Dickies forges licensing deal with JS Products

Dickies-branded merchandise can be found in a lot of places — on hunting apparel, medical scrubs, chef’s wear, boots and gloves. Now, for the first time, the Dickies name will adorn tool bags and belts.

Dickies announced at the National Hardware Show a licensing agreement that allows JS Products Inc. to manufacture and market Dickies-branded tool bags and related accessories, including painting tool bags, aprons and tool storage items.

The foray into tool bags and belts represents a new business venture for both companies. “It’s a new business from the ground up for JS Products,” said Larry Helton, VP sales for JS Products, which spans five business segments — retail, automotive, backshop, industrial and OEM.

Asked why tool bags and belts needed a brand affixed to it, Helton said that in his experience consumer purchasing decisions are influenced by brand no matter the product. “We feel the Dickies brand will give us differentiation; it’s a brand that has a rich heritage and very high consumer awareness. It is certainly a trusted brand,” he said.

JS Products’ strategy is to offer Dickies bags with more features, albeit at the same price as other brands, he said. The bags will be introduced at the National Hardware Show, and Helton said initial retail reaction has been very positive. “We feel this product can fit into a wide range of retail formats,” he said.

For Dickies, tool bags and accessories are a natural extension of the company’s work wear collection, according to Michael Penn, head of licensing for Dickies.

Research from Millward Brown Optimor at the end of 2009 “drove us into this category of product,” Penn said. “[Tool bags and belts] were closely associated with the category of worker support and the types of products you would find in farm and ranch, hardware, DIY and general merchandise stores.”

Penn said Dickies scored highly in many brand-measuring surveys. For example, the company’s “perceived presence” — i.e., consumers who “think” Dickies makes products in the category — was 66%, an “astonishing” number, Penn called it. Meanwhile, “brand permission” — i.e., consumers who think Dickies “should” make the products — was at 87%, Penn said.

In the metric “Top 2 box percentage” — a measure of consumers who would be “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in purchasing this item bearing a Dickies brand — 33% said they were “very interested” and 41% “somewhat interested,” for a 74% total.

Penn said Dickies’ “brand leadership potential” was 73%; 19% thought it could be “the” leading brand in tool bags and belts, while 54% thought it could be “among” the top brands.

Penn also noted that 66% of consumers rate Dickies superior to other competing brands. “Quality” and “value” metrics ranged from the low to high 50s, meaning a majority of consumers in the survey rated Dickies favorably.

Penn said the licensing agreement matches two strengths. “I cannot speak to JS’s projections, but they certainly felt it was a profitable segment to attack with our brand. A company that does Steelman, Mac Tools, Kobalt and Snap-On has experience in the category and recognizes untapped potential.” 


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