Retail Excellence

This special report, compiled by the editors of License! Global, identifies 10 notable examples of how licensing and merchandising resonate at retail. Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart take stylish approach to recycling Coca-Cola rece

April 6, 2018

16 Min Read

This special report, compiled by the editors of License! Global, identifies 10 notable examples of how licensing and merchandising resonate at retail.

Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart take stylish approach to recycling

Coca-Cola recently introduced a collection of t-shirts that make a new kind of fashion statement. In support of Wal-Mart's Earth Month program, which was designed to highlight products that can help consumers live a more sustainable lifestyle, Coca-Cola debuted the tees, which are made from a blend of recycled plastic bottles and cotton. i1_420.jpg

Coca-Cola first launched its sustainable fashion line of apparel and consumer products in 2007 at the New World of Coca-Cola store in Atlanta (above). The company has plans for widespread international distribution through 2008 through virtually all retail tiers—from specialty boutiques to upscale department stores to mass retailers.

The "Drink 2 Wear" apparel collection at Wal-Mart is available at 500 Wal-Mart stores across the United States and on The tees feature playful slogans such as "Make your Plastic Fantastic" and "Rehash your Trash," and encourage people to recycle. Prominent in-store displays highlight a selection of Coca-Cola beverages in plastic bottles, along with an assortment of colorful tees. Point-of-purchase signage serves as an additional reminder for consumers to recycle.

Accompanying graphics stamped on the inside of each shirt illustrate the act of recycling a plastic bottle and remind consumers to "re-fulfill a bottle's destiny and become something great again." The men's tees features a "4 Inside" neck label; and the women's tees feature a "3 Inside" label, which indicates the number of bottles recovered and reused to create each shirt.

"These fun t-shirts merge trend with consciousness, reminding shoppers that small steps—like recycling a few bottles—can go a long way towards helping to preserve our environment," says Stuart Kronauge, vice president, marketing Coca-Cola North America. "If the 200 million Wal-Mart shoppers in the U.S. purchase these shirts, they will help us reuse and divert more than 700 million bottles from the waste stream."

For Coke, there's more to be gained than just a fashion statement. "One of our long-term goals is to realize 100-percent reuse of the bottles we place in the market," says Scott Vitters, director, sustainable packaging, the Coca Cola Company.

SpongeBob and New Look make SquarePants hip

New Look's licensed product program has been taken "to another level" over the past few years, according to Liza Workman, who, as head of buying for accessories, oversees much of the licensed programs offered by the 590-store UK fashion and footwear business.

Starting with a simple T-shirt collection back in 2005, the partnership with Nickelodeon UK culminated with special SpongeBob SquarePants areas for Christmas 2007 trading, and a multi-million pound annual business with product in nightwear and lingerie, slippers, swimwear, umbrellas, jewelry, stationery, belts and bags, toiletries, radios, and socks, plus a myriad of gift items. i2_156.jpg

According to Workman, the property, alongside several other major brands, "Give us a consistent return. After a staid period, we've taken licensed product to another level." Licensed product now accounts for 20% of the accessories mix at New Look, and that rises to 50% on gift ranges.

"There's a long approval process for licensed product and it can be tough to get the product that we want, but once the licensor and the licensees understand who we are it really works," Workman says.

SpongeBob product sales peaked at Christmas, Workman says. "SpongeBob sales exploded at Christmas and the license featured across footwear and accessories, lingerie, and nightwear—plus the clothing categories including T-shirts."

To give cohesion to the SpongeBob area, New Look pinpoints themes, moods and character poses that are then developed across product categories. "Where it is applicable, that can go across the whole business," Workman says.

Clare Piggot, vice president of licensing at Nickelodeon UK, says, "Working with New Look has been a creative journey through which we have established SpongeBob SquarePants as a beacon within the stores. The commercial success that the partnership between Nickelodeon and New Look is enjoying has been rapid and exciting, and is growing.

"Research we've carried out among New Look shoppers has shown that these consumers relate to the positivity of the SpongeBob character—and this is reflected in the sales that we are enjoying. New Look is a great partner for SpongeBob."

The two businesses are in talks about category extension over the coming year to move on the project. Workman says, "We can't rest on what we've done before. We have to move on, and we've built some really good relationships to be able to do that. And it is not all about peak trading. SpongeBob has been one of our best sellers on nightwear in the past couple of weeks."

