Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Federated launches Green Dog brand


Clothing line just for kids

By Lisa Biank Fasig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Your alligators and polo horses may have their place, but it would be hard to find a green dog in most kennels, parks or stores, and that is just how Federated Department Stores likes it.

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        Green Dog — the retailer's newest brand, not a carsick pet — is Federated's latest addition to a portfolio of private brands that generate about 17 percent of its annual sales.

        Private brands are nothing new to Federated; it now has eight. But what distinguishes Green Dog is that it's Federated's first child-specific brand, ages 2 to 12, replacing four other in-house labels.

        It represents an orchestrated bid to take a bigger bite from the lucrative children's wear market at a time when it is very competitive.

        “We consider it an important growth business, and we want our fair share of a market that's over $30 billion,” said Tom Rinehart, senior vice president of children's wear at Federated Merchandising Group in New York. “It's simple. We thought if it were children-specific, it would be more fun and more exciting to children.”

CHANGING LABELS
  Federated cleared two private brands and two private labels from its children's department to make room for a larger selection of Green Dog — Badge, Club Room, Charter Club and Jennifer Moore. First Impressions, a private label for infants, remains. Following are Federated's private brands, which are constant members of its inventory. Labels change by season.
  I.N.C.
  Tools of the Trade
  Charter Club and Club Room
  Alfani
  Arnold Palmer
  Souson
  Style&co.
  Green Dog
        As a private brand, Green Dog should fetch better margins for Federated (good boy), and help distinguish the retailer's products at a time when many store windows look alike.

        But developing brand loyalty for a children's label could be difficult — more so than it would be with adults. The trick will be winning over kids so they do the demanding, private brand experts say.

        “There are a few children's labels that just have dominated the market for generations,” said Tom Sullivan, editor of Outerwear magazine, which publishes extensively about private brands. “But if the price is right and the quality and style is right, you can sell it.”

        Interviews with shoppers also reveal they are less brand- conscious for their kids than they are themselves. At a promotion for Green Dog at the Kenwood Lazarus Saturday — where children donned denim skirts, drawstring slacks and fleece vests for a chance to dance with the Green Dog mascot — parents said they just want value.

        “I'm looking for the better brand. I'm looking for something that won't fall apart,” said Kathy Jinkinson of Indian Hill, who bought her 6-year-old a sweater set from Green Dog. “She doesn't know about it enough” to be brand-conscious.

        “It's not about the name; I just know the clothes last,” said Silverton shopper Stancy Irvin, who likes Gap Kids. “Quality, durability, clothes that wash well.”

        But as all parents know, children do influence what they buy, from compact discs to cars. For Green Dog to be really successful, it should catch the collective imagination of children, suggested Dane Twining at the Private Label Manufacturers Association.

        “You have just a couple years when kids can be highly influenced by marketing,” Mr. Twining said. “If you position it so that kids want it, parents will follow.”

        Federated is marketing Green Dog to kids. Mr. Rinehart describes the brand as having “a real child identity, with a child's sense of humor and a child's taste.” An interactive Web site, called gogreendog.com, is expected to go live next week.

        “What our strength will be will be tremendous value. Designer quality at moderate prices,” Mr. Rinehart said. “We want to have distinction, and we think building this brand will bring distinction to us.”

        Green Dog can be found in about 340 Federated stores, including Lazarus, where it was launched this month.



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