While most of us will remember 2008 as the year of the economic downturn, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia kicked the year up a notch and continued to position itself for long term growth.
January2008: “Everyday Baking,” the new PBS series premieres. “Everyday Baking” is the companion show to the very popular “Everyday Food,” MSLO’s fastest growing franchise. The show, starring John Barricelli features multiple baking segments centered on a central theme.
January 2008: Martha Stewart 'On Demand' became available to digital subscribers to Comcast and Cox Cable. A variety of segments from Martha Stewart Living television and the Martha Stewart Show are made available to viewers on a variety of topics. Video clips change each month.
February 2008: MSLO announced the expansion of its Weddings franchise with an investment in WeddingWire, the online wedding planning company. The acquisition of approximately 40 percent of the equity in WeddingWire and a commercial agreement related to software and content licensing and media sales helps MSLO position itself as the ultimate resource for brides to be who are planning their special day.
February 2008: MSLO announced in what was probably the biggest news of the year, the acquisition of the media and merchandising properties of famed chef, Food Network personality and restaurant owner Emeril Lagasse. The contract was signed in April 2008. The deal brings together one of the biggest brands in food-related content with MSLO's well-established expertise in the lifestyle arena. Under the terms of the deal, MSLO acquired the rights to the Emeril Lagasse franchise, including television programming, cookbooks, emerils.com website, and the licensed kitchen and food products.
April 2008: MSLO and 1-800 Flowers, the nation’s largest on line flower retailer announced their partnership and the new Martha Stewart for 1-800 Flowers collection. The 1-800 relationship replaces the long running marthastewartflowers.com which shuttered its operations in January . Martha Stewart for 1-800 Flowers collection opened with a wide array of floral arrangements and live plants all presented in beautiful vessels inspired by Martha’s own antique collection.
June 2008: For the first time since the magazines inception, Everyday Food featured Martha and Emeril on the cover and premiered his new column in the magazine. Emeril and Everyday Food was a perfect match for the newly acquired MSLO franchise.
June 2008: Martha Stewart Podcasts became available to iTunes users. Similar content to the 'On Demand' library, but with the ease of having them on your home computer.
June 2008: SVP Worldwide, owner of Singer®, Husqvarna®, Viking®, and Pfaff® sewing machine brands announced the new Martha Stewart Embroidery Line. Classic Embroidery Patterns, the first in a series of embroidery designs produced by MSLO and SVP Worldwide, provide designs for monogramming and frame, border, and corner artwork that allow for further enhancement and personalization of sewing and embroidery projects. These patterns include Scallop, Laurel, and Twist, three simple, graceful embellishments inspired by timeless embroidery patterns, as well as an elegant font--custom-designed to Martha's specifications--for creating clean, beautiful monograms.
July 2008: The Martha Stewart Crafts line expanded with Martha Stewart Create and Martha Stewart Celebrate collections available exclusively at Wal-Mart stores throughout the United States and Canada.
Martha Stewart Create features crafting essentials and memory-keeping products such as paper, cutting mats, tools, pens, markers, glitter, and ribbons. The assortment also contains craft and activity kits including jewelry-making kits, pipe-cleaner-animal kits, memory-keeping kits, party decor kits, and card-making kits.
Martha Stewart Celebrate showcases ready-made, paper-based weddings essentials such as stationery, guest books, embellishments, favor boxes, cake toppers, and customizable centerpieces, as well as flower baskets and ring pillows.
The expansion of the craft line which debut in 2007 fulfilled a need in the mass market distribution channel. Immediately upon the announcement, analysts and consumers speculated whether or not Wal-Mart would become the new distributor of Martha Stewart Everyday once the contract with Kmart expires in January of 2010. While no new announcement has been made to date, one could easily be expected by third quarter of this year.
September 2008: Martha Stewart Television went in two different directions in the Fall of this year. First, Martha opened her Bedford Farm for the season opener of the syndicated “Martha Stewart Show.” Filmed entirely on the property of the gorgeous New York farm, the show featured a number of guest chefs and glimpses into her stables and gardens.