KISS and Spencer's rock with gifts

Following an exclusive agreement between Spencer's and Signatures Network, the KISS legacy continued to grow during the holiday '07 period. The music-inspired collection, which launched in all 600 Spencer's doors in the United States and Canada, featured existing licensed KISS products (such as barstools, lamps, and neon signs) alongside exclusive items such as the KISS mister and Love Gun fountain. "The strong in-store performance for KISS items is a striking testament to the band's unbreakable bond with its fans," says Debbie De Rosa, Spencer's senior manager of marketing and licensing. Through the efforts of Signature's Network and Spencer's, KISS managed to obtain Spencer's No.1 position at retail for classic band merchandise with KISS holiday sales showing a 202 percent increase over the previous holiday season. i3_80.jpg

This successful partnership does not mark the first time KISS partnered with the retailer. Spencer's first partnered with KISS in 1998 when Gene Simmons contacted the retailer about selling the Punisher Bass. Licensed merchandise currently represents approximately 25 to 35 percent of the business at Spencer's.

Tweety and Kuball & Kempe create classic designs

Taking Looney Tunes' Tweety to the top of the design ladder could be considered quite a task, but Warner Bros. Consumer Products in Germany did just that with clever positioning with designers and retailers Thomas Kuball and Peter Kempe. The project is now rolling out through middle market store group Peek & Cloppenburg. i4_55.jpg

Thomas Kuball and Peter Kempe have a reputation for taking design classics and breathing new life into them—one of their previous projects was the relaunch of heritage brand Meissen—with product sold at their trendy Hamburg store. Tweety was, for them, a compelling project.

Peter Kempe says, "The classic Tweety character has great charm and is sweet but intelligent, and a great symbol for today. The character was ideally suited to a high-class product range with partners who had never used a comic character before." i5_52.jpg

Kuball & Kempe worked closely with the WBCP team in Germany, bringing in original Tweety product from top end producers—cashmere from Italian brand Malo, Meissen porcelain, Carl Rotter lead crystal glassware, handmade footwear from Sioux, wooden toys from Hellerau/Dresdner Spielzeug, eveningwear by Sascha Gaugel, and Swarovski crystal from Amazar. i6_38.jpg

Kempe says, "Each of the brands we worked with have a great name and strong tradition—they all are between 100 and 350 years old. All product was newly developed. It was a real experiment on such high-end luxury merchandise, and we had to do a lot of work to convince the brands to use a cartoon character, because they had never done it before. But they trusted us as designers to present them with ideas that fitted their wonderful quality and heritage."

A year in planning, K&K debuted the range in the Hamburg store in November last year, with many of the ranges selling out during Christmas trading. Simultaneously, German store group Peek & Cloppenburg put a limited collection into its top six stores. The middle market roll-out through 60 further P&C stores has involved the development of another tranche of new product, and a consumer competition to win Tweety product is underway.

Kempe continues, "We also worked with Peek & Cloppenburg on a range of exclusive, top-end sweat shirts and T-shirts that could sit easily with its designer corners in the top stores."

The WBCP strategy was to relaunch Tweety onto the German market through a top-end debut followed by a controlled trickle down. Peter Bichler, general manager of WBCP Germany says, "Tweety is one of the best well-known Looney Tunes and has achieved cult status all over the world. The high-end collection was the first step of a comprehensive brand relaunch in Germany, which will include a wider range of product. For example, for the mid-market roll-out, a collection of apparel and accessories has been developed separately."

Among the upcoming projects this year is a Tweety model contest and the launch of a young fashion collection.

Bichler concludes, "The project has been a tremendous success for all involved. And there will definitely be more to come soon."

Chorion & Gap grow with Junk Food

Chorion's popular Mr Men and Little Miss tees made their debut during holiday '07 at GapKids through a co-branded line with Junk Food. The collection, Junk Food Loves GapKids, marks the first licensed promotion the Gap has ever done with an apparel company. i7_30.jpg

To promote the launch, stylish mannequins were outfitted in Little Miss Chatterbox and Little Miss Giggle tees, which were prominently displayed in the stores. Due to its success, the collection, which originally launched in a handful of Gap stores, is now expanding into all stores nationwide by the second quarter of 2008. Tote bags will also be added to the fashionable mix. i8_18.jpg

"Junk Food is the perfect fit for our property since it has a similar brand essence. The Gap originated in 1969, and the books were published in 1971, so they're from the same era," says Pamela Ferris-Muller, vp, licensing, North and South America, Chorion. "The same generation grew up with both." Plans for international expansion are underway with distribution slated for the UK and Japan.

