red Dog merchandise, as well as some licensed sports apparel. Of particular interest, he says, are goods featuring Michael Jordan and the Wizards, and Doug Flutie football jerseys under his new team, San Francisco Chargers.
VP, GM, Toys "R" Us Times Square
Toys "R" Us' new Times Square store reflects a can-do attitude on toys, retailing and the revival of the Times Square district of New York City into a family shopping mecca. With some "top shelf partners," Wahle says Toys "R" Us can "build brands together with our partners. We have hundreds of vendors represented here and there's lots of opportunity to build those brands. The spirit of partnership and brand building is the aim here - and build our brand, too. We believe this is the place where all new toys will be launched."
The goal of the company's new 110,000-sq.-ft. international flagship store is for store associates to "sell, engage and service guests. We are setting a benchmark for this enterprise."
Owner, The Lift House
Sporting goods retailer Dave Larsen has licensing on his mind. For him, the ultimate license is the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team.
Larsen owns The Lift House, a 7,000-sq.-ft. single location store in Salt Lake City specializing in ski equipment, and a 2,800-sq.-ft. store in downtown Salt Lake City that he licensed from the U.S. Ski Team and filled with ski team licensed goods. Such licensees as Spyder (Boulder, Co.), Reusch (Germany) and Dale of Norway (Norway) are represented in the store.
"We're looking for anything licensed that might attract a skier or snowboarder," says Larson, noting that licensed accessories are hot with the denizens of the cool slopes.
Due to The Lift House's proximity to the upcoming 2002 Winter Olympics, red, white and blue Olympic Team licensed products also are selling well.
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