For over 26 years, NJ Croce Company has been a leading supplier of quality licensed merchandise to the Toy, Gift, Collectibles and related industries. Their products are innovative, fun, safe and designed for the kid in all of us!
Nick Croce, President of NJ Croce Company, offers his expert opinion on the Wholesale Licensed Merchandise industry.
- GetThatWholesale: Could you give a brief sketch of your background and industry experience?
Nick Croce: I followed my father's footsteps who started working in this industry in 1953. We established NJ Croce Co. in 1981 for the purpose of designing and manufacturing quality licensed character merchandise for the retail trade. I have developed numerous products from the idea stage on up. It's a lot of fun brainstorming ideas, exciting to see the first prototype and totally satisfying seeing some new idea actually become a winner with the collectors.
- GTW: Obviously licensed merchandise covers a lot of ground from kid's show characters to NFL teams. What particular types of licenses and characters does your company offer?
NC: We focus mainly on the timeless classics which appeal to all ages: Betty Boop, Gumby, The Simpsons, Felix The Cat, Peanuts and others.
- GTW: With many types of merchandise to choose from, mugs, tshirts, keychains etc. What types of licensed merchandise sell the best?
NC: It's pretty much a tie between the Animated Wall Clocks and the Bendable Figures.
- GTW: On a similar note, in your opinion are there items that need to be brought to the attention of retailers beyond the most commonly sold ones?
NC: It's the Gumby and Pokey Bendables. Although Gumby is not super visible in merchandising and media, they sell well to all ages wherever they are placed.
- GTW: What advice would you give a retailer regarding getting their feet wet with licensed merchandise? What products fit what niches, are there pitfalls to avoid, etc.
NC: Like anything, don't order too much of any one item or character. Put a few out there and see what your shoppers are drawn to, then build or edit from there. Also, don't pre-judge a character because the fans are out there. Be careful with movies unless it's a winning franchise like Star Wars. Again, I am biased towards the classics. Don't try to get rich quick with a flash-in-the-pan cuz you will get burned. Like Vegas, ask yourself what you can afford to lose before you buy.
- GTW: Do you foresee any new trends in licensed merchandise developing over the next year or so that retailers should be aware of?
NC: I would say the hot new characters and properties are coming from the gaming industry. I must say that I am fascinated by the plethora of niche characters created for funny websites such as homestarrunner.com and the youtube hits like Bed Intruder, which have merchandising potential in my opinion.
- GTW: Would you care to take a crack at explaining the continuing popularity of Betty Boop despite the decades that have passed since there has been any new cartoons featuring the character?
NC: I could write a book on this subject. Fans of Betty Boop are born every day. I am convinced there is a Betty Boop gene which triggers an instant affinity with her big, round eyes, her pouty expression, her black, curly hair and her curvaceous figure. Add her sexy, coy demeanor, her independence and you have a winning character which transcends all cultures and races. She is the anti-Barbie, someone who many women and even some men, can admire. She is popular with all ages.