Byline: Julee Greenberg

NEW YORK — Betsey Johnson has jumped on the licensing bandwagon.
After almost 25 years in business, Johnson has signed two licensing agreements for the first time. The first license is with Happy Kids to produce a line of children’s sportswear and the second is an agreement with Centro Tessiles to make and distribute the Betsey Johnson collection in Europe. Although Johnson said she has been thinking about licensing for years, she wanted to find the company that was right for her brand before signing the papers.
“The key to licensing is to find a great organization to make a great product,” she said.
The children’s wear is based on the best-selling items within the signature collection: largely separates-based, with a few dresses mixed in. The first collection consists of a range of sportswear pieces, including denim jeans, knit tops and sweaters, and floral-print dresses.
Johnson’s main concern was that the line remain affordable, since children grow very quickly, so it retails for $18 to $40. Johnson said she always wanted to have a children’s line so that she can dress mothers and their small daughters.
“These days, the five-year-old wants to look as cool as the 16-year-old,” said Johnson, noting that an outfit can be bought for less than $100.
The brand will target about 200 better specialty stores nationwide, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. The first collection will hit stores in September for back-to-school selling and the company projects a volume of $15 million to $18 million in the first year.
As for the deal in Europe, Centro Tessiles has placed the brand in six showrooms in countries throughout the region, including France, Spain, Italy, England, Germany and the Benelux nations. While executives would not quantify the European sales potential, Kim Hingley, executive vice president of sales, said they are expecting to eventually exceed the annual volume in the U.S.
“This agreement will allow us to sell in Europe for the same price as here,” said Chantal Bacon, Johnson’s business partner. “Hopefully, this will also be an opportunity for us to open to more stores in Europe.”
“We now have one of our own stores open in London,” Hingley said. “I am hoping that more freestanding stores will open in Europe.”
Johnson said that since she has decided to move away from being only an in-house line, she is open to more licensing ventures. She said she would like to produce cosmetics, accessories, home and shoes, but is taking it slow.
“I will only license when the right company comes along,” she said. “I can do a lot with licensing, but I am very picky.”

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