Shopping the Stationery & NY NOW Aisles for Specialty Licensing Opportunities

NEW YORK, NY; February 5, 2020—In: Cannabis and CBD products, including specialty packaging companies catering to that market. Out: Reusable straws, at least from a fancy design standpoint, now that they’re commodified. And here are my finds for new products well suited for licensing, and others ripe for expanding existing licensed offerings.


Creativity, Craftsmanship and a Sense of Humor = Standouts at NY Gift Shows

Suck It Up: Straws Are the ‘It’ Product at NY Now, National Stationery Show

NEW YORK, NY; August 13, 2019—How can you differentiate one reusable straw from other reusable straws? Let me count the ways based on eight among many on display at NY Now and the National Stationery Show at the Javits Center here this week.

Materials: Stainless steel, silicone, titanium, paper, glass.

Style: Floral/beach/animal motif, solid color, pattern, laser-etched images.

Type: Fixed, retractable, bendable, 2-piece (so you can separate for easier cleaning).

Utility: Lunch kit, home use, travel.

Accessories (yes, accessories for your reusable straw): Cleaning brush; carrying case; multiple diameters for sodas, shakes, and sip/stir; replacement parts (I haven’t figured that out yet).

Environmental link: At least two of the eight I examined donate a portion of proceeds to environmental and/or animal charities.

Even the sales rep for one of the manufacturers I spoke with sees humor in the notion that straws are a “hot product” this year. “Who would have thought?” she asked.


Seattle, the state of California, Starbucks, Disney theme parks, Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, American Airlines, McDonald’s in the UK, and others are banning single-use plastic straws. And while many are simply forgoing straws altogether — typically with exceptions for those with disabilities who need them — manufacturers are clearly counting on individuals rather than restaurants and other beverage purveyors to pick up the slack.

Exactly how long people will care let alone use their brushes to clean their straws, I don’t know. How diligent are most people about flossing? But I have my guesses. In the meantime, is there an opportunistic play for licensors with children’s properties?

Trend Surfing at February 2019 National Stationery, NY Now & Surtex Shows

Walking NY NOW: Handcrafts Exhibitors Take Fresh Look At Discarded, Recycled, Reclaimed Materials

SEPTEMBER 1, 2016; NEW YORK, NY—NY NOW is a hybrid gift and home accessories show with a nod toward handcrafted (or maybe better thought of as “small batch”) goods. I concentrated on the latter this time around at the Javits Center here, because sometimes the handcrafted goods are harbingers of things to come from the mass producers or inspire fresh thinking about staid licensed categories. That’s where stealing smart begins.

One of the trends gleaned here: Fresh takes on incorporating discarded/recycled/reclaimed materials. This movement waxes and wanes, without ever totally disappearing. But I came across some innovative examples:

Stacey Lee Webber works with coins and found metal objects to create art pieces. Pictured are what she was showing at NY NOW, including a framed display of Abraham Lincoln busts cut from pennies and of nickel buffalo roaming. Not on display but worth taking a look at on her website is a chainsaw fabricated from pennies. Looks like it even works.

Attic Journals uses old book covers, bingo cards, floppy disks and other items as covers for its journals, and incorporates parts of books and old library “book due” cards for its jewelry.

NY NOW journals w:recycled covers

People for Urban Progress (PUP) makes “goods for good,” rescuing “discarded materials [and] redesigning them for public benefit” in Indianapolis. They started in 2008 making messenger bags and other items with material salvaged when the RCA Dome was torn down. The bags, in particular, have a great distinctive look and, if you will, vibe. Product sales benefit various projects the non-profit supports as well as local artists, designers, and others involved in creating them.

Swell Fellow is a Montreal-based company specializing in high-end ties and bow-ties for men (there are a few selections au feminine), some of which feature Scrabble tiles, keyboard keys, and miniature toy pieces such as cans of paint or a Coke bottle. A few ties have a pocket to accommodate a cell phone as part of the fashion accessory.

This one is only tangentially about recycling (“Give old clothes new life!”):

Patricia Vogel and Dominique Serrano’s Button makes . . . buttons. It was late afternoon and I’m thinking snack — when I see this display that looks like very artsy macarons. Well, they’re buttons, hand made in Chile, and they’re sold individually as brooches and buttons, or in pairs, with magnet backing, to use to tie a scarf or spiff up old clothes.

OK, not as good as a macaron, but refreshing in its own way.

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