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From Barbie to Pepsi: The Next Generation of Deals

More than 6,000 brands were showcased at the annual Licensing International Expo, which is moving to Las Vegas next year, and the economic slowdown didn't...

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NEW YORK — More than 6,000 brands were showcased at the annual Licensing International Expo, which is moving to Las Vegas next year, and the economic slowdown didn’t appear to limit the appetite for deals.

From Barbie jewelry and My Little Pony lingerie (for adults) to Pepsi jeans and Icee accessories, brands presented their licensing possibilities to more than 25,000 visitors from 82 countries.

The show, which is in its 28th year and was held from June 10 to 12 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, is moving to the Mandalay Bay Resort.

Las Vegas “attracts millions of international visitors each year, most particularly from the U.K. and France,” said Advanstar Communications Inc.’s executive vice president, Georgiann DeCenzo, who organized the show. “Our new home at Mandalay Bay Convention Center will enable us to expand our show floor into sports and lifestyle categories such as fashion, home and celebrity licensing. Our exhibitors will realize substantial cost savings in doing business in Las Vegas.”

On the licensing front, Barbie, the iconic fashion doll, will mark her 50th birthday on March 9, 2009, and Mattel is preparing to launch a slew of products leading up to the milestone.

Richard Dickson, senior vice president of marketing, media and entertainment worldwide at Mattel Brands, declined to reveal all the new products, but highlighted some of what 2009 will bring — from a Barbie MP3 player , which doubles as a necklace, to a retro line of screened T-shirts and a limited edition accessories collection, called Barbie BCause, made from fabric scraps found at the doll factories.

“We just launched the MP3 players in [South] Korea and are working on bringing them to the U.S.,” Dickson said, showing a hot pink player that flips open in a compactlike manner, complete with a mirror. “We’ve literally sold more of these than we have dolls, so that’s huge for us.”

There also will be a line of girls’ and boys’ golf equipment and apparel from Barbie and Hot Wheels, which will celebrate its 40th year in 2009, as well as Barbie gardening tools. Also on tap is costume jewelry from Trina Tarantino and real diamond jewelry from Alan Friedman, which is now sold exclusively in Friedman’s Beverly Hills boutique but will roll out to other retailers next year. That line ranges from $250 to $25,000 at retail.

Mattel plans to launch a line of retro-printed Hot Wheels T-shirts for juniors, bringing that brand to women for the first time.

Fisher-Price is marking 77 years in business with a partnership with Mighty Fine clothing to bring kitschy graphic T-shirts to girls and boys. The T-shirts, in a range of colors from green and blue to pink and orange, show off some of Fisher Price’s retro graphics, with sayings like “Why You Buggin’?” and “Material Girl.”

Meanwhile, at the Joester Loria Group, a licensing and marketing firm based here, Beth Roberts, international brand manager, was preparing to unveil a full Pepsi branded junior sportswear line, ready for retail this summer. The collection, which wholesales from $7 for a T-shirt to $60 for a coat, is produced in partnership with the Assis Group. It incorporates vintage and modern graphics from Pepsi’s 109-year-old archives on everything from T-shirts and jeans to activewear and accessories. This collection will add to the brand’s T-shirt line produced by Junk Food, which is sold at retailers nationwide.

“The line pays attention to Pepsi’s heritage, but in a modern way for a contemporary look,” Roberts said.

Also launching in late summer will be a Pepsi T-shirt collection at Steve & Barry’s stores. That line, for men, women and kids, will retail from $9.98 to $19.98 and will be available at Steve & Barry’s 267 stores nationwide.

“We really like how Steve & Barry’s will allow us to do in-store promotions and we can generate people into their stores with marketing,” said Joanne Loria, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Joester Loria Group.

Marvel Entertainment Inc., which will celebrate 70 years of comic book characters next year, has dug into its archives to make more characters available for possible licensing deals. With its huge list of 5,001 characters, Susan Fields, vice president of product merchandising at Marvel, said she wasn’t at a loss when it came to variety.

“There are so many characters in so many different forms, so if Target wanted to put the Incredible Hulk on a T-shirt and so did Kitson, we can cater to both of these stores — the opportunities are endless,” she said.

Fields said she hopes to pick up partnerships in a series of apparel segments from women’s, men’s and children’s wear to accessories and sleepwear. To gear the characters to a higher-end audience, the company has developed a new Marvel Vintage logo that can go on packaging. And, she said, with all of the Marvel characters who will soon be on the big screen — the Incredible Hulk came out last Friday, Iron Man and Wolverine will hit next May, Punisher in December — the appeal of partnering these characters with products is enhanced.

“Our extensive library is our biggest asset,” Fields said. “And we have a huge creative team at our fingertips…ready to work with our future partners.”

In addition to its apparel and accessories business in the U.S., junior brand Pink Cookie sells bedding, bath, footwear, hosiery, intimates and sleepwear in France. Howard Levy, chief of staff, said he chose to showcase the brand at the show in hopes of signing even more categories in areas like denim, swimwear and eyewear.

“We are also hoping to expand even more internationally,” he said.

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