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    Disney — no more a kiddie

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    In a bid to take the company’s reach beyond kids, Walt Disney Co. is keen on expanding its merchandising into couture fashion and furniture lines.

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    “The goal is to give the Disney brand cachet with trendsetters which could carry over to the mainstream,” informed Andy Mooney, chairman, Disney Consumer Products.

    Recently, designer and fashion maven Kidada Jones introduced a line of baby blue and pink women’s loungewear, costume jewellery and home accessories that have come to be known in marketing circles as the Disney Princesses. The Disney name is not flaunted or embroidered on the goods. Rather, the products are contemporary interpretations of vintage Disney art.

    “There was a lot of scepticism about why anybody would buy Disney products if they didn’t have the characters on them, because for 50 years that was the business we were in – character licensing,” Mooney added. “But the opportunity is 20 times larger than character licensing.”

    To achieve his goal of $50 billion a year in retail sales, Mooney knew the studio needed to move beyond character licensing. He aimed to position Disney as a lifestyle brand, for which all manner of products could be fashioned.

    Mooney said that retail sales of licensed merchandise have doubled in just five years, to a projected $26 billion this year, from $13 billion in 2002. Operating income grew 55 per cent from 2000, to about $600 million last year.

    The bulk of the licensing business still comes from Mickey and Winnie the Pooh, which Mooney said are on track to represent $12 billion in retail sales. The Princesses, Fairies, Power Rangers and Cars also account for healthy sales. But the new route is expected to generate $300 million in annual retail sales for licensees in the next few years, Mooney claimed.

    Also, Disney’s new licensing approach appears to be paying dividends.