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Thomas Russell

Lea Inds. won't renew Nickelodeon youth furniture line

HIGH POINT — Youth furniture resource Lea Inds. has confirmed that it won't renew its license with Nickelodeon, which is set to expire at the end of this year.

Citing disappointing reaction, the company is selling off its remaining inventory from its distribution center in Wilkesboro, N.C.

"It didn't resonate with the consumer," said Jack Richardson, president of Lea and sister La-Z-Boy companies American Drew and Hammary. "I think moms were very hesitant to buy furniture with characters on the product. While 97% of the SKUs had characters that came off, I think the consumer didn't want to spend money on something that could be (perceived as) faddish or short lived, and they never got past that."

The furniture has images of popular Nickelodeon cartoon characters including Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants. They are featured on panels that in most cases are reversible.

The launch in October 2009 was well publicized, officials said, but the excitement was never duplicated at retail.

"It was one of the most successful launches Lea had, but from day one, the reception at retail was very mixed and modest," Richardson said.

The collection was ambitious in scope, particularly in terms of design of various footprints. But this may have led to its weak performance in the marketplace. In addition to twin beds retailing at $499 and companion case pieces, it featured loft bed configurations that retailed from $1,500 to $3,000, Richardson said.

"There was a lot of different functionality to the beds we brought out," he said. "But functionality comes at a price, and consumers are limited in terms of who wants to pay for that."

Nickelodeon officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Richardson added that Nickelodeon was a great partner to work with.

He added that the experience hasn't tainted his view of licensed collections. Sister company American Drew, for example, is still is doing well with its Jessica McClintock and Bob Mackie licensed lines.

"We look at different ones each market, and just find the right one that makes sense and brings value to the table," he said. "We are very open to that. I think there is a value if it is the right product and the right tie-in."

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