“People are hungry for the instant gratification of buying the products they see online,” Chu said as part of an International Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association (LIMA) webinar today, “The Ins and Outs of Licensing For The Home.” Also speaking were Ilana Wilensky of Jewel Branding & Licensing, an agency, and Greg Wyman, founder and president of The Wyman Group; Wyman initiated the B. Smith with Style brand and today manages (along with Jewel) the Poetic Wanderlust brand designed by Tracy Porter.
Tips from the session:
- The importance of photography to online sales can’t be underestimated, noted Wyman. “Subtlety doesn’t work online,” added Chu.
- Product photos should feature related items, both to put the spotlighted item in context and to introduce the buyer to accessories that will work with it. “The background [goods] aren’t just props,” said Wyman.
- Funnel all products through a brand page, advised Wilensky, as Wayfair and Bed Bath & Beyond do for the Nikki Chu Home brand. That way the consumer doesn’t have to hunt through pages to find each item.
- Fashion brands do not automatically translate to home, according to Wilensky. Similarly, said Wyman, “a celebrity in some other area does not mean you’ll be absorbed into the home world.” Whatever the origin of the IP, all agreed, the brand “has to have significant reason to be in the home.”
- Unlike fashion, the home market introduces new goods twice a year, noted Chu. This compares to the average 4-5 seasons annually for apparel—not to mention the even greater frequency for fast fashion.
- “If I design a rug,” said Chu, “it takes 4-5 months before I see the first prototype. By the time a product comes in that may be your only shot to get it into the store. [That requires a high degree of] accuracy from the designer for the first go-round because you may not have a second opportunity.”
- Bedding & furniture are the anchors for entering the home market, per Wilensky. “Start with one of those and expand from there. That drives the aesthetic from which you can build the whole collection.”
- “The more licenses you obtain the more difficult it is to maintain a through-line aesthetic across categories,” said Chu. “You want to maintain the integrity of the line but you also have to be able to work with your manufacturers’ design teams so they can get out of the program what they need as well.” Different manufacturers, she added, have different needs that won’t always mesh with the intended look/feel.
- Manufacturers once drove the “aesthetic,” but “today the market demands that the licensor control the look. The licensor needs to initiate ideas,” said Wyman. Today, the involvement of licensor with licensee “is not just for approvals,” adding that the retailer is no longer a third party. “The licensor has to drive the brand with the retailer,” concurred Wilensky.
- Neither manufacturers nor retailers will take designers on unless they have a strong identity – patterns, color combinations, look. “Then you become valuable to manufacturers,” said Chu. “Otherwise they can do it themselves.”
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