NEW YORK — Nicole Miller wants people to feel so at home with her designs that they will decorate their houses with them.
Through a new licensing deal with Bed Bath & Beyond, the designer, who already has a bedding collection, is diving deeper into housewares with 18 new categories, including bath, glassware, paper products and windows. First-year projected wholesale volume should “well exceed eight figures,” said Bud Konheim, chief executive officer of Nicole Miller.
“There’s so much running room in this agreement that we could hit with guest towels and have this tremendous business,” Konheim said. “Every category is an industry in itself.”
The groundwork for the deal was laid two years ago, when Nicole Miller signed a licensing deal with Revman to develop bedding under the designer’s name. After a shaky first season, Revman’s designer, Elizabeth McNulty, went back to the drawing board, infusing more of Miller’s design beyond prints, and shoppers reacted, Konheim said.
“A lot of companies have the mentality of take the name, put it on some stuff and it will sell,” he said. “Elizabeth didn’t.”
Sales of Miller’s bedding products have tripled since the launch, and Bed Bath & Beyond took note. They approached Konheim about launching 18 categories, but the business plan sold him more than the prospect of expansion. Serving trays, hampers, dish towels, highball glasses and dessert plates are some of the new offerings.
In the end, and I’m sure it’s because I’m a battered veteran, all I care about is the retailing,” Konheim said. “Bed Bath & Beyond has built a business on retail performance. They talk about loving the product, but building a business, too.”
With 569 stores, Bed, Bath & Beyond aims to have 1,000 units within the next couple of years. In March, the chain will send mailers spotlighting the Nicole Miller collection to 33 million households. The designer’s latest wares are on display in the windows of the chain’s New York stores located on the Upper East Side and in Chelsea. Attendees at the designer’s runway show here Sunday got a sneak peek at some of the offerings in goodie bags.Leading up the charge are Christine Bell, director of licensing, and Desiree Padovano, brand manager.
“Nicole’s involved in step one through step 20,” Padovano said. “This is a direct interpretation of who she is as a designer.”
“She doesn’t fit into one specific niche and that’s good,” Bell added.
Konheim said his approach to licensing is in line with the company’s emphasis on design — something that has been in place since he hired Miller in the Seventies before they started their firm together. At that time, he met with 170 designers, but wasn’t interested in magazine credits or promises of stardom. He wanted to see them drape, sketch and select fabrics.
“The emphasis on design talent has never changed in my entire 50 years [in business],” the outspoken ceo said. “For us, it’s never been about a happening name or a fast fad, and we’re as independent as hell. Our 30 stores are the nucleus to test this stuff.”
Despite his confidence, Konheim had his reservations about licensing.
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