Category Archives: MSLO Corporate

Martha and Macy’s Announce New “Whim” Collection

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Martha and Macy’s appear to have gotten their business relationship back on track, and have just announced the all-new Whim Collection of household items, to be sold exclusively at Macy’s. Based on Martha’s quote below, it sounds as if the new collection has much in common with the items planned for Martha’s store-within-a-store at JC Penney’s stores. Interestingly, the new collection is presented as stand-alone, and branded with the Whim logo (shown above). The collection does look to have brighter colors, and might appeal more to a younger demographic. FOMs: What do you think? Are you ready for the Whim Collection, or do you think Martha Stewart doesn’t need a sub-brand?

From the press release:

“It’s wonderfully fun, fresh and vibrant, easy to live with, and in addition, very affordable,” said MSLO Founder and Chief Creative Officer Martha Stewart. ”I think consumers who want something new and different will discover a lot to love in the Whim collection. Add a bit of whimsy to your rooms!”

If you like, you can read the entire press release.

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Martha Proclaims “New Chapter” for MSLO

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It’s easy to see a shift is underway at MSLO. After declining ad revenues throughout the publishing industry, as advertiser dollars migrate online, MSLO shed the production portions of its publication divisions, while continuing to contribute content development for the popular books and magazines. This is part of the company’s strategy to cut costs at MSLO while expanding its profitable merchandising division, which has been responsible for almost all the company’s profits for several years now.

In this Bloomberg article, Martha is optimistic about her company’s future and her ability to leverage her personal brand to be ambassador of “good things” to homemakers all over the world. Martha has worked hard to earn the public’s trust–so there’s little doubt she’ll succeed.

She also provides very good advice on gift giving for executives, including this one: “What they want is a beautiful piece of jewelry, a handbag — something you’ve thought through. That’s something you don’t mess up.”

Lastly, doesn’t Martha look buoyant and fabulous in the photo? Happy New Year, Martha!

You can read the entire Bloomberg article here.

This is excerpted from the article, as is the photo shown above:

Now I’m more devoted to making things really, really good than making things monetarily successful. If you make them good, the success comes. My company is a case in point. This company has to grow now. It has to. It has every single quality of a really good company and now all I have to do is help make that happen.

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Martha to Open a Cafe in NYC!

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Martha is venturing into retail again, this time in the form of a cafe! Martha and Co. will be opening a cafe in the same building in which MSLO is headquartered; the landmark Starrett-Lehigh Building in Manhattan’s Chelsea District. Details are scarce at this point, but the search for qualified baristas has already begun.

One detail that was made public during Macy’s lawsuit against Martha is the fact that in the “exclusive” contract with Macy’s, Martha has retained the right to sell Martha Stewart-branded items in stand-alone stores that bear her name. At the time, there was a Martha Stewart store in Japan, that sold Martha items.

Knowing Martha, this cafe will be only a beginning. Since product licensing represents a significant amount of MSLO’s profit-making enterprises, it seems reasonable to expect there will be other Martha Stewart-branded items for sale here. And with America’s love affair with all things Martha continuing, one can be sure the cafe will be a smash success. I mean, who wouldn’t want to share a cup of coffee with Martha herself, right?

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-02/martha-stewart-living-opening-first-cafe-in-new-york-city.html

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Now Available: Martha Stewart Coffee!

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Martha has put her seal of approval, and name, on a new line of coffee. The coffee products were developed by Ulivjava, a company cofounded by Martha’s personal trainer, Mary Tedesco. The coffee is infused with vitamins and herbs, and fits in nicely with Martha’s call to us all to live “the good long life”. What do you think, FOMs: Will you be having coffee with Martha?

My opinion:  This product line has a bad name, if you ask me–it’s difficult to know how to pronounce when you read it, and essentially un-Googleable. Also, I see it spelled both “Ulivjava” and “ULIVjava”, so there’s built-in opportunities for inconsistency. My alternate suggestion would have been “Javalive”, which is much easier to pronouce and based on the same two words. Also, I would make Martha’s name bolder on the labels–but I’m terribly biased on that topic. 🙂

From the Daily Coffee News article:

Stewart’s personal trainer for the past 10 years, Mary Tedesco, and “celebrity nutritionist” Kathleen Schoen, who co-founded the Ulivjava brand, say the product was “inspired by Martha Stewart and her commitment to health, wellness and vitality.” As luck would have it, Stewart enjoyed tasting the RTD product so much that she decided to put her name right there on the package and help the owners push Ulivjava through her social media channels and her Martha Stewart Living magazine. “I love everything ULIVjava stands for — health and wellness with your daily coffee,” Stewart said in an announcement this week.

