Opportunities Heat Up Housewares

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Co-branding, celebrity endorsements sizzle

Celebrities and corporate brands are making the housewares category sizzle.

Sales of licensed merchandise rose a little over $1 billion this year to $8.4 billion, fueled by a growing roster of companies that are co-branding with other corporate names to target complementary categories and/or create a certain cachet. Case in point: Wal-Mart has contracted to use the General Electric moniker on kitchen appliances and vacuum cleaners. Other Wal-Mart agreements: Hamilton Beach/Procter Silex on small electrics and the Eureka name on floor-care products.

Similarly, new from Lifetime Hoan Corp. (Westbury, N.Y.) is a collection of about 100 skus of pantryware, kitchen tools and gadgets bearing the KitchenAid name.

In a slightly different approach to co-branding, Good Housekeeping (Hearst Magazines) launched its first licensed line, including cookware and small electrics (T-Fal); bakeware and kitchen tools (G&S Metals); dinnerware (Pfaltzgraff), flatware (Wallace Silversmiths), and pantryware (Lifetime Hoan).

Kmart is counting on domesticity doyen Martha Stewart to help jettison Wal-Mart from its lead in housewares. Weapons: Keeping, a line of 314 home organization and laundry room storage items. Kmart officials believe the collection, whose debut came on the heels of last year's rollout of 650 Martha Stewart Everyday housewares skus, will generate sales of about $100 million this fiscal year, propelling all of Kmart's MSE receipts to $1.6 billion. Analysts peg Kmart's current annual housewares sales at around $700 million, Wal-Mart's at slightly over $1 billion.

Target, which already has licensed agreements with Michael Graves and Philippe Starck for home goods, recently signed designer Todd Oldham to create an exclusive collection of home items to hit stores in 2002.

On the manufacturer's end, Dansk International Designs (White Plains, N.Y.) has cooked up a deal with celebrity chef and restaurateur Bobby Flay, who is lending his name to a line of oven-to-table cookware. Chef Martin Yan, star of the PBS show Yan Can Cook, has created a line of signature kitchen electrics for Aroma, including an electric wok and a rice cooker.

Further, Lifetime Hoan recently joined the George Foreman licensing bandwagon. It is rolling out George Foreman barbecue tools for the mass market (SRP: $3.99- $7.99). Salton also bowed a George Foreman outdoor gas grill.

Even licensed characters are being enlisted to move housewares: The likeness of Homer Simpson from The Simpsons is now on a Weber grill.

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