To rev retail, studio boosts products group

In a move to bolster its consumer products group, Universal Studios has made a series of hires and promotions targeted at its retail licensing and sales efforts.

Changes had been anticipated at the consumer products group (Daily Variety, Oct. 31), which licenses and markets Universal properties ranging from “Apollo 13″ to “Babe” to Rocky and Bullwinkle. The promotions are expected to help the studio expand its presence in retail outlets, including more specialized displays targeted at major releases, as well as the launching of a new Universal Studios brand.

“One of the best brands that we have not really capitalized on is the Universal brand itself,” said Cynthia Cleveland, president of merchandising and licensing.

Timothy E. Rothwell, who most recently was vice president of sales and marketing for Jet Set Children’s Apparel, has been hired as senior vice president of sales. His responsibility will be to expand the Universal brand in such areas as apparel, toys, gifts, accessories, and home furnishings.

U also has promoted Rosalind Nowicki from senior director of licensing to vice president of apparel and home furnishings. She will concentrate on the expansion of U’s apparel and home business, establishing alliances with licensees.

The studio also will add positions to concentrate on retail licensing. John Dumbacher has taken the newly created position of vice president of retail. He had been vice president of sales. Dumbacher will be responsible for integrating the Universal brand portfolio, including launching the Universal Studios brand in retail partnerships. Dumbacher also will oversee all licensed children’s, theatrical and television properties.

In addition, Mark Rhodes has joined the company as manager of licensing, reporting to Dumbacher. He will be responsible for management of retail commitments, in-store presentation, promotions and events. He also is responsible for accounts involving U’s classic, theatrical and television properties. Rhodes comes to Universal from the Southland Corp.’s 7-Eleven stores, where he was responsible for merchandising and promotions on key accounts.

Cleveland said in a statement that the changes “will help strengthen the group’s commitment to building brand equity through marketing plans and strategic partner alliances.” Among the areas they will expand into is upscale apparel, with movies such as the upcoming “The Lost World,” a sequel to “Jurassic Park.”

“It is sort of a new direction in general,” Cleveland said. “Consumers have gotten more sophisticated, and it has also got to be terrific fashion.”

Two months ago, Katie Chin exited her post as VP of promotions and strategic alliances for the consumer products unit. An announcement will soon be made on filling her post.

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