First Word-November 2003

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Comfort food . . . I eat it on the road and in the office. It just can't be helped. In the office, it's the pretzels (honey wheat pretzels), mainly because "crunching" calms my nerves. On the road, let's say in France (because I've just returned and, as usual, overdid it), it's the bread and cheese . . . and wine! And regardless of what city I'm in, if there's an apple tart or pie on the menu, I'm sure to order it (it's fruit, I justify). But even if I've taken my eating to the extreme, I can guarantee that by the time my day is done I will have walked two miles at the very least. Maybe that sounds like another justification . . . but it's a worthy one.

This month's cover story on child obesity is serious: one that should raise an eyebrow in many industries . . . licensing is not excluded. While the blame game is being played (parents blame food makers, food makers blame parents, politicians blame schools and food makers, and so on), the bottom line is child obesity exists and, for lack of a better word, is "blossoming." And, it's not only here in the U.S., many newspapers in the UK are covering the issue, as well. I'm certain other international territories struggle with the issue also, except the story hasn't been brought to light.

Why is this story so serious (and bothersome) and how does it affect licensing and other industries? We often stress that there's a major difference between a fad and a trend: A fad is in for the moment, out the next; a trend has longer legs, and often can be cyclical. The child obesity issue is a movement: a serious social issue that is affecting all classes, all races. Movements, particularly when compounded by politics and politicians, as you'll read in our cover story, have a trickle-down effect to many industries-food and beverage is not alone. As you'll learn in "Getting Down to Fighting Weight," beginning on p. 12, character licensors are also consciously evaluating marketing and co-branding initiatives, particularly in the snack food aisle.

But these licensors are not alone. As the blame game will continue, it can be said that a lack of children's exercise is coming from a constant "sit" in front of the television or computer. Think about the video game industry for a moment, as I'll bet finger-pointing will go in that direction, as well. Interestingly, some entertainment companies had the foresight to bring exercise to the TV screen in a fun way. Consider Ragdoll's new Boohbah series, which promotes exercise for preschoolers and up.

That's the food for thought this month. Next month, License! ranks retailers by the numbers. The top 25 retailers is the focus with bottom-line profit numbers for 2002, what got them there, and a peek at where they are in 2003.

On another note, Contributing Editor Dawn Wilensky has a telephone and e-mail change. Dawn now can be reached via phone at (732) 863-1052, or via e-mail at onretail@optonline.net.

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