When Wenda Harris Millard went from board member to media president of the Martha Stewart empire last July, her goal was to build and connect the company’s many media platforms. In 2007, the company returned to profitability, with revenues up 14 percent to $327.9 million from the year before, with publishing and Internet businesses seeing gains of 17.4 and 21.6 percent and generating $156.5 million and $15.7 million, respectively. The big idea now, she says, is to bring the media side together with the merchandising side, which grew 21.9 percent in 2007 and made up $69.5 million of total revenues.
The company’s weddings franchise is an example. It consists of Martha Stewart Weddings; MarthaStewartWeddings.com, which now includes vendor resources and planning tools (obtained with the acquisition of Wedding Wire) that have “greatly accelerated” the company’s progress in the online wedding space; a line of wedding-focused crafts in Wal-Mart; and a line of Waterford Wedgewood china that, since its launch in January, has become the number one product line in Macy’s bridal registry, according to Millard.
Now, the spotlight is on Emeril Lagasse and the non-restaurant related assets MSLO acquired for $50 million in April, which include product partnerships with B&G Foods and All-Clad cookware. Since then, the company launched an “Emeril Green” television show on Discovery’s Planet Green network, has plans to grow the Emeril Web site and is considering new books, a special interest publication and other television and new product opportunities.
The company also launched the WholeLiving.com Web site, featuring content from Body and Soul magazine but designed to be “more of an expansive opportunity than simply publishing bodyandsoulmagazine.com,” says Millard. “We’ll be looking for the kinds of tools and applications that a company like Wedding Wire brought us.”
STRENGTHS: MSLO has a lot to leverage in both media and merchandising, with several television shows and Web sites, four magazines and a Sirius radio channel as well as 15 retail and manufacturing partners and two major brands—Martha and Emeril.
WEAKNESSES: “I think focus is always a challenge when you have so many opportunities… More than ever before, we need to make sure we’re all focusing on what will drive the most impact.”
OPPORTUNITIES: By bringing its media and merchandising assets closer together, the company has a “huge opportunity to expand [its] business,” according to Millard.
THREATS: The housing slump threatens the home improvement category, and MSLO will have to work to keep its products relevant. The retail industry, and MSLO’s partner Kmart in particular, are facing troubles of their own.
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