From Apparel to Home Décor, Disney Revamps Licensing Biz

Character licensing is nothing new to the Disney brand, dating back to Walt Disney licensing the Mickey Mouse image for use on a children’s writing tablet in 1929. Eighty years later, Disney says it has shifted from a strictly licensing business model to a consumer products firm capable of multifaceted strategies for innovation, quality and integrated branding efforts.

The Walt Disney Company’s broad content enables it to offer an almost limitless base of creative material from which to gather inspiration, according to Simon Waters, vp of marketing for Disney consumer products, global fashion and home.

DCP’s current lineup ranges from home furnishings to age group targeted apparel and accessories. Along with décor, bedding and apparel tied to Disney characters comes a side of Disney that is not traditional: noncharacter products with subtle inspiration drawn from either motion pictures or Walt Disney’s lifestyle aura. The noticeable move of Disney to the high fashion arena was made around 2002. DCP’s expansive umbrella now includes Disney Toys; Disney Apparel, Accessories & Footwear; Disney Food, Health & Beauty; Disney Home and Disney Stationery.

The upcoming spring, summer and fall 2009 lines include Jonas Brothers and Disney character infant, children’s and tween apparel to be sold at Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney (MSRP $8-36.99), Disney character back-to-school lunch boxes and backpacks ($9.99-29.99), noncharacter bedding by Disney Resort Collection ($350-450), a collaboration for women’s apparel with designer Charlotte Tarantola ($106-140), Harvey’s seat belt bags ($64-238) at Nordstrom, subtle character-themed Etnies footwear for men and women ($80-110) and a Mickey necklace by Swarovski ($225). (See slideshow below and scroll over images for captions.)

Collaborations with designers and manufacturers to create products are a priority for DCP, said Waters. “There isn’t any other brand on the planet that can do what we do with authenticity,” he said. Disney’s differentiated product portfolio enables the company to target a particular demographic, creating a product that is appropriate for that audience, at many price points.

Disney has tried to directly market its own products through Disney Stores, with dismal results. The Children’s Place acquired the stores, but recently Disney reacquired them. The company is looking to clean up the stores and offer a stronger focus on the in-store experience for children ages 2-12. The merchandising in the brick-and-mortar locations will seek to create a destination appeal for youngsters and their families, to make the shopping experience memorable whether a purchase is made or not.