Nov 3, 2013 at 23:50 o\clock

U.S. manufacturers refashion themselves as 'lifestyle brands' - Yahoo Finance

U.S. manufacturers refashion themselves as 'lifestyle brands' - Yahoo Finance

By James B. Kelleher

CHICAGO, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Call it concealed-carry chic:With all 50 U.S. states now permitting people to pack pistols inpublic, it was only a matter of time before some company came tomarket with an apparel line targeting the gun-toting crowd.

Remington Arms Co , which has been makingfirearms for nearly 200 years, has just unveiled a collection ofclothing and accessories, including the "Smoothbore Field Coat"($1,295) and the "Double Derringer Leather Vest" ($300).

In drawing a bead on the apparel market, Remington becomesthe latest U.S. manufacturer to try reinventing itself as a"lifestyle brand" as a way to bolster its bottom line.

Next up is Winnebago Industries Inc, the U.S. makerof motorhomes and trailers. In October, the Forest City,Iowa-based motorhome maker announced an agreement withBrandgenuity, a New York-based licensing agency, to put theWinnebago name on a range of outdoor fashions and camping gear.

"We stand for quality products and a fun lifestyle," RandyPotts, the company's chairman, chief executive and president,told Reuters. "We think there's an opportunity to leverage thatbeyond RVs."

As Remington and Winnebago step into the market forsoft-good extensions of their hard-metal brands, they may havelearned from the successes - and the misfires - of others thathave gone before them, including Caterpillar Inc, Deere& Co and Harley-Davidson Inc.

History suggests success can be elusive for such brands,which do not always transfer well onto products cut from cloth.

Remington's line of clothes and accessories - offered bycatalog but also available online - includes everything from afive-piece leather luggage set complete with gun sleeve andpistol case ($1,675) to a cotton-twill "shooting shirt" ($150).

Perhaps the most eye-catching part of the collection is the"Double Derringer Leather Vest" with two "zippered ambidextrousconcealed weapons pockets."

Not sure how that works? No problem. The catalog features apicture of a grim-looking male model, eyes cast to the ground,drawing a blued-steel semiautomatic pistol from one of thesecret pockets.

Remington, which can claim to be one of the oldest U.S.manufacturers and still operates a plant in Ilion, New York,where the company was founded, says it took the plunge inresponse to customer requests.

"Our history is one of building hand-forged, craftsman-likequality products," said Ross Saldarini, the company's generalmanager for lifestyle products.

"So when our customers asked us to build them someadditional products, some apparel products, we decided to createa brand for Remington that would try to capture some of thatheritage and history."

The benefits of branching out range from simply buildingbrand awareness to increasing sales of core products, said Adina Avery-Grossman, a partner at Brandgenuity.

It can also create a healthy revenue stream - an attractiveproposition for companies like Caterpillar, Winnebago and othersthat are struggling for growth in their core businesses.

Deere, Caterpillar and other companies do not discloseroyalty receipts. "That's a highly confidential number," saidMark Jostes, the head of Caterpillar's retail businessdevelopment group. But the revenue can be substantial.

Jostes estimates Caterpillar's authorized licensees - including Wolverine World Wide, Summit Resource Imports and ToyState - sold $1.1 billion in Cat-branded merchandise last year.

Cat has moved from simply licensing merchandise to approvingnearly 75 retail stores around the world - most in Central andSouth America and the Caribbean.

"If you go to England, Chile, China or the Middle East, ifyou say you work for Caterpillar, they're likely to say, 'Oh,the footwear and apparel company?'" Jostes said.


It's not just hats, T-shirts and boots. Although Deere shiesaway from most food products - "It spoils ... and our leadershiphas come to the conclusion that the results of those sales arenot worth the challenges," said Dale Paschke, Deere's manager of brand licensing - the Moline,Illinois-based farm equipment maker has allowed a company tosell "Johnny Pop" popcorn, featuring a picture of one of thecompany's green and yellow harvesters on the package.

Fans of Caterpillar, meanwhile, can now buy the Cat B15, anrugged Android 4.1 phone designed and built by Bullitt Mobile.And Jostes hints a Cat-branded laptop may be next.

There are some risks. Incidents like the collapse in Aprilof a Bangladesh clothing factory that killed more than 1,000workers created a reputational backlash for theretailers and apparel brands connected with the plant - thoughnone of the manufacturers that have moved into apparel saw theirbrands connected to that disaster.

Another potential pitfall: Companies must ensure productscarrying their names are consistent with the core brand'svalues. Caterpillar, for instance, is about "empowerment andauthenticity," according to Jostes, while Winnebago is about"elegant design," according to Avery-Grossman.

To date, the downside risks have proved manageable. "We'venever seen a licensing program undo or kill a brand,"Avery-Grossman said.

Deere has balked at pitches to market John Deere-brandedduct tape and lighters. Another no-no: booze, even though muchof it is distilled from corn harvested by Deere combines.

"We turn down many opportunities that could be much moreprofitable to the business because we don't think it'sappropriate for our brand," Paschke said.

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