Saturday, January 7, 2012

Things and Good Things

For those of us that follow Martha Stewart closely, it was an interesting news week of ‘things’ and ‘good things.’ 

The Hallmark Channel announced this week that the Martha Stewart Show will end its run after this, the 6th season.  The show will continue in production through spring, with repeat episodes through the summer months.
Citing high production costs and less than expected ratings, Hallmark made the decision to end the show.  There was a hint that ‘something’ was stirring when MSLO President and COO, Lisa Gersh  mentioned during a recent UBS presentation,  that the company was looking to make television more profitable by moving production in-house and not renewing their expensive lease on the Chelsea studio.  Another hint was the noticeable absence of a Christmas holiday special this year. 
Hallmark and MSLO have both indicated they will continue to work together to find new television opportunities for Martha and other personalities within the brand.  

My Take:
While it would be easy to “Chicken Little” the cancellation news and think the sky was falling around Martha, this could actually be an excellent opportunity for MSLO to get television right (again).  The live audience, celebrity guest format was never my favorite and by many accounts from fans and followers, it wasn’t their favorite either.  This is an opportunity for MSLO to reconsider a return to the more instructional format of the previous “Martha Stewart Living” television show.   As a viewer, I would like to see the show move to Bedford. 

My favorite episodes from “Living” were those filmed at Turkey Hill.  Return to the edited, smooth, instructional format and instead of celebrities promoting their new film or book, and feature the talent within MSLO to build out future brands.  The Bedford location can be filled with Martha products to continue to promote the merchandising division.  I think about what Martha did to Jadeite… after having a set filled with it, collectors went crazy (me being one of them).  It wasn’t a blatant promotion; it was just there – and people want to mimic Martha’s style.
 I would also suggest that Martha become less food-centric.  While cooking demos may be easy – they are expensive.  This is an opportunity for MSLO to fill a gap that is being left behind by television giant HGTV.  Over 40 hours of programming on HGTV is now devoted to “house hunting” and real estate.  This is a grand opportunity for MSLO to showcase decorating, gardening, crafts and all aspects of homekeeping.  There is no need to drop food all together; but find a better balance of information. 

We’ll have to wait and see how television plays out. 

Also announced this week was the change in the Martha Stewart Living brand of paint at The Home Depot.  In a statement from The Home Depot, they announced that they would stop carrying the Martha Stewart Living brand of paint – but the palette of colors would now be available using the Glidden paint bases.  This change is due to lower than expected consumer demand. 

My Take: 
So, is this a big deal? Not really. Glidden has made great strides in the competitive paint business. In recent consumer studies, Glidden ranked well with consumers in overall performance as compared to other midrange priced brands. I do hope that The Home Depot will not lose sight of the appeal of the palette, keeping it prominently displayed

I’ve used Martha Stewart Living paint and I like Martha Stewart Living paint.  Because I tend to be a very “brand loyal” consumer, I hate to see the brand disappear.  However, the paint bases for both Glidden and Martha Stewart Living paint are produced by the same company, so I don’t expect to see a huge difference.

I do caution The Home Depot to NOT be too hasty in their future decisions.  The introduction of the Martha Stewart Living brand came at a point where the economy had tanked.  While we are experiencing a very slow recovery, I think it’s unreasonable to expect consumers to immediately change their shopping habits.  To gain a greater market share of female shoppers into Home Depot stores, there must be selection and the stores need to be an appealing place to shop.  I understand the ‘warehouse’ feel of a Home Depot store, but I’ve never been impressed with their merchandising.  If they want and expect the Martha Stewart Living brand to fly off the shelves, then they need to merchandise it in such a way that it will. 

My friend Andrew, on his fabulous blog Martha Moments, recently posted photos of the “new” Turkey Hill in Westport, CT.   The new owners of the property completely renovated the house and pretty much wiped out any look/feel of the Turkey Hill we once knew and loved. 

My Take: 
Okay... for all practical purposes it’s a house and property that is owned by someone and they are free to do with it what they choose.  To those of us that have followed Martha through the years, Turkey Hill holds a special place in our hearts – since it all began at Turkey Hill. 

Andrew and I always dreamed that one day, we would take Turkey Hill and turn it into a National Martha Museum (I need SOMEPLACE to put all this Martha stuff I have!), complete with staff in crisp J Crew khaki’s, crisp white button down shirts, neatly pressed aprons (complete with logo), and garden clogs.  We used to laugh about staff even wearing small circle logo earrings to complete their uniform.    So much for a Turkey Hill museum.  I guess we could always try for Lily Pond…
I always loved Turkey Hill.  Readers and viewers got to know Turkey Hill pretty well.  I’ll miss the traditional, Federal style home.

The Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery product line debuted on the Staples website and will be rolling out in stores throughout the month. 

My Take:
Oh, happy day!  (See previous post)  I love the line, I love the colors, I love the design.  THIS is a good thing indeed!

Just as we are starting our new year, the February issue of Martha Stewart Living arrived in my mailbox. 
My Take: 

We have another hit from editor-in-chief Pilar Guzman.  I have loved every issue of the magazine since Ms. Guzman has taken the helm.  I love how the magazine is going back to Living basics.  It reminds me month after month of what I call “classic” Martha content.  I can’t sing the praises of Pilar Guzman loud enough. 
A special full sized Organizing issue is due to hit the newsstands on January 30th.   This is the second “very best of Martha Stewart Living” special issue (the 2011 Holiday issue was the first) devoted to one of the core content areas of MSLO. 

My Take:
The last time MSLO tackled the subject of organizing was in a digest-sized special issue in 2005. 

I’m always looking for organizing ideas – and revisiting some of the very best ideas from Martha Stewart Living will be a welcome way to spend the cold, winter month of February.  Who wants to take bets that this issue will be sponsored by Avery and Staples?  Timing is perfect with the rollout of the Home Office line.          


Elaine said...

Wow, this has indeed been a busy news week. I wonder if Martha will launch her own television channel now? I would love it if MSLO brought the old format back but with more of a 'today' look with fresh material. I love Martha's baking show and feel that it does fill a void in the tv market because there just aren't any good baking shows on right now. Food Network is all about reality food challenges and it is getting old pretty quick.

Thanks for the Martha update, Kenn!

mike509 said...

This woman never stops....even though others try to stop her. Good news about the show...maybe they will return to a more successful format! Never bought the paint but am anxious to look at the office line at Staples! And the organizing issue is great for this time of year, since the same people who told us to eat, drink and be merry are now saying we are fat, lazy and unorganized. Media.... Neat post!

carillon in Phoenix said...

Thanks, Kenn, for the upbeat news on Martha. I felt so discouraged to read the show was cancelled, but now I am hopeful that Martha will prevail with an even better show!

Anonymous said...

Kenn, I'd be interested in your take on the quality and design of the Martha merchandise in Home Depot. I feel that the mdse there fails to live up to the unique style of her previous lines -- a weak follow-up to her very cool Kmart line. I'd love your comments. . . .

I love this blog entry -- very thoughtful and upbeat!

Kenn said...

Dear Anonymous-

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

The Martha Stewart Living Christmas items at Home Depot are a huge disappointment. Nothing can compare to the beautifully designed items that were found at Kmart several years ago. (I cherish my "First Snowfall" collection!) While there are benefits to "shatterproof" ornaments, they tend to look cheap and not what I would expect from Martha Stewart.

The organization items (cubbies and fabric drawers) are simply items that were already available that have been rebranded. I have several of the cubbie units in our project room and they serve a great purpose; but nothing unique in design.

Last year, I ordered the garden tools online, hoping to replace some of the well worn garden tools I had from the everyday collection. Again, these do not compare to the Kmart line. They do not seem as 'heavy duty' and I found they started to rust quickly.

The patio furniture is another area where design is lacking. I remember the Kmart collections and how stylish they were. I don't see the same level of design and style in the Home Depot line.

The "plus" side to the Home Depot line would be the kitchen cabinets. They are very well made, beautifully designed, and available at a variety of quality/price points.

Overall, I have to agree with you, the line is weak. I'd like to see an expansion in the gardening/outdoor living area. Home Depot-Canada had a much larger selection, but we've not seen the expansion on the US side. Perhaps one day.

For now, I take a wait and see approach with every new introduction and I remain hopeful for better design!



Kenn, I fully agree with all of "your takes" on things, on every point. A very nice recap! The more I think of our Martha Museum, the more sad I get about Turkey Hill. It would have been so great for Martha to have done something like that with the place: somewhere fans could go to tour the gardens, the house, make crafts in the 'barn.' The carriage house could have been made into a really chic little cafeteria. Visits could be restricted to maybe 30 people per day, four days a week, so as not to have a steady stream of trampling feet. Oh, I have it all worked out! :-)