U.S. POSTAL SERVICE DELIVERS FASHION
Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio
NEW YORK — The U.S. Postal Service is putting its stamp on fashion.
As part of an aggressive strategy to license its image, the Postal Service has entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with American Eagle Apparel Group to produce moderate-to-better-price casual sportswear inspired by stamp designs from the agency’s 150-year-old history. The line, which will be marketed under the label Postmark American Wear, is expected to be in department and specialty stores by the end of March 1995.
While the privately held firm is counting on the 20 million stamp collectors in the U.S. to boost sales, it is looking way beyond that customer base.
“We are not just targeting the stamp collector. The clothes are for anyone who enjoys imprinted apparel,” said Michael Wolf, vice president, administration for American Eagle Apparel, which was formed in January 1993 for the sole purpose of producing the licensed line. “It should have a broad consumer appeal.”
American Eagle Apparel is based here in midtown at Amsteryard, an historic landmark courtyard, the original Boston Postal Road, at 211 East 49th St. The firm is headed by Michael Milea, the company’s chief executive officer, who previously had his own trading company and was a former owner of Tech-Craft Industries, a private label firm.
Wolf is counting on the high consumer recognition of the logo.
“The logo is ubiquitous,” he said, noting that there are 250,000 mailboxes, 250,000 mail carriers and 280,000 postal trucks. American Eagle is also counting on tapping into the Postal Service’s $90 million annual budget, which is used to support the use of stamps for in-store promotions and advertising.
First-year sales for the line are expected to be in the “mid-eight-digit figures,” Wolf said, declining to be more specific. The Postal Service will receive an undisclosed amount in royalties.
Wolf added that women’s wear and men’s wear will each account for 40 percent of sales, with the remainder in children’s wear. For spring, the women’s line includes cotton T-shirts, sweatshirts and French terry skater skirts. For fall, it will expand its offerings to include sleepwear, bodywear and underwear. For spring, wholesale prices range from $7 for cotton T-shirts to $16 for French terry sweatshirts.
As part of the licensing agreement, American Eagle will have access to all contents of the Postal Service’s stamp archives, which currently total 2,500. American Eagle Apparel will also be privy to new stamps before they are released to the public so that American Eagle will have enough production lead time. Each year, the Postal Service issues about 180 new stamps.
The firm is focusing on such themes as nature, including fish motifs, environment, movie stars and sports. She added that the company, which employs 10 full-time employees, freelances some of its graphic design work to 10 different graphic studios. Some of the graphics for the spring collection include beach scenes, and another features a panda bear, which bears the message: “Preserve the animals’ habitat.”
Either the apparel or the hangtag will have a reference to the original stamp that inspired the graphic, Wolf said.
American Eagle Apparel said that it is also considering developing Postmark American Wear shops within the stores, as well as freestanding stores.
The licensing of postal stamp images has expanded since 1970 when the Postal Reorganization Act removed the Postal Department from the Cabinet and U.S. Treasury and made it a self-supporting entity of the Executive Branch. About 50 companies, including Hallmark Cards and Scholastic Publishing, have signed licensing agreements to produce a wide range of nonapparel items, from pins to coffee mugs.