The World Wrestling Entertainment Co. has spread its entertainment muscle into retail with a licensing deal with apparel retailer Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear. As part of the agreement, the retailer will begin carrying branded T-shirts, jackets, jeans and more in its 132 stores in over 30 states nationwide next year.
The announcement was made on Monday to coincide with the Licensing Show underway in New York City.
“[Steve & Barry's] are very cutting edge and have great stores with great merchandise,” said Donna Goldsmith, senior VP-consumer products, WWE in an interview at the Licensing Show. “We have been talking about getting involved in a direct to retail program and that’s why we are working with Steve & Barry’s.”
WWE-branded products will be available at Steve & Barry’s locations in limited quantities this fall, with a full product line to be launched in spring 2007. The retailer is based in Port Washington, NY.
Based in Stamford, CT, the WWE’s move into retail complements the strength of its merchandise sales at its 300 events each year, Goldsmith said. It also generates strong sales through its e-commerce Web site, WWEshop.com, she added.
Apart from the retail deal, the WWE’s other licensing initiatives have been pretty “atypical” Goldsmith said, citing cookbooks, novels, and music as categories the entertainment company has taken up.
Goldsmith was a panelist at the Licensing Show’s first Sports Licensing Summit yesterday. Other participants at the event included executives from the National Football League, National Hockey League, NASCAR, and the PGA Tour, Inc. Each discussed trends in the sports licensing industry.
To begin the summit, Joyceann Cooney, editor-in-chief at License Magazine urged sports brands to explore new and unique licensing opportunities to get their brand name before consumers.
With consumers “you have to create the need,” Cooney said.
NASCAR and PGA officials, in particular, have faced a unique challenge in promoting their brands, officials said. Contractually, NASCAR cannot license its car racers and the PGA its golfers individually.
Instead, “We are looking to lifestyle categories as opposed to traditional licensees,” said Leo McCullagh, VP-marketing, retail licensing worldwide, PGA Tour. “It’s more about connecting to the lifestyle of our fan base.”
As a result, the PGA recently licensed a PGA Tour Grill which opened in Rockville, MD, this year. The restaurant provides a family dining experience a bit different from the traditional sports bar, McCullagh said.
“If it proves successful, we plan to have 50 to 60 across the U.S.,” McCullagh said.
The PGA Tour also has a relationship with Fort Myers, FL, based furniture retailer Robb & Stucky Furniture which produces golf-themed furniture such as golf-club accent tables. Additionally, the PGA has a PGA Tour wine.
Meanwhile NASCAR, which has begun offering branded fast-food items, will be re-branding its auto-racing themed NASCAR café establishments soon, said Mark Dyer, VP-licensing and consumers products, NASCAR.
“The concept hit a bit of a wall,” Dyer said.
As a result, the company will close two of the four establishments and re-brand its Orlando, FL, and Myrtle Beach, NC, locations.
The restaurants will have a toned-down emphasis on the NASCAR theme but will be highlighted as a great place to watch sporting events and enjoy excellent food and service, Dyer said. NASCAR is testing the waters with the new approach.
“We’re not looking to opening a certain number of locations because we want to make sure the business model works,” Dyer said.