DwellStudio & Target nurture baby deal

Target, which is known for its exclusive partnerships with designers such as Michael Graves and Liz Lange, is committed to delivering today's top retail trends at the most affordable prices. Earlier this year, the trend-conscious retailer with a "Design For All" philosophy, unveiled an exclusive home and baby program via a partnership with modern home furnishings brand DwellStudio, which was founded by designer Christiane Lemieux. i9_19.jpg

Until the Target partnership, the DwellStudio collection was only available at the specialty store level. Now the line is available at all of Target's 1,591 stores in 47 states nationwide. "Target and DwellStudio share a similar philosophy—a commitment to high-design, superb quality, and affordable luxury," says Trish Adams, senior vice president of merchandising, Target. "We went directly to the source to help us add this modern aesthetic into our stores." i10_12.jpg

A stylish collection of bed linens (for adults and nurseries), nursery furniture, baby layette, and accessories for the kitchen and table are now part of the DwellStudio for Target assortment. Affordable pricing for the home collection ranges from $3 for a napkin to $100 for a king-sized comforter mini-set. The apparel collection is also ideal for gift giving with suggested retails ranging from $3 for a pair of booties to $80 for a three-piece crib set. Design-conscious baby apparel features Kimono-style bodysuits and tops that coordinate with matching pants, booties, and caps.

DwellStudio's selection of sophisticated baby gifts can easily be packaged for moms on the go—a priority for Lemieux, who is also a mom. "We wanted the Target guest to be able to grab the boxes off the shelf and put them in a gift bag and go," says Lemieux. "I wanted it to be easy for me and all of the other moms out there who have so little time to get a great looking gift together."

Sesame Workshop takes healthy habits to supermarkets

To celebrate its 4th year with Stemilt, Sesame Workshop is gearing up for the summer launch of the 2008 Cherry Program, which will roll out after the July 4th weekend at more than 18 grocery chains, including Publix, Giant Carlisle, HyVee, PriceChopper, Ingles, and Hannaford stores. The display, which duplicates a mini cherry farm stand, will include nutritional facts and offer a tear-away activity pad for children. The Stemilt display will also appear in Wal-Mart and Sobey's stores in Canada. i11_9.jpg

The partnership with Stemilt is part of Sesame Workshop's Healthy Habits for Life initiative, which aims to help young children and their families lead healthier lives through improved nutrition, hygiene, and exercise. Since its launch in 2004, Sesame Workshop has partnered with Apple & Eve (100% fruit juice), Del Monte Foods (canned vegetables), DS Waters (bottled water), Earth's Best (natural and organic foods), Musselman's (applesauce), Sunkist Growers (oranges), California Giant (strawberries and blueberries), Sargento (cheese), and Stemilt Growers (apples and cherries).

NHL & Reebok showcase sports merchandising

Reebok and the National Hockey League (NHL) recently opened the doors to the first-ever "NHL Powered by Reebok" retail destination in New York City. The flagship store, which serves as a year-round showcase for hockey, aims to bring the game to life through a multi-sensory experience. Technology, symbolism, and authenticity unite here for an unparalleled shopping experience for both players and fans. i12_7.jpg

The NHL Powered by Reebok store marks several industry firsts. It is the first store of this magnitude to show the breadth of the entire league with all 30 teams represented—a feat that no other retailer can claim. NHL Powered by Reebok is also the only store to feature a merchandisable frozen "Ice Wall," and a floor-to-ceiling digital video wall that prominently plays NHL games and hockey highlights. Interactive e-commerce kiosks allow consumers to place orders digitally. A full range of technologically advanced Reebok merchandise, including equipment, footwear, apparel, and accessories for men, women, and children are offered at the retail destination.

