Woody and Curious George’s exclusive Kmart coup

Retailer: Kmart...
July 1, 1999

Retailer: Kmart

Promotion: Curious George and Woody Woodpecker Go to Kmart

Number of participating stores: 2,151

Length of promotion: six months

The launch this month of the Curious George and Woody Woodpecker Go to Kmart exclusive apparel program marks a first for the Troy, Michigan-based mass merchant. It will be the first time the retailer has unveiled two separate licensed kids properties simultaneously that both belong to one studio-in this case Universal Studios. ‘It’s the perfect marriage, because Curious George has a younger, softer feel to it, which appeals to the infants and toddlers, whereas Woody Woodpecker skews to the older boy customer,’ says Lorna Nagler, Divisional Corporation VP of Kidsworld Marketing Kmart.

The program, which starts this month and runs until December, makes Kmart the exclusive discount store destination for all George and Woody apparel products. Ten Woody and George licensees are participating and have used exclusive art and materials that Kmart selected to create a variety of apparel and accessories, including Woody Woodpecker boys sportswear, separates and sets, fleece, underwear and backpacks, Curious George infant and toddler wear and apparel for girls and boys. After December 1, licensees will be permitted to sell apparel to other retailers, albeit using different character art.

Both properties, which have remained a part of popular culture for over 50 years, have recently seen their profiles rise with the introduction of new entertainment product. In May, The Woody Woodpecker Show began airing on Fox Kids Network; in 1998, pubco Houghton-Mifflin released eight Curious George books, and will release four more titles this year. However, Nagler says the ultimate selling point for running the exclusive program was the strong appeal that both properties hold for the retailer’s target customer demographic-moms with young children. Such promotions have been a key part of Kmart’s business plan since 1995, when it began upgrading its stores to the more customer-friendly Big K format.

‘The [George and Woody] program is just another element, that reinforces our goal of targeting moms. It’s consistent with what we’re doing with the Sesame Street and Martha Stewart [exclusive merchandise programs],’ says Nagler.

For Universal Studios and its licensees, Kmart’s decision to greenlight the program represents a major triumph in the fiercely competitive category of kids entertainment. ‘George is competing against Blues Clues and Teletubbies, and Woody is competing directly with Star Wars and Power Rangers. For Universal to get this kind of commitment from Kmart in the year of Star Wars was a major coup for us,’ says Tim Rothwell, senior VP of sales merchandising/licensing at Universal Studios Consumer Products.

The layout of the program primarily focuses on the kids apparel department, where Kmart will feature signage promoting it. By design, the signage is in keeping with the look of fixturing Kmart has created for other exclusive apparel programs. Separate toppers featuring cut-outs of Woody and George will sit above the three- and four-way displays that store the merchandise.

To further draw traffic, Kmart and Universal’s Retail Group collaborated on three promotions, which include a gift-with-purchase incentive with Kodak, a Curious George Toybox contest and a free Woody and George premium from the KCafe, Kmart’s in-store restaurant. The promotion with Kodak is a new initiative for the retailer. Kmart will give away a George and Woody magnetized picture frame to customers who get their film developed at the chain’s stores. Signage advertising the promotion will be visible in all of Kmart’s photo departments beginning in September.

Kmart has used tie-ins with the KCafe and a version of the Toybox contest, which begins in November and August respectively, in previous programs-including its retail program for Disney’s The Little Mermaid. As with The Little Mermaid, the George Toybox will be filled with a mix of related merchandise, which customers will have the chance of winning. However, unlike most nationwide retail sweepstakes, which award prizes to only a handful of consumers, Nagler says one Toybox will be given away in each of Kmart’s 2,151 stores, thus increasing the awareness of the program by increasing the number of winners. Additional signage highlighting all of the promotions will be present on endcaps in the kids apparel department. To market the program, starting in August, Kmart will feature Woody and George on the kids page of its flyer (which reaches 70 million households on a weekly basis). Kmart may also tie in some coverage of the program on its Web site, though nothing had been confirmed at press time.

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Simon Ashdown at 416-408-2300 or

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