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Martha’s Interview with Austin Business Journal [video]

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Martha Stewart sits for an extensive interview to share her thoughts about business and entrepreneurship. Colin Pope, the interviewer, says that, of the 20-plus interviews he’s taped, this one with Martha is the all-time most requested. The video is 45-minutes of pure Martha fabulousness. Enjoy!

From the Austin Business Journal:

This is an entrepreneur who has amassed a reported net worth of $638 million as she built one of the world’s most recognizable brands, so I was eager to sit down with her last year and extract some business intelligence for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The conversation ran the gamut — from mistakes made in her startup days to how she markets in the digital world. She got in a few laughs about her prison stay, but I was pleased to be a part of almost an hour of straight business talk from someone who rarely goes on about corporate strategy.

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JC Penney Scales Back Partnership with Martha

What a difference a CEO makes!

Ron Johnson, former CEO of JC Penney who initiated the partnership with MSLO, was counting on Martha to be the centerpiece of JC Penney’s reimagined housewares department. As the retailer struggled under his leadership, he was replaced by the current CEO, Mike Ullman. Unfortunately, Ullman either doesn’t share Johnson’s faith in the Martha brand, or he thinks that the national retailer should be focused elsewhere–or both. The expensive lawsuit that JC Penney’s has been fighting with Macys in a NYC courtroom is  almost certainly influencing his decision, as well

So, he has decided to scale back significantly JC Penney’s partnership with Martha. Here’s what’s changing:

– JC Penney’s will discontinue selling products in those categories that prompted the lawsuit from Macys.

– JC Penney’s will sell back its share  ($37 million worth!) of MSLO stock purchased as part of the partnership.

– JC Penney’s will no longer have representation on the MSLO Board of Directors

Not great news for Martha and MSLO, where a great portion of revenue is generated by licensing the “Martha Stewart” name. Martha was hopeful that the products offered at JC Penney’s would reach audiences currently unserved by the products sold at Macy’s.

Still, the JC Penney’s partnership will continue, though CEO Ullman seems less devoted to Martha and her products. And the partnership with Macy’s will continue, though Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren became furious with Martha when she told him of her new relationship with JC Penney’s. Of course, neither CEO would be interested in continuing his partnership with Martha if she and her products were not so popular with the public.

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Martha vs. Macy’s: Judge Schedules Sept. 25 Hearing on Report Penney’s Will Drop Contested Items

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The judge in the Martha vs. Macy’s trial has scheduled a hearing for September 25, though he did not give a reason for the hearing. According to the Dallas Business Journal, the hearing is in response to the NY Post article that claimed JC Penney was dropping its plan to carry Martha Stewart-designed items–branded “jcp everyday”–in its stores. Obviously, if JC Penney voluntarily quits carrying the contested products, the lawsuit is ended in Macy’s favor.

After the original article ran in the NY Post, a spokesperson for MSLO stated “J.C. Penney remains one of our many retail partners. Our agreement with them is in force, and we have no intention of ending it,” indicating they would not be receptive to an early termination of the agreement. Unless there is specific language in the contract that allows JC Penney to do so, it is expected that MSLO may itself sue JC Penney for breach of contract.

From the Dallas Business Journal:

Oing oversaw the lengthy non-jury trial on a claim by Macy’s that Penney’s 2011 deal with Stewart violated her 2006 agreement with the Cincinnati-based retailer. Oing’s decision in the suit is expected soon. A source told Bloomberg that Oing intends to ask Penney’s lawyers if the story is true because it could affect his ruling on the contract.

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JC Penney Appears Poised to End Partnership with Martha

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Things just got more complicated for Martha and Co.

To most following the Martha vs. Macy’s trial, it looks very unlikely that Martha and JC Penney will prevail. In a nutshell: Although Martha’s contract with Macy’s did, in fact, allow for Martha to open stand-alone Martha Stewart stores that offer products in categories–housewares, bedding, bath, and cookware–that would compete with those items offered at Macy’s, the idea that Martha’s “store within a store” actually qualifies as a “stand alone” seems dubious, at best. Ron Johnson, the JC Penney CEO who developed the “store within a store” idea and created the partnership with MSLO, was ousted in April 2013. His predecessor, Mike Ullman, was reappointed to take over the company and has shown little to no enthusiasm for the plan.

