Category Archives: Design

Martha and Macy’s Announce New “Whim” Collection

MSC_Whim_LogoWHIM_SPOT_CHEVRON_5-PIECE_COMFORTER_SET_140-200

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.

Tagged , , , , , ,

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

jcpeverydaypans

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

JC Penney Appears Poised to End Partnership with Martha

Mail Online Seminar - Celebrities and the Media - Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

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

pilar-guzman-hed2-2013

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.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Introducing the Redesigned Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Introducing the Redesigned Martha Stewart Living Magazine

In yesterday’s New York Times, in an article on Martha and her company’s response to their own sluggish revenues, Martha helped unveil the redesigned Martha Stewart Living magazine. From the photograph that accompanied the article, and a quote attributed to the magazine’s editor in chief, Pilar Guzman, it would appear “the days of 1,000 word front-of-book stories are over.”

A photograph of the magazine’s cover (below) shows a heavy focus on cooking and recipes, which matches nicely the focus of Martha’s current television presence, now solely her “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School” on PBS, on which she demonstrates various cooking techniques.

marthajump1-popup

Hard to tell the extent of the changes from just these photographs, but it sure looks very “how-to”, doesn’t it?  This step-by-step approach to presenting recipes is reminiscent of the content once found in the company’s “Everyday Food Magazine”, shuttered in late 2012. An absence of editorial, and a shift to cooking-only content, would also explain the recent departure of long-time design guru and legend, Gael Towey. (We FOMs miss you, Gael!)

FOMs: What do you think of the changes? To you, does this make Martha Stewart Living a more attractive magazine? Does this change the way you feel about Martha Stewart, the brand?

From the New York Times article:

“We understand that people are coming for short, consumable bites of information,” said Joseph Lagani, the company’s chief revenue officer. “People are not spending an hour with you. They’re there to get something.”

The redesign represents a large shift for Ms. Stewart, who built her reputation and her company largely on the strength of her cut-no-corners approach to cooking and crafts.

“I don’t want to retire,” Ms. Stewart said as she sat in a conference room framed by views of the Hudson River. “We’re trying to help figure it out. I don’t think it’s anything to run away from. I’m not banging my head against a stone wall here.”

In part, the redesign is an attempt to hang on to the magazine’s readers and artisans ages 18 to 34 who have become loyal fans. And like many publishers, the company is betting that video can help solve the online advertising riddle.

“That approach of putting cooking techniques near our recipes in video form has done really well,” Mr. Lagani said, “and many of our advertisers want to be part of that.”

Tagged , , , , , ,

JC Penney Begins Selling Disputed Goods Designed by Martha

Image

The new house line of home goods at JC Penney, “JCP Everyday”, is now on sale in stores and online! It is well-known that these products were designed by MSLO employees, although they are not allowed to carry the “Martha Stewart” name, pending resolution of the current court case. Some things I noticed as I viewed the items online:

1. They products definitely bear some of Martha’s signature design elements, the hen-egg blue, the faux bois pattern (one of Martha’s favorites), and the overall elevate taste level are definitely Martha-inspired.

2. Most of the products look nothing like similar items for sale at Macy’s as part of the Martha Stewart Collection. True, the pasty bags at one retailer look like the pasty bags at the other–but that’s because of the design requirements inherent in those particular items. 

3. I’m intrigued by the “JCP Everyday” logo (see cookie cutters image above, bottom row at right). The two overlapping houses do, in fact, make an “M”, don’t they? Macy’s brought this up in the court case, as they sought an injunction to halt the sale of these items, even though they do not carry the “Martha Stewart” name on them. The judge denied Macy’s request, and they have appealed. Further, these items are not allowed to be sold in the Martha Stewart stores-within-stores at JC Penney, nor be placed anywhere nearby, pending the outcome of the current court case–a step taken to minimize harm to Macy’s, should they ultimately prevail in court.

