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Licensing opens avenues for rug vendors, designers

Thomas LesterThomas Lester
From the creator's perspective, licensed rug collections make a lot of sense.
     For manufacturers, licensing creates natural tie-ins with existing branded furniture collections, opening avenues of cross promotion and easier-to-convey product stories. Well-regarded brands and personalities also resonate with consumers.
     For licensors, rugs make a perfect canvas to express themselves creatively in ways that other categories don't permit.
     In June at the American Home Furnishings Alliance's marketing conference in Raleigh, N.C., home furnishings consultant Ed Tashjian gave a presentation on celebrity licensing in the industry and offered a 10-point checklist.
     Among the items he mentioned, logical and believable fits and the ability to increase product placement were some of the most critical. Tashjian said licensing makes sense when it's a widely known name that provides instant recognition, prestige and credibility; the product offering is consistent with the licensed brand; and the agreements help fill vacant flanks for both sides.
     Mark Ferullo, vice president of RizTex USA, parent company of Rizzy Home, said the Calhoun, Ga.-based manufacturer looks at potential licensing fits in terms of how mutually beneficial the agreement can be.
     "We look at the synergy in the partnership. Is it a good mix of products, story, placements, quality, reputation, uniqueness and freshness of the brand? We look at how Rizzy can help grow that brand and how that brand can help grow Rizzy," Ferullo said. "What can we offer together that sets it apart from the competition and what can we offer the retailer that adds value to the retail offering?"
     Ferullo said two of Rizzy's licensees' points of view are readily accessible on TV, as Rachel Kate Hunt was a former HGTV Design Star contestant and Vicki Payne's For Your Home is a PBS staple. He said by being in the public eye, both designers connect with consumers.
     "Take Rachel Kate for example. She is a young, fresh TV personality. She brings a new look that is uniquely hers and she is a hands-on personality. She is not a tired name that has been at five different rug or home companies year after year like some other brands," Ferullo said. "We also have the Vicki Payne - For Your Home brand. She is a total home TV personality that has a cross-section of products that all coordinate. She is an on-air personality with millions of viewers every week that has a remodeling show for the home. It is a good fit with a strong presence."
     The impact of potential licensees is something Nourison measures as well.
     "We look at the brand, its position in the market place and what their product would represent to our portfolio," said Julie Rosenblum, executive director of licensing for the Saddle Brook, N.J.-based manufacturer. "We partner with brands that have a global presence and add value to the Nourison brand."
     Rosenblum said the ability to partner with licensees that have other licensed collections opens up more avenues of distribution and promotion.

Oriental WeaversOriental Weavers’ licensed Pantone Universe Collection allowed the rug manufacturer to come to market with Radiant Orchid the same day the hue was announced as the 2014 Color of the Year.
“Stars” is one of the initial rug designs from Hable Construction in its licensing partnership with Capel Rugs. The Hableland collection debuted in October.
Stars

     "Licensed partners that have additional product categories, especially in the home arena add value and validation to the total brand experience," she said.
     Some collections, by virtue of the name attached, resonate more among certain consumers. Oriental Weavers' Pantone Universe is one such rug collection, as many in the design sphere rely heavily on Pantone's color expertise. This fact isn't lost on Jonathan Witt, vice president of Oriental Weavers.
     "For us in particular, the Pantone partnership has opened doors with designers who already know and respect the brand," Witt said. "That's a channel where we haven't played very much so it's been nice talking to designers about our new rug line and receiving their positive comments."
     Thanks to the partnership with Pantone, Oriental Weavers was able to produce rugs in Radiant Orchid, the 2014 Color of the Year, in advance of the announcement. The rugs were available for shipping the day Pantone revealed its selection.
     Oriental Weavers recently acquired the Tommy Bahama license. With the lifestyle brand already well-established through its Lexington Home Brands furniture, the partnership opens additional doors for the rug manufacturer via the association.
     "The cross-merchandising opportunities for retailers are virtually endless. It really gives the retailer the ability to tell a cohesive story on the sales floor," Witt said. "Plus, it typically makes life easier for the buyer in general because the manufacturers work together on creating color palettes, coordinating patterns, etc. A better story is most definitely presented at retail."
     Entering new product categories is something some licensees consider as well. Last year, Capel Rugs partnered with Hable Construction for a line of rugs geared toward the youth market. Katharine Hable Sweeney said while the company she founded with her sister, Susan Hable Smith, had textiles and soft goods to its credit, rugs added a new dimension to their offerings.
     "A rug is really the only thing you personally come into contact with if you have bare feet, so a great feeling rug can just be the perfect ticket in rooms where you want that feeling to come across," she said. "In our kids collection, we loved creating these rugs to complement the hand prints, storage items and pillows we use a lot in our Hable Construction collection."
     Hable Sweeney said rugs seemed like the perfect way to extend the Hable brand because of the myriad design capacities available.
     "The exciting thing about rugs is that you can do things with different levels for texture for a more dramatic and dressed up environment, and on the other hand, you can use outdoor fibers to create an equally beautiful rug that is suitable for outdoor living," she said. "One pattern can look completely different depending on the construction you use. You can decide based on use, quality, scheme or price point, and the sky is the limit in opportunities in rugs."
     Next month, Home Accents Today will look at licensed rug collections from the retail perspective. Retailers are welcome to give their thoughts on the topic of licensed rug collections by emailing Thomas Lester at tlester@homeaccentstoday.com.

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