Martha, Macy's and the Plano Truth
Her testimony last week in the trial trying to figure out the rights to her brand between Macy's and JCPenney was classic Martha: Equal parts charming, intelligent, arrogant, amusing, reeking of entitlement and altogether entertaining.
If you want all the juicy details, go get the transcript. Her four hours on the witness stand following similarly marathon sessions by JCP ceo Ron Johnson and Macy's ceo Terry Lundgren constitute retail soap opera drama perhaps unprecedented in our business lifetimes. Jacqueline Suzanne couldn't have done any better.
It's still anybody's guess how this will all be resolved, and one gets the feeling that whatever the outcome in court, there may very well be another outcome in the real world afterwards. The judge's decision will only be the starting point for the next round of negotiations between the assorted - and sorted - parties.
But on the eve of the New York textiles market, this whole thing carries serious ramifications for the home textiles industry. With $150 million in wholesale sales of Martha product at Macy's and the potential for at least that at JCP, who gets what means a lot to the vendors involved in these programs.
Just as importantly, where Martha eventually settles in with her brand will impact how competing retailers counter-merchandise their own assortments and strategies. If the brand somehow ends up staying at both stores, that makes it even more complicated.
The possibilities are more complicated than the recipe for one of Martha's dinners.
What's to come is the great unknown. But we do know what's happened so far. We do know that Martha was on her merchandising butt before Macy's came along, her Kmart deal winding down and not many suitors out there courting her.
We do know that Macy's took a big gamble in signing a brand that was so identified with another big retailer, one that was much more down-market. Macy's had been doing a good job building its own private label business - one that didn't require royalty payments - so this was a break from its game plan.
And we do know Martha at Macy's has been a success. While Martha in her testimony said she expected to do $400 million a year at retail there, the actual $300 million is nothing to sneeze at, especially considering how fast the business was going downhill at Kmart at the time.
Lastly, we know JCP was counting on Martha to be the cornerstone of its revised home business. Should it lose this suit and, even more importantly, should the restraining order prohibiting the sale of even any Martha-designed product be continued, Penney will have a huge hole on the home floor, one that will be virtually impossible to fill in the time frame the store has to turn around its business.
For the parties on the inside of this love triangle, this is a tough time. For the rest of us, it's pretty riveting stuff.