N.Y. firefighters, police officers to license logos

Copyright 2002 Gannett Company, Inc.
USA TODAY...06/20/2002

Theresa Howard

NEW YORK -- The New York Fire Department and New York Police Department are leveraging their hero status into a stake in the $ 96 billion licensed merchandise market to raise money for their charities.

The city's two forces, which gained worldwide prominence after the Sept. 11 attacks, have licensed their official marks for a wide range of products to be available at mass-merchant and specialty stores beginning this fall. Proceeds will go to two long-standing funds: a police officer benefit fund and a fund that promotes fire safety.

Both agencies say they were motivated by a desire to combat a wave of knock-off merchandise that followed the World Trade Center attacks. But is the "official" move a tasteful one?

"Because all funds will go to fire safety, it legitimizes everything," says Marjorie Morris, director of licensing for the FDNY. "It's a program of honor for those who were lost and those who continue to serve."

"There was so much that we passed on," says Joanne Loria, executive president of The Joester Loria Group, which oversees the NYPD licenses. "We don't do anything that reflects 9/11, and we won't do anything that relates to the World Trade Center."

Both departments will reap 100% of the royalties, which generally equal 10% to 15% of wholesale sales. The beneficiaries are FDNY Fire Safety Education Fund and the New York City Police Foundation.

The FDNY is looking to sales to generate up to $ 4 million in royalties through the new deals. It already had two license deals before September: For several years, the department's Rockefeller Center Fire Zone store has sold die-cast trucks. And the action figure Billy Blazes is licensed and distributed by Fisher-Price and sold exclusive through retailer, Toys R Us.

Now, NYPD and FDNY are headed to other major retailers with:

* Halloween costumes. Kids wanting to dress as New York's Finest or Bravest will be able to buy complete get-ups, including handcuffs, hat, shield and uniform (no gun) for aspiring police officers; and rescue gear, hat and coats for firefighters.

* Collectibles. Firefighter images will adorn bobble heads. And on the high end, Baron de Limoges will make porcelain replica city firehouses.

* Plush toys. The NYPD's K-9 and Mounted units will have plush dolls named after actual rescue dogs and horses that work in stations around New York. The first in the line is Apollo, a German shepherd that was part of the search team at the World Trade Center. Toy giant Applause will make the toys and tag them with names. FDNY plush toys will be little Dalmatians.

* Action figures. Police and fire action figures, including new buddies for Billy Blazes, will be launched in late summer. Wendy Waters, Manny Hattan, Matt Medic and Smokey Firedog feature voice chips that recite rescue phrases.

The NYPD logo also will be on blankets, slippers and an all-terrain, four-wheel toy vehicle priced at $ 79 to $ 99. The FDNY already sells bottled water and is expected to introduce umbrellas made by GustBuster.