SG CEO Matt Feiner on Why Kids’ Licensing Is Tougher Than Ever

One year into his new role with SG Cos., CEO Matt Feiner talked with FN about opportunities he’s carving out for the licensing firm.

What big initiatives have you tackled since taking the helm last March?
“My No. 1 objective is to grow our overall business, and we achieved that in 2017 and will do so again this year. We have strong momentum, fueled by our seasonal footwear and kids’ sleepwear businesses. Another major goal has been to build the company into a much stronger e-commerce player, and we’ve made huge strides toward that. We are also looking to generate additional growth via the relaunch of Rugged Shark and are venturing into a few adjacent categories, such as cold-weather gear and fashion accessories.”

As a newcomer to licensing, what has surprised you most?
“It is an exciting industry but one that is in flux. There are still a lot of great licenses out there, yet in many cases, their staying power is more fleeting than in the past. I am sometimes surprised when a potential licensor approaches us and expects an exorbitant guaranteed minimum royalty, as the overall licensing landscape is not as robust as it once was. Some licensors have the power to do that, but they are few and far between these days.”

SG has signed a number of new deals this year. Which are you most bullish about?
“We are particularly excited about LOL Surprise and Nintendo in the kids’ [category]. LOL is on fire — the toys are performing extremely well, and initial sell-throughs on other consumer products have been quite robust. With gaming such a major trend, we are seeing a strong performance from Nintendo as well. We are also excited about Stay by Stacy Garcia. In addition to developing a slipper collection [for the brand], we are expanding our ladies’ sleepwear and loungewear.”

lol-surprise-slippers
Novelty slippers inspired by the LOL Surprise toy brand.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

What are the top trends in kids’ licensing right now?
“Gaming, movies and toys. YouTube is also playing a significant role in launching new licenses through influencers and unboxing videos. Several SVOD [streaming video on demand] kids’ shows have been successful and will continue to grow, so I believe we will see more licensing opportunities originate from that platform.”

nintendo-sneakers
Nintendo slip-on sneakers featuring the Super Mario Bros. characters.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

What are the major challenges facing the industry now?
“The [licensing] industry is affected by the ever-changing retail environment. We are also seeing an increase in private-label brands, which is impacting fashion-related businesses. Entertainment and character licenses have become increasingly fragmented. The focus is no longer just on a major theatrical release, TV show or evergreen property. SVOD and gaming allow kids to play and view content anytime, anywhere. Kids have so many choices, and that creates a lack of focus and retention on just one platform. Our expanding global e-commerce business has been a strong asset by [helping us to] invest in our key licensed businesses in a data-driven way.” 

This article has been corrected from an earlier version that ran in FN’s Aug. 6 print issue.

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