NEW YORK — Macy’s Inc. has spent a tremendous amount of time “shaping” the Martha Stewart brand into a lifestyle collection, according to chief marketing officer Martine Reardon, who testified in court Wednesday.
This story first appeared in the February 28, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The Macy’s executive said since the brand launched in 2007, she’s devoted 25 percent of her time to pumping up the collection via advertising and marketing strategies in order to distance the brand from its value-centric roots. Previously, Stewart had a $1 billion business at Kmart before she signed a deal to sell certain wares exclusively to Macy’s. Reardon noted that the advertising spend for Stewart was equal to Macy’s biggest home accounts, including Ralph Lauren, Hotel Collection and Charter Club.
“It’s an extremely important brand to Macy’s and an extremely important brand to me,” Reardon said of Martha Stewart. “I feel like I’ve birthed the brand in a sense.”
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With the help of Macy’s legal counsel, Reardon painted the picture of extreme devotion to Stewart. Case in point: Reardon gave an account in which Stewart asked for highly-coveted tickets to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade last year.
“She was upset [with her seat], Reardon said. “She wanted to sit under the Grand Marquee.”
That area was reserved for performing talent, Macy’s board members and for chairman, president and chief executive officer Terry J. Lundgren and his family.
“We heard from her fairly late,” Reardon said, explaining that she scrambled to “find her the next best seat” near the Marquee area “I could find.”
But that was water under the bridge at the time, according to the Macy’s executive, who expressed her fondness for Stewart’s brand. She said to courtroom laughter that “not all children are created equal, and in this case, I do have someone who is my preferred and she is the Martha Stewart brand.”
The light tone continued when Macy’s lawyer Theodore Grossman showed a viral video of Stewart entering a filthy fraternity house and surprising its occupants, a crew of unshowered guys, during parents’ weekend. Sounding a fog horn, the prim and proper Stewart calls the place “disgusting,” and scoffs as she takes down details of the mess. Moments later, she shuttles the gang to Macy’s to pick out colorful wares to spruce up the house.
One greasy-haired frat boy asks Stewart, “If you were a girl, which color sheets would you choose?” which drew chuckles from presiding Judge Jeffrey Oing. Stewart makes over the house and even its inhabitants, who thank her for making them “less disgusting.”
“Now that brings back some memories,” the judge said.
Grossman showed other ads, which highlighted the evolution of the brand, while revealing that Macy’s pays for all the advertising of the collections in the Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. magazine Martha Stewart Everyday Living without any discount. Reardon also explained that MSLO gets a free ride for events such as Macy’s’ upcoming “American Icon” event. Brands that wish to participate must pay a seven-figure fee, she said, but not Stewart.
“She’s part of the family,” Reardon said. “She’s a big part of how we want to represent the home business, to do an event and not have Martha be a part of it does not work for me. She is an American icon, she is exclusively at Macy’s.”
But when Reardon learned of Stewart’s deal with Penney’s in late 2011, she “felt betrayed and hurt.”
“I did not [want to continue with Martha Stewart]. I was so upset,” Reardon said. “Upon reflection, it’s a brand I built. When I woke up the next day, I felt differently,” and she continues to work with the brand.