DESIGNER GOODS; MANUFACTURERS ARE INCREASINGLY TURNING TO ARTISTS TO CREATE DINNERWARE Feb 17, 2003; By CarlaWebb
NEW YORK-Whether a designer or artist is a big name or someone not so well known, there is no doubt that dinnerware manufacturers have been partnering with them more in recent years in attempts to create smash hits.
"There has been a trend in the past couple of years for vendors to come up with a designer name for a collection of tabletop patterns, and we thought it was time to introduce a collection of our own," said Ed Kiem, vice president of sales at CCA International. "The buyers seem to like the idea."
CCA showed its first designer collection at the International Housewares Show in Chicago last month when it introduced the Edith Collection and the Mary Parker Collection, both designed by artist Mary Edith Parker. Parker already has other licenses in the areas of paper products, textiles, giftware and apparel.
Other designer introductions at the show included Claire Murray's dinnerware for Gibson Overseas and Liz Ross' collection under the brand The Monkey & The Peddler for BIA Cordon Bleu.
BIA also has another designer line with Bret Bortner. "For Bret Bortner and Liz Ross, both of these individuals had their own companies producing and selling ceramic tabletop goods," said Paul Baughman, president of BIA. "When BIA took over the sourcing and production of their goods, it was only natural for me to continue to use their names to tap into their existing market base."
But whether or not attaching a name to a pattern helps the product to sell is still a matter of debate. "A branded name of a designer assists with sell-in but not sell-through," said Jeff Grinspan, vice president and director of licensing for Sakura, which carries dinnerware and accessories from such designers as David Carter Brown, Debbie Mumm and Mary Engelbreit. "Buyers like to know that the designer has had success in other areas," but that does not guarantee success in the dinnerware category.
The bottom line for a pattern's success, Grinspan said, is the design.
CCA's Kiem agreed. "I personally don't think [the designer name] has a great impact on the consumer unless the pattern appeals to her and the price is affordable," he said.
One benefit of having a name attached to a product is line extensions, said Lance Wade, executive vice president of Sango, which manufacturers Sue Zipkin patterns, such as Sweet Shoppe, Sweet Shoppe Christmas and Sangria. "It allows for the product to have a lot of crossover into other categories, such as paper goods, melamine and glassware, so it creates a collection, which gives the pattern some longevity," he said.
Other benefits of licensing an artist's work, said Wade, are consumer confidence and the ability to offer products with a unique look. "There is a certain feel to the product that can't be created by someone else. It can't be copied, so it stands alone," he said. "It also give the consumer confidence that it's a better product because it is associated with a name."
"Using the designer's names as part of the logo and marketing effort also helps differentiate their goods within BIA's overall product assortment and explain the different nature, character and price point of these collections," said Baughman.
Attaching a name to a product also makes the product more personal for consumers, explained Grinspan. "We include a little bio of the artist on the package to give customers an idea of the motivation behind the product," he said. "It amplifies the comfort level of the customer and reinforces the lifestyle perception." At times, the designer's or artist's name is used because of contractual matters, added Grinspan. "Sometimes it's driven by the artist, not the manufacturer," he said.
Baughman agreed: "It's also a matter of the agreement with the particular designer. BIA works with several designers where we market under our own name, as opposed to the designer's name."
For all the manufacturers, the use of the designer's name is supported at the retail level through packaging, product displays and advertising. For example, "we include Sue Zipkin's name in all our retailers' sales fliers," said Sango's Wade.
"The designer's names appear in the logos we use for their goods, on the gift boxes, in the price list, in trade ads and in any related [point-of-sale] material," said Baughman.