Building Trumpland: The Donald Flies High in Licensing Blitz

Donald Trump is looking for more places to plaster his name following the successful launch of his men’s fragrance and men’s suit collections.

NEW YORK — Donald Trump knows he’s ubiquitous — but be prepared.

As the three-hour finale of his NBC series “The Apprentice” airs tonight, Trump is already preparing for a third season — and for even more places to plaster his name following the successful launch of his men’s fragrance and men’s suit collections.

Women’s fragrance? That’s a given. Women’s apparel? Sure — he definitely loves the ladies. Furniture? Why not. What about candy? Sure to be another sweet deal for The Donald.

And he’s reveling in the attention.

“I’ve gotten used to it,” says Trump of his fame at one point during a hectic, day-long visit to Chicago to promote his new men’s fragrance with the Estée Lauder Cos. at Marshall Field’s State Street flagship. “I’ve always had it, and now I have it more. Now it’s gotten to a point where it’s ridiculous. But when I get crazy about it — all of the photographers, all of the people, all of the touching — I remind myself that it probably will not always be this way, and I might as well enjoy it.”

As long as he’s number one — and making money at it. As Trump heads to Chicago, it is evident the ultracompetitive businessman has one goal in mind: to bust the door’s five-year-old personal appearance sales record of $30,000, set during a two-day appearance with Donna Karan back in 1999. Afterward, he plans to check up on the progress of his new Trump International Hotel and Tower and squeeze in a meeting with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Clearly, The Donald hasn’t gotten where he is by relaxing — not to mention that he has a work ethic that explains his business successes. “Some people go on long vacations….I work,” he says. “There’s always a plan in mind.”

And — no surprise — he enjoys offering his candid thoughts: “I’m not running for political office, so I can say what I want to say.”

But if the latest Trumpania is centered on those two simple words “You’re fired,” the mogul himself is looking to milk the spotlight for every last penny while he can. He has a long list of pending licensing projects to consider — although Trump’s vice president of licensing, Cathy Hoffman Glosser, steadfastly declines to name possible partners until all contracts are signed. Those nearing announcement include deals for licensed eyewear, boxed gifts, socks and watches. Those being discussed — at various stages — include footwear, luggage, topcoats, cuff links, small leather goods, candy/confectionery, additional games, home products and women’s apparel.

This story first appeared in the December 16, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“Our key objective, with all of these deals, is to find the right partners and not expand so quickly that we can’t give our partners the support they deserve,” says Glosser. “We want to choose partners who fit in well with the mix we’ve already started to put together.”

It’s that attention to detail that partners like Gary Brody, president of the Marcraft Group, appreciate; Brody’s firm is Trump’s suit licensee. “Donald Trump is an extremely busy man, but he pays close attention to every detail,” said Brody shortly after the Macy’s Herald Square appearance. “He asks thoughtful questions and even cares about things like button placement on suit sleeves.”

And, certainly, no one can accuse Trump of not supporting the products that bear his name. While the list seems to grow day by day — the most recent being an agreement to do a shirt and tie line for apparel giant Phillips-Van Heusen — the Field’s appearance is Trump’s second department store stop in two weeks, and there’s a third set for later in the same week. A Dec.1 gig at Macy’s Herald Square promoted his Marcraft suits and fragrance with Lauder, not to mention the talking Trump doll (which finds 16 ways to say “You’re fired”), his board games and his five books; a Dec.10 appearance at a Miami-area Burdine’s touted all of the above as well. All have produced overflow crowds and record sales, to the delight of the retailers involved.

Speaking of ubiquitousness, Trump’s signature phrase (which he even tried to trademark) — “You’re fired”  — follows him everywhere, although he claims not to use it off the air very often.

“I do fire people in real life,” he says. “But I don’t generally use the phrase ‘You’re fired.’ I do on occasion, when I find that someone’s a sleazebag, or they steal or something….Generally, I try to find a softer version of the words.”

He understands why the phrase is so popular, however: “There’s not much you can say to the phrase ‘You’re fired.’ It’s very definitive.”

