Tabletop Companies Adjusting Distribution and Brand Strategies

Showrooms at the recent New York Tabletop Show provided ample evidence of companies re-positioning themselves in licensing and distribution to offset a shrinking number of department stores that were once central to the industry’s business.

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Gibson USA’s John Deere collection

Ecommerce retailers such as Wayfair and Amazon are playing a larger role in the tabletop market, but so are some unusual entrants such as Home Depot, which carries dinnerware online from Certified International and others. Grocery chains also are a relatively new entrant to the business, while Gibson USA is seeking a home for its John Deere mugs, water bottles, children’s melamine dinnerware and other products at Tractor Supply Co., Fleet Farm and sporting goods chains.

“The footprint {for tabletop] is shrinking” [at brick and mortar stores]. Where some chains once had four displays, many are now down to one,” says Certified International VP Stephen Santulli. Certified, which sells dinnerware based on licensed artists (Debra Valencia, Susan Winget, Tre Sorelle). Certified has seen ecommerce grow to 20% of annual revenue from zero five years ago, due partly to the addition of Home Depot.

Among our other the observations:

  • Lenox Corp., with new management, has embarked on a re-branding campaign that will sharpen focus on its core Lenox, Dansk and Reed & Barton labels and seek to build programs with well-known licenses, says CMO Andrea Page, who joined the company in January.

That’s is a departure for Lenox, which has largely focused on separate licensed collections in the past, including those with interior design magazine Domino Media, architect Luca Andrisani and potter Michael Wainwright. Lenox has parted with Wainwright and is working with Kate Spade to bring out tabletop products (mugs, water bottles) that more closely mesh with Kate Spade’s handbags and apparel as they are being introduced.

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Lenox Corp.’s Kate Spade dinnerware

“For brands we license, we are looking for the next Kate Spade that already has a true identity, and we aren’t looking for agreements with brands that aren’t built up already,” says Page. “We want to add companies [licensees] that need our expertise versus someone who is an up-and -coming architect or designer.”

Lenox cut the number of new collections displayed at the tabletop show by half, part of a general paring back among all its brands.  In the case of Reed & Barton, licensed Thomas O’Brien dinnerware will likely be phased out, says a Lenox spokeswoman. The brand will continue for barware, flatware and giftware.

“It is more getting back to our bread and butter and let Lenox focus on dinnerware, which is the foundation of the {Lenox] brand, but really isn’t for Reed and Barton,” says a Lenox spokeswoman.

Lenox also will launch new websites for Lenox, Reed & Barton and Dansk brands in September. Licensed brands will be part of the Lenox website. And the Dansk brand will be positioned for outbound licensing for the first time for lifestyle products such as furniture, lighting, table linens and bedding, says Page.

“For a long time, we waited for retailers to tell us what to do. Now we have to take back control and we have to set limits and standards,” says Page. “Right now, we don’t have a guide book, but for success there has to be a true identity in what the brands represent.”

  • Gibson USA will expand its assortment of Peanuts Lunch Time Pals products (lunch backpacks, hydration bottles) with a slightly higher-priced line that seeks to extend distribution from drug and off-price retailers to specialty retailers such as Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn, says Gibson’s David Nicklin. The new line will be timed to coincide with the Peanuts’ 70th anniversary in 2020. Meanwhile, the John Deere line ship in June.
  • Cambridge Silversmiths will launch its licensed celebrity chef Robert Irvine kitchen prep, cutlery and hydration products on QVC later this spring, says Brand Liaison CEO Stephen Heller, whose firm represents the brand. Irvine is best known for his Food Network show “Restaurant Impossible.”
  • Fiskar’s Waterford brand launched with celebrity floral designer Jeff Leatham-licensed collections of eight, 10-, 12- and 15-inch vases priced $295-$2,000. The agreement with Leatham, who also is artistic director for the Four Seasons George V Hotel in Paris, reinstates a deal that previously ended in 2014. Meanwhile, Fiskars also extended the Ellen DeGeneres license for its Royal Daulton brand to include mugs and accent plates.

Contacts:

Certified International, Stephen Santulli, VP, 914-741-1332 x102, steve@certifiedinternational.com

Fiskars/Waterford, Deidre Courtney, Global Brand Mgr., 732-835-4663, deidre.courtney@fiskars.com

Gibson USA, David Nicklin, VP Marketing and Licensing, 323-832-8900 x1507, davidn@gibsonusa.com

Lenox Corp., Andrea Page, CMO, 267-525-5065, andrea_page@lenox.com

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