By David Gill
Vendors of furniture, flooring and decorative accessories that hold the Laura Ashley Home license agree that the designer’s name on their products has given their overall business a special luster.
Licensees such as Kincaid Furniture, Opus Living, Unilin Flooring, Housewares International, Kennedy International and Vintage Home say having the Laura Ashley name has strengthened their companies’ whole brand lineups, and opened new opportunities among retailers. As Todd Hady, vice president of sales and marketing with Kincaid, expressed it, Laura Ashley is “a name that people know and trust. It stands for quality and value.”
Kincaid’s Laura Ashley furniture now encompasses two collections, Sturlyn and Keswick, that are positioned at the upper end of the company’s lineup. “It ties in nicely with what we’re doing here at Kincaid,” Hady said. “We use it as our upper end in our good-better-best story, so it serves as our umbrella for the entire line.”
One of the newest licensees, Vintage Home, holds the Laura Ashley name for botanicals. The Ashley brand “tells consumers that there is a consistency of quality they can depend on,” said Roni Nigri, president and owner of Vintage Home. “You can make a ficus tree in many different ways, but one of the qualities we’re focused on is better quality. When you have a Laura Ashley ficus tree, they’ll know Laura Ashley is a better quality.”
The upscale cachet of the Laura Ashley name has also proven beneficial to Unilin Flooring, which holds the Ashley license in hardwood and laminate flooring. “We currently use Laura Ashley Home as the brand for our laminate program in Menard’s home centers in the Midwest,” said Roger Farabee, senior vice president of marketing for Unilin. “It is the premium brand of laminate in Menard’s and gives their customers an assurance of style, quality and durability. We believe
it has also enabled consumers to see Menard’s in a more upscale light than in the past.”
Opus Living has had the Laura Ashley license in lighting, lamps, shades and chandeliers since 2005, and it has expanded the company’s business in two ways. “We have opened up new retail channels, such as furniture stores and design centers,” said Ann Mitzkus-Chen, the company’s business manager. “We have also tapped into the Laura Ashley demographic with the introduction of small chandeliers and lamps for children’s rooms, offering children’s lighting that a Laura Ashley mom would use to decorate her child’s room in the Laura Ashley style.”
Laura Ashley’s presence goes beyond upper-end retailers. Kennedy International, which has held the license for storage-organizational products and laundry care for the past three years, has penetrated specialty mass merchants with its Laura Ashley line. “It’s a nice collection of patterns that has helped us expand our product line,” said Henry Guindi, Kennedy’s president. “We’ve just expanded it with the license for cleaning products, which include brooms, mops and so on.”
Aside from expanding their product lines within the brand, other opportunities for these vendors include targeting new demographic groups. “The generation we’re going after, the middle of the market, we think is more traditional or transitional, so Laura Ashley is a good look for them,” Hady said.
The license will also continue to expand the retail-channel reach for these manufacturers. “Right now, our main objective is to take it online, see what people say about it and take it from there, ” Nigri said. “We’ve gotten a lot of excitement out of tabletop botanicals and bamboo screens already. We will knock on all doors.”
For Housewares International in Canada—which has held the Laura Ashley license in tabletop, dinnerware, serveware, stemware, glassware and bakeware since November 2008—the brand has the potential to move the company into retailers south of the Canadian border. “Our license is for the North American and South American markets,” said Gay Taraby, brand manager. “Laura Ashley is an international brand and thus a natural fit for us. It is beginning to open doors to the U.S. market for us. It could put us into South America, where we are not present yet. We’re taking both the U.S. and South American markets a step at a time.”
The Laura Ashley Home design team is also amenable to expanding the range of looks in Ashley products. “We continually challenge our design team to come up with new looks within the Laura Ashley design focus,” Taraby said. “The Laura Ashley people have been very open to our suggestions. It’s a very good license to have from that standpoint.”