FOMs: What do you think? My own message to Macy’s is this: Calm the heck down, would you? It’s clear Martha and her team have no intention of cannibalizing their own profits generated by sales at Macy’s. That wouldn’t be very smart, would it?

From the Reuters article:

“As of today, those products are on the floor and online,” Paul Rutenis, general merchandise manager of J.C. Penney’s home department, said on Monday in testimony in New York State Supreme Court.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

What She Wore: Martha and Her Team at MSLO

marthainoffice

Let’s have some fun, ok?

I love this fun article–with interactive slide show!–that shows what people wear to work at MSLO. It is great, and even gives details in case you want (need) to go shopping. FOMs: Martha looks amazing, doesn’t she? At 72 and still at the top of her game, she is an inspiration.

Enjoy!

From the Wall Street Journal article:

VP, Editor in Chief, Martha Stewart Living, on Martha: “She’s very elegant. She does follow fashion. But she’s also not a slave to trend. She manages that nicely. She always feels on point, but is never trendy for trendy’s sake. She’s got to love the color or the cut. There are certain classic rules that she seems to live by.”

Tagged , , ,

martha_boxing

There was some good news today for Martha in the trial with Macy’s.

First, it may be useful to back up a bit: The case is actually made up of several different claims, including breach of contract, breach of confidentiality, unfair competition, and tortious interference. In some claims, Macy’s has won injunctions, which are essentially temporary smaller rulings in Macy’s favor while the larger issues are resolved permanently in the courtroom. For example, in one injunction, the judge ruled that Martha may NOT sell items in JC Penney stores until the issue of exclusivity has been resolved completely. Macy’s asked the judge to broaden that existing injunction to include items that were designed by MSLO designers but did NOT have Martha’s name on them. These items are instead branded as “jcp Everyday”. Martha insists that these items–$100 million worth of them are already at distribution centers awaiting shipment to JC Penney stores–do NOT violate the exclusivity clause of her contract with Macy’s. Good News: Today, the judge sided with Martha, so these “jcp Everyday” items will begin appearing in JC Penney stores very soon!

However, the judge ruled that the trial would continue on to the next phase. You see, up to this point, Macy’s has been doing all the talking, as they present their case that MSLO violated the exclusivity clause of their contract. Today, the judge took into account all that Macy’s has presented thus far and agreed that may in fact be true. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the trial now shifts to a new phase; one in which MSLO gets to present THEIR side of the story to counter Macy’s claim. Go get ’em, Team Martha!

It is important to note that the judge in this case is still imploring the three parties involved to reach a settlement among themselves, without a judge’s ruling. Contract disputes such as this one are not entirely uncommon, and are often resolved with a financial settlement. In this case, JC Penney and MSLO could buy-out Macy’s contract (or just the exclusivity clause of the contract) although that seems unlikely, given the degree to which Macy’s seems to rely on the Martha Stewart Collection to generate traffic in its stores. By allowing the trial to go forward, and relying on the judge’s ruling, either party risks losing entirely.

Martha vs. Macy’s: Judge Rules JC Penney May Begin Selling Some Items

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

MSLO Chief Creative Officer Gael Towey Departs

Hours ago, Gael Towey posted the above photo on Instagram, along with the following statement: “Almost finished packing. It has been an amazing 21 years.” In case you don’t already know, Gael Towey has been with with Martha almost since the beginning, serving as Art Director from 1990-1996, Design Director from 1996-1997, Executive Vice President, Art and Style and Creative Director from 1997-2001, and Senior Executive Vice President and Creative Director from 2001-2005. Since 2005, she has served as MSLO’s Chief Creative Officer. To say that Gael’s has been the primary influence on the elegant visual style that has defined the Martha Stewart brand for over 20 years is an understatement. As I described her in an earlier post, Gael is a design goddess–and I’m certain all FOMs join me in wishing for her the very best on her next adventure. (A side note: Gael is married to Stephen Doyle, the designer of the Martha Stewart brand logo. You can read more about the process of creating Martha’s logo here. It’s fascinating.)

Tagged , , , , , , ,