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VISIBILITY NEW GOAL IN BOOMING MARKET.

As High Point reaches unimaginable proportions and decorative home players multiply -- all fed by a booming economy appreciating home goods -- vendors fear they might get lost in the stampede. To stand out at wholesale and retail, vendors are latching onto licensing programs and brand phenomena with fervor. Wanting instant access to new distribution channels opening up, companies are leveraging names in unusual ways, and crisscrossing not only dealer bases but also price-point niches and industry segments. One case in point during the International Home Furnishings Market: the Enesco/GuildMaster union. As already reported, the gift and collectible giant and the decorative accessory source have teamed to create a GuildMaster home decor collection to be marketed by Enesco Corp., a $35 million Home Gallery division. Bearing GuildMaster names but modified in scale and material, the pieces are being offered at Enesco and will be sold through its gift and growing home decor retail network.

Eager to accelerate its home decor business, Enesco has signed with many luminaries, among them Isabelle de Borchgrave, the European artist GuildMaster introduced to this industry. While Enesco quickly builds its design credibility in home accents, GuildMaster gets its name bandied about by a $450 million worldwide corporation. That can't hurt.

GuildMaster co-owner Ellie Parsons explained: "Enesco reaches an audience we don't because of our pricing structure. People who buy Enesco might say, `Oh, GuildMaster, and that might register when they're shopping in a furniture store.' " The idea is not far-fetched. To enhance its exposure on other fronts, GuildMaster has signed with a print source, Editions Ltd., and is considering a wallpaper line that would similarly tout designs by GuildMaster.

Said Parsons: "We could have more of a recognized name with consumers. So many people, like clothing designers, are into licensing. But they don't understand our industry the way we do. Why not build on what we've been doing for years?"

GuildMaster isn't ready for the big investment in consumer advertising, but it has become a licensee of the chic, high-profile French source -- Grange. Wall decor with that label debuts this week, undoubtedly leading to more exposure among an upscale clientele and more interior design sales.

Today's prize for being recognized up and down the avenue is the freestanding brand store. While GuildMaster's furniture, lighting, wall decor and accessory mix would support the popular concept, that's not the goal. However, GuildMaster is considering in-store brand shops, "something we should have done long ago," noted Parsons.

High Point hoopla, as usual, is revolving around licensed collections, especially ones anchored by furniture makers. Interestingly, Natural Light, an established vendor and abstainer from licensing, takes its virgin run with the significant Williamsburg/Lane partnership: Serious players are constantly being swayed. Yet even as vendors sign on, programs bow, and artists (like a Claire Murray or Mary Hughes) or brands (like a Waverly or Waterford Wedgwood) license other producers, GuildMaster's actions are notable. Do they suggest new paths for anonymous decorative home vendors? While business roars, will others seek more visibility and champion their own name?

Cushman heads the home fashion consulting firm J. Z. Cushman & Co. (JZCushman@aol.com).
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Comment:VISIBILITY NEW GOAL IN BOOMING MARKET.
Author:Cushman, Judith
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 11, 1999
Words:519
Previous Article:HOME ACCENTS LIGHT UP HIGH POINT.
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