Designers Make Home Their Domain

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DIY centers focus on decorating projects

When consumers color their world with paint, wall coverings, rugs and other home decorating products, licensed goods are often in the forefront.

Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren, Alexander Julian and Laura Ashley may have made their names in specific home and fashion arenas, but they have traversed classification borders and created growing clout in complementary categories.

As a result, retail sales of licensed hardware/home improvement products remains an impressive $8 billion, 2% of the total $400 billion worldwide sales. The business is mostly confined to the United States, and the subcategory penetration remains largely in decorative products. There still aren't designer branded hand or power tools, although hand tool manufacturer Stanley has initiated a licensing program that includes work shoes (Wolverine), work gloves (Magla) and assorted lawn & garden equipment as a way to penetrate other categories. In all, Stanley has signed 25 licensees.

Other home center-like brands also are taking the plunge. Thompson's, the wood protection brand, has retained Marathon Projects Ltd. (Midland Park, N.J.) to help it craft a licensing program that puts its name on products that help consumers care for their home's exterior. First up will be lawn furniture.

Imperial Home Decor Group, a manufacturer and marketer of residential wallcoverings, has developed an exclusive Laura Ashley wallpaper program for 650 Lowe's stores nationwide. The program, part of a cross-merchandising initiative with other Laura Ashley licensors - including Valspar paints and Beaulieu carpets and rugs - launched in October 2000 exclusively at Lowe's. Beaulieu also created a residential installed carpet program for carpet retailers.

Imperial also signed a five-year licensing deal in March 2000 with designer Raymond Waites. Known for his vintage styling, Waites will design six lines for Imperial, the first of which is called Neo-Vintage Collection. In addition, Imperial recently introduced wall covering collections by artist Thomas Kinkade and design house/lifestyle retailer Eddie Bauer.

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