Yesterday, reports surfaced that Penney’s was planning to discontinue offering products designed by Martha Stewart in those categories deemed exclusive  in Martha’s contract with Macy’s, effectively throwing in the towel to end the ongoing lawsuit. More worrisome are reports that JC Penney was also ending its entire partnership with Martha, and would not be selling any Martha Stewart products, even in categories that did not impinge upon the Martha-Macy’s contract. According to one insider, CEO Ullman has said, “Her designs aren’t that great. They’re not selling, and they’re nothing that your normal Joe Schmoe can’t come up with.”

Further complicating the matter is the fact that, as part of its partnership with MSLO, JC Penney purchased a 16.6-percent stake in MSLO, infusing the cash-strapped company with $38.5 million. Obviously, MSLO would prefer to see their partnership with JC Penney continue. A MSLO spokesperson has released as statement saying, “J.C. Penney remains one of our many retail partners. Our agreement with them is in force, and we have no intention of ending it.”

If JC Penney does end its partnership with Martha, it is expected that MSLO will sue JC Penney to enforce the contract, unless there is specific language in the contract allowing JC Penney to end it at any time. MSLO had projected its merchandising agreement with JC Penney to generate $200 million dollars in much-needed revenue for the company over the next several years. MSLO has become increasingly dependent upon revenue generated through licensing and merchandising agreements, as sales through its magazine divisions have slowed and Martha’s presence on television has diminished. MSLO stock prices sunk when the news of the end of its JC Penney partnership was leaked.

From the NY Post (as is the above photo):

Ullman, a former Penney CEO who returned to the helm in April to repair damage from a disastrously unsuccessful turnaround effort by Johnson, began to broadcast the split with the beleaguered domestic diva to workers in recent weeks, insiders said.

However, Ullman was determined to give Stewart the boot from the get-go, insiders said.

As reported by The Post, Ullman initially reached out to Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren to settle the lawsuit, which had already gone to trial with dramatic testimony from Lundgren, Johnson and Stewart herself.

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Martha vs. Macy’s Trial to Resume Monday

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If you have been following the trial, you likely remember that the judge in the case ordered the parties into mediation while the trial was in recess, in the hope that they could resolve the dispute without a ruling from the court. No such settlement emerged, and so the trial will resume again next Monday. Much is on the line, especially for J.C. Penney and MSLO, as both companies have lately had disappointing financials. Macy’s, seen as the likely beneficiary of a court ruling, has essentially no reason to negotiate or settle with the other parties.

From MarketsPress website:

The three parties Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia were sent into mediation by the officiating Judge Jeffrey Oing. He had hoped to resolve the dispute mutually during the time the non-jury trial was in a recess owing to the conflicts in the schedule.

However, even on Friday there was no evidence of any deal being stuck and witnesses would be testifying the same in the early part of this week according to a person who knows the case. The person who was not authorized to speak publicly and wished to remain anonymous told that the witnesses might include a few J.C. Penney marketing executives.

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MS Living Editor-in-Chief, Pilar Guzman, is Hired Away by Conde Nast

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Word today that Pilar Guzman, the editor-in-chief (EIC) of MSLO’s flagship magazine, “Martha Stewart Living”, has been hired away by Conde Nast, to serve as EIC of that company’s “Conde Nast Traveler” magazine. Guzman was promoted to EIC of “Martha Stewart Living” magazine in early 2011. (You can read the transcript of a conversation between Martha herself and Ms Guzman that appeared on Martha’s blog here.)

Given the changes that have recently taken place at MSLO and specifically, with the magazine–which has essentially shifted its focus away “lifestyle/fine living” to one of “cooking and crafts/instructional”, it is no wonder that we have seen the departures of some key higher-level executives from MSLO. Long-time design visionary, Gael Towey, and CEO Lisa Gersh both departed in late 2012.

It was announced that another long-time Martha Stewart employee, (Creative Director) Eric Pike, would takeover EIC responsibilities at “Martha Stewart Living” magazine. If interested, you can take a tour of Eric’s home here.

From the AdWeek article on Pilar Guzman’s departure (as is the above photograph):

Guzman is also one half of a publishing power couple: Her husband, Chris Mitchell, was the vp, publisher of Traveler until 2011, and now holds the same title at GQ.

In a statement, Guzman praised the magazine’s “engaging features, thoughtful advice and stunning visuals” and added that she looked forward to “drawing upon the insights and vision of the company’s artistic director Anna Wintour to catapult this legendary brand” -–perhaps a signal that Traveler could be the next title to get the Wintour treatment.

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