Symbolic design details include a custom-made chandelier made with 400 regulation hockey sticks, merchandising walls that draw their design inspiration from skate blades, and fluid display fixtures that mimic the action of skating. If that's not enough, the store features a radio broadcast studio from XM Satellite Radio, which airs every game played by all of the NHL teams. A 24-hour hockey talk radio channel "NHL Home Ice" also entertains guests. In addition, a Starbucks on the premises features custom finishes and furniture as well as a one-of-a-kind mural that fuses Starbucks' traditional colors with a design that conveys the feeling of an outdoor hockey game.

Skelanimals and Hot Topic build niche promo

They're cute. They're fashionable. They're macabre. They're the Skelanimals, and this character brand from Skelanimals LLC seems almost supernaturally suited to a retail relationship with Hot Topic. The store, which has built its name on merchandise which is cute, fashionable, and macabre, has seen a very lucrative relationship develop with Skelanimals, presenting multiple categories of merchandise from the brand together to create shop-in-shops for many of its stores.

"Skelanimals has been a strong brand and a large part of our licensed business," says Russ Jimenez, marketing manager for Hot Topic. "We felt that bringing all of the merchandise together would create a great launch for the license and would attract customers to the product."

Skelanimals products carried by Hot Topic include the original collectible plush from Toynami; apparel from Jem and Tripp; accessories and novelties from Loungefly; as well as stationery from Rock, Paper, Pencils. i13_5.jpg

Licensing plays a large part in Hot Topic's sales strategy, and they've struck exclusive deals with properties such as Cartoon Network's "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends," which the store carried merchandise for exclusively last year, and Pokémon. For the latter, Hot Topic carried an exclusive range of retro-themed apparel and merchandise, aimed at an older consumer than the brand's normal apparel program. Most recently, Hot Topic partnered with Playboy on a line called Playboy Exposed. "The collection features a full range of unique, rock-themed apparel, jewelry, lingerie, posters, and more, inspired by Playboy's iconic imagery," says Robyn Greene, senior public relations manager, global licensing for Playboy Enterprises.

For Skelanimals, the brand had a slow rollout at the retailer. "Initially, we brought in the plush and they sold very well," says Jimenez. "Skelanimals then came to us with the opportunity to introduce clothing and accessories to the brand and to extend the line. We continued to bring in full presentations of plush, and gradually layered in other categories like bags and tees. After many successful items we decided to introduce a full presentation in our stores."

Building a display around the brand has proven to be mutually beneficial for both the property and Hot Topic. "Pulling a product assortment together makes for a bigger visual impact for our customers. It creates an easy way for them to shop and allows them to see everything we have to offer for a property." says Jimenez. As for the future, "We have a back-to-school presentation planned that will be supported with a lifestyle print ad campaign featuring a lot of up-and-coming bands."

Bakugan teams with TRU for Battle brand boutique

With so many boys' toys properties these days including a game-play element, consumers might find themselves overwhelmed with learning all the newest game-play techniques. But at the rotating boutique shops in Toys "R" Us' flagship store in Times Square, New York, the latest and hottest merchandise sits side-by-side with employees ready to teach you how to play. i14_3.jpg

The latest property to receive the coveted boutique space in the Times Square store was Bakugan Battle Brawlers, the first outside property whose licensing is being handled by Cartoon Network Enterprises. The hit collectible game from Spin Master, which experienced sold-out success nationwide, was bolstered by a well-stocked section in TRU as well as the opportunity for novice players to learn how to play the game, and more experienced players to pick up tips to give them the edge in combat.

"Toys 'R' Us is the toy authority, and we consistently work to be on trend and to identify emerging trends," says Bob Friedland, PR manager for Toys "R" Us Inc. "We collaborate with manufacturers, licensed property owners and others on an ongoing basis to determine which themes we believe will capture the imagination of kids."

The Bakugan boutique, which ran in April, followed on the success of the Times Square TRU's boutique for 4Kids Entertainment's Chaotic trading card game, which ran in the store from January to March of this year. The Chaotic boutique followed a similar format, and also included demonstrators on-hand to teach the game to kids. At press time, Toys "R" Us Times Square also was featuring boutiques for My Little Pony, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Hello Kitty, and Speed Racer.

Whenever possible, the boutiques also go well beyond the usual toy store fare for a given property."Whatever we believe tells the best 'story' within the themed shop is featured," says Friedland. "In addition to toys, this sometimes includes licensed apparel, backpacks, stationery, and posters. Toys 'R' Us feature boutiques offer a one-stop-shopping experience for licensed products."

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