To Be or Not to Be at a Single Exclusive Retailer

AuthorMichael Sanford Stone
ProfessionB.A. from Hamilton College and a J.D. from Emory University School of Law
To Be or Not to Be at a
Single Exclusive Retailer
Looking to buy HGTV HOME paint? You can buy it only at a
Sherwin-Williams store or at Lowe’s. How about Better Homes
& Gardens sheets and pillowcases? Only at Walmart. You want
that Food Network pot and pan collection? Only at Kohl’s. Adam
Lev ine ’s mensw ear i s jus t your thi ng? On ly at K mar t. “S omet hing
Navy” by blogger Arielle Charnas? Only at Nordstrom. And this
isn’t limited to brick-and-mortar retailers. Look ing for Simple
Joys by Ca rter ’s, a li ne of baby a nd ch ildr en’s clo thin g sold in mu l-
tipiece bundles? Only at Amazon. Ditto Starter apparel, only at
Amazon. Direct response TV retai lers such as QVC and HSN fre-
quently oer exclusive licensed products. Oen, a sing le retailer is
the sole destination for a brand’s licensed products or for certain
categories of licensed products from that brand.
Yet one size doesn’t t all. Before embarking upon this strat-
egy, brand owners need to consider a number of factors that will
determine whether a single retai ler strategy is right for the brand’s
licensing program (or a portion of it). As you make this assessment,
keep in mind that the reta iler is the “gatekeeper.” No one will buy
The Power of Licensing
your licensed product if it’s not on the shelf (or on the screen),
and in a retail exclusive model, the retailer has some very st rong
incentives to support your licensed products. Most major retail-
ers today, across virtually all types and channels, have developed
retail exclusive programs with licensors. And in t he future, we can
expe ct to see more of th is in t he e-comm erce spac e. To determ ine
whether this strategy is right for your licensing program, it helps
to think about this strateg y from a historical context.
A Brief History of the Single Retailer Strategy
Working with a single retailer is by no means a new strateg y. It’s
been around a long time. Celebrities, music icons, athletes, corpo-
rate brands and designers, among others, have been pursuing and
implementing this strateg y for decades. Chapter 2 mentioned an
exclusive arrangement e Coca-Cola Company had with Sea rs &
Roebuck Co. back in the 1960s for a line of music-themed T-shirts.
In fact, Sears was a pioneer in retail exclusives. In 1981, it launched
a collection of licensed fashion apparel branded by then-super-
model Cheryl Tiegs, selling al most a billion dollars in its 10-year
span. Shortly thereaer in 1983, Sears introduced another active
apparel collection licensed by the #1 tennis player in the world,
Australian Evonne Goolagong. At about that same time, in 1985,
Kmart launched an exclusive apparel collection licensed by then-
star of the television hit Charlie’s Angels, Jaclyn Smith (a program
that is still going strong, but more on that in the nex t chapter).
And in 1968, Macy’s developed an exclusive relationship with
the United States Lawn Tennis Association (now the United States
Tennis Association). It was the rst year that an event, called t he
Nationals, limited to “amateurs,” became the U.S. Open Tennis
Championship, open to all players (one of the Grand Slam events
of tennis to this day). Macy’s opened exclusive USLTA “Head-
quarters” shops in all of its stores with USLTA-branded apparel
and other merchandise as well as tennis equ ipment, promoted the
concept shop in advertising and other marketing vehicles, and
sponsored sanctioned USLTA tournaments. In addition, Macy’s

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