His Chicago daytrip starts bright and early — with a Trump touch: making an entrance. He emerges from the protective custody of a Port Authority police car that has whisked him from La Guardia’s Marine Air Terminal to the staircase of his private jet. He breezes onto his well-appointed 727, (current) apprentice Bill Rancic in tow, full of energy for the day ahead. And after an affable discussion spent seamlessly weaving together details of a number of current projects — from the new fragrance to licenses (What about hair spray? His Lauder partners just roll their eyes.) — Trump heads to the front of the plane to get down to even more business, popping through the cabin at regular intervals to discuss said businesses with the various executives on board — including Glosser and two of the Lauder executives heading up the fragrance efforts, Fabrice Weber, president of Aramis and Designer Fragrances, and Robin Mason, vice president of global marketing, Aramis and Designer Fragrances. 

Once Trump arrives at Field’s, the huge crowd of more than 1,000 Chicagoans erupts in cheers. As Trump makes his way through the swarm to the makeshift stage where he and Rancic will sign bottles of fragrance, the crowd gets ever wilder, but Trump takes it in stride. While the diverse crowd — which includes soccer moms wheeling baby carriages, elderly men and preppy businessmen — has been admonished not to ask Trump or Rancic to sign anything other than fragrance bottles or publicity photos, various people have ignored the edict, sneaking such things as throw pillows and guitars through the line. But Trump and hometown boy Rancic clearly don’t care — there’s a sales goal to be met.

And it is. Trump easily, well, trumps the previous record, selling nearly $32,000 of scent. And perhaps used to the bluntness displayed by New Yorkers, Trump reveals that nothing too offbeat has come up during his time on the floor. “The Chicago people are really nice, really friendly. Even the reporters. Nothing strange was said — which is probably strange in itself.”

Not only does the record far exceed those of most men’s scents, Trump has done it with just one stockkeeping unit, a 3.4-oz., $60 fragrance spray. And he isn’t taking any chances. Because of his demanding schedule, Trump is pulled upstairs while there are still customers in line. But he has a plan: He continues to sign bottles in the retailer’s upstairs boardroom while conducting meetings. He even continues scribbling his name on bottles while being interviewed by the Chicago Tribune — all to beat that record.

“I was never that into scent until this one,” Trump says, declining to name any he’s worn in the past — “I don’t want to insult them by saying I don’t like them.”

 Brainstorming is already happening for a women’s scent.

That possibility elicits a roguish grin from Trump, who is the first to admit that women are part of his raison d’être. “My life is based around women,” says the twice-married mogul, who will be headed down the aisle next month for a third time to wed model Melania Knauss. But that’s not to say that he can explain the ladies. “For me, the most complex business deal is less complicated than the most modest love affair,” he says, quirking an eyebrow. “I’ve always said that I’m a great father, but a lousy husband. Love is a very complex situation, but there’s nothing like it.”

A third season of “The Apprentice” will begin airing Jan. 13; more than one million aspiring apprentices are said to have tried out for slots. In February — after a quick break for his Jan. 22 nuptials to Knauss, who also appears in his fragrance’s advertising — Trump will begin casting the fourth season. In addition, he says that he’s speaking to NBC about doing a second show for the network, a dramatic series with the working title of “Trump Tower.” And he’s still contemplating having his apprentices do a little marketing work for his beauty lines: “By that time, we should have more for them to promote,” he says with a smile.

Speaking of projects, the Chicago jaunt also gave the mogul time to check up on his new Trump International Hotel and Tower, a 2.6 million-square-foot skyscraper being erected on the banks of the Chicago River west of Michigan Avenue. Trump expects the hotel and office building to open in about two years, and he has already sold through 75 percent of that space, to the tune of more than $500 million — which can’t make his company’s former joint venture partner, Hollinger International (which also owns the Chicago Sun-Times) all that happy — as a few months ago they sold their shares in the deal to Trump for $72 million. “I have a lot of competitors, but I don’t necessarily consider them competitors,” says Trump of his entry into the Chicago real estate world. “I think I’m good for the market.”

Despite his champagne budget, however, Trump still seems to enjoy at least a few of the simpler things in life. “Do you like McDonald’s or pizza?” Trump quizzes his carload as the limo sits squarely in the middle of rush-hour Chicagoland traffic. The hungry crew responds that they’ll eat either (the hectic schedule hasn’t allowed anyone to eat lunch).  “I could order French, but I think we’d all like pizza better,” says Trump, calling to his security chief, seated up front, to order Giordano’s pies for delivery to his waiting plane at Midway.

“Already done, boss,” comes the reply from up front.