“Whatever, Martha” also made its debut on the Fine Living Network. The show concept was created by Martha Stewart and inspired by the cult classic “Mystery Science Theater.” “Whatever” radio show personalities, Alexis Stewart and Jennifer Koppelman-Hutt host the new show. The unscripted TV format provides a provocative platform for the radio duo to reveal their very colorful, witty and sometimes shocking opinions about Martha Stewart, Martha's performance, appearance and approach to projects in memorable segments selected from the Emmy-winning program "Martha Stewart Living", which premiered 15 years ago.
September 2008: MSLO’s portfolio of home decorating products expanded with the introduction of the Martha Stewart Good Bed line of luxury mattresses. Designed by Martha Stewart and the MSLO design team and manufactured by The Good Bed LLC, an entity formed by MSLO and Columbus, Ohio-based Schottenstein Stores Corporation, the line is comprised of twelve mattresses, each covered in woven or knit tickings of 100% cotton and starting at $1,000. The mattresses are available in twin, full, queen, king, and California king sizes, and in comfort levels of firm, medium-firm, and plush. Each includes proprietary dual-directional coil innerspring support, a supportive soy foam comfort edge that makes it more comfortable to get into and out of bed, and continental tailoring for easier placement of fitted sheets. Select mattresses feature tight, Euro, box, and pillow tops, as well as layers of soy and visco foam.
October 2008: MSLO announced an agreement to invest in, and enter a commercial agreement with, Pingg Corp. (www.pingg.com), an online event management site that offers stylish invitations and easy-to-use event planning tools. The move reflects MSLO's strategy to broaden its digital footprint.
December 2008: MSLO and NBC Universal, the syndication distributor for the Martha Stewart Show announced that the Emmy-Winning Syndicated Series Sold for 5th Season on Stations From NBC Local Media, Fox, Hearst, Scripps, LIN & More, Representing More Than 60% of U.S.
And you thought your year was busy?
In other MSLO news this year, in a move that shocked the business world, CEO Susan Lyne stepped down to pursue other opportunities. Susan is credited with taking control of MSLO during the massive company downturn following Martha’s personal legal problems and turning the company around to a profitable status. A number of restructuring moves at MSLO also made headlines in 2008 with the most recent announcement of CFO Howard Hochhauser stepping down.
Looking toward 2009
Speculation has been brewing about what could be next for MSLO. Additional licensing agreement announcements are expected in 2009. MSLO has hinted at an international expansion of the brand as well as domestic expansion (there are already international editions of Martha Stewart Living and Martha Stewart Weddings magazines). The buzz is a new garden line to be available at one of the big box home improvement stores and home improvement tools for the DIY’er at the same location. With the Martha Stewart Paint line available at Lowe’s, it would seem to be an obvious choice for further expansion of the brand in the home improvement arena.
I have a number of things I’d like to see this year:
- Martha Stewart Organizing Tools: Online or paper calendar, reminder, and daily organizing tools. (ala Franklin/Covey)
- An expansion of the food line to move beyond Costco. While Costco offers great value, it’s rather limited in consumer scope.
- Martha Stewart Baking: A line of cake and baking supplies. It makes sense since MSLO owns a portion of Wilton Industries.
- Martha Stewart Homekeeping: A line of cleaning supplies and laundry supplies available through mass market. While some items are currently available at Macy’s as part of the Martha Stewart Collection, I’d like to see a larger scale distribution of such products.
- Martha Stewart Pets: A line of all natural foods, supplies, and care items for pets.
Martha Stewart Garden: A full line of gardening items including tools, pots, planters, shoes (bring back garden clogs!), and work clothing.
- Martha Stewart Home Office: A line of tools available to keep organized and keep the home office running at optimal efficiency.
- An expansion of the craft/create line to include software tools to create your own cards, stationary, announcements, etc without having to use online services.
- Martha Stewart Digital: Digital availability of their publishing library by subscription. Make all current and past issues available through a digital medium.
- Martha Stewart Living – The Seasons: While the first run at DVD’s didn’t fare well for the company, I’d love to see all the seasons of Martha Stewart Living made available in a DVD collection. Don’t separate it out by ‘topic’ – rather, the entire season.