3 Things You Should Know About Small Business: June 5

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- What's happening in small business today?

1. Google acquires Meebo. Google ( GOOG), in an effort to expand its social networking brand and Google+, is purchasing Silicon Valley startup Meebo.

The acquisition will give Google access to the 7-year-old company's social publishing tools. Meebo "works with publishers and advertisers to help them connect with Web surfers for longer periods," according to the Huffington Post.

Apparently the startup had beginnings in the instant message realm, but has expanded its communication features, HuffPo says. Its Web audience tops roughly 100 million. Google+ has a user base of about 170 million users compared to Facebook's ( FB) whopping 900 million user ranks.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, however some speculated the startup went for about $100 million, according to media reports.

2. Revenue from licensing merchandise on the rise. Sales of licensed products (goods bearing the names and likenesses of cartoon characters, company logos, major sports teams and more) rose 5% in 2011 compared to 2010, the first increase in five years, according to the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association (LIMA) 2012 Licensing Industry Report.

The trade organization represents the estimated $200 billion global licensing industry.

Some of the more notable highlights from LIMA's report include:
  • Sales in character-related merchandise, the largest of the surveyed categories -- which encompasses celebrities, entertainment, TV and movies like Jessica Simpson, Gwen Stefani, Angry Birds and the Disney Princess and Harry Potter franchises -- rose 4.4% to nearly $2.5 billion.
  • Trademark/brand licensing, the second largest category and the one associated with major corporate brands from leading packaged goods companies -- such as P&G (PG), General Mills (GSE) as well as classic brands like Coca-Cola (KO), Harley-Davidson (HOG) and Ford (F) -- surged 7.7% to $910 million, the association says.
  • Sales of fashion licenses, including branded goods such as Perry Ellis, Polo Ralph Lauren and Liz Claiborne, rose 5.8% last year to $730 million.
  • Licensed sports merchandise from the NBA, MLB and other sports leagues and individuals fueled a 3.9% sales gain, to $670 million;

"There are a number of key influencers today that make licensing an effective strategy for brand owners to expand their reach into new product categories and for manufacturers and service providers to tap into new revenue streams and capture sales," said LIMA senior vice president Marty Brochstein. "Major players as well as smaller ones are using licensing as a strategic tool in their retail campaigns and overall marketing plan - and its working."

3. Starbucks buys bakery to improve food offerings.

Starbucks ( SBUX) sealed a deal to acquire a small San Francisco French bakery chain to boost its menu offerings, according to the Associated Press.

The $100 million cash deal with investment firm Next World Group bought them La Boulange, which sells baked goods, sandwiches and salads, and has 19 locations in the Bay Area.

Starbucks will start replacing its current menu beginning in early 2013, first in its franchises located in the Bay Area and then roll out the items nationally, AP says.

Starbucks also plans to expand the bakery nationally and could eventually rival the industry led by Panera Bread ( PNRA), AP says.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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