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A troubled economy paired with a competitive marketplace has inspired retailers to create a differentiated product assortment. And that's a marketplace reality that is benefiting the artist community.

Sandra Magsamen has been licensing successfully for almost 10 years but sees the next stage of her career taking a different direction. "I am more interested in developing more direct relationships with retailers," says Magsamen.

That goal came to fruition early this year when in January Messages from the Heart, a baby line encompassing layette, sleepwear, gifts and accessories, launched in JCPenney. That line has expanded in stores with bedding and room décor in four different patterns. Magsamen also has a line of Halloween costumes at JCPenney. The costumes go beyond the traditional one-time-use options by incorporating an "overslip" with a onesy. Plush bunnies also have been added to the line.

"If you have a relationship with a retailer and become a core component of their house, you have staying power. Stores need artists because they need differentiation, and artists need retailers," she says.

Children's bedding and accessories designer Amy Coe has signed up to create her own line of baby goods for Babies "R" Us. This fall, the exclusive amy coe line became available in the baby retailer's 250-plus stores nationwide.

The amy coe collection features furniture, bedding, room décor and accessories, apparel, diaper bags, plush items and gift wrap in Coe's signature style: crisp colors that can mix and match.

The line's concept is touted as trendy but affordable with prices ranging from $7.99 for apparel to $299 for a crib.

Coe, who's gained a following from celebrity fans such as Sarah Jessica Parker, also has a line of toys and linens with Target.

Artist Heidi Sturgess has long been known in England for her jewelry and accessories, which sell in more than 130 boutiques throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. In 2002, Sturgess designed her own label capsule for DCK at Topshop Oxford Circus that sold out within days.

"I quite like working with manufacturers and the mass market. The reason Topshop is so successful is because they have used quirky designers to do ranges for them. People are looking for something beyond bland, generic product," says Sturgess.

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