A blooming sector for licensing… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes pays a visit to GLEE and finds that our industry certainly has a role to play within the garden products trade.

I popped up to Birmingham this week for the GLEE trade show. GLEE is the trade show for the garden trade and features suppliers from a range of categories including seeds, toys, barbecues, garden furniture and décor. It is as you might expect, a reflection of the product mix we often see in garden centres these days – which of course includes licensed products. That said GLEE isn’t just for garden centre buyers as garden products and gardening are now featured in a broad range of retailers.

Like a lot of trade shows this was the first renewal for some time and I think the exhibitors were generally delighted to be back on show. My senses was that there were a number of first time exhibitors perhaps driven by the potential they see in this product category and channel. Licensing wise it was an interesting show – here are my ‘top ten’ licensing spots at GLEE:

LL2It is as always great to see your ‘own’ products on show. Longstanding Aardman licensee Primus has added a Gromit and Feathers to its Aardman family of metal garden sculptures. It has a fabulous range now and it is really good to see its progress. We sold the company its first licence and it is always good to see a ‘new to’ licensing company having success with their licensed range.

One key to the success has been the close working partnership it has with Aardman.

Aardman quite rightly seeks to represent its characters as accurately as it can in licensed products and focuses on detail. This pays off with products like Primus’ which are ‘on brand’. Working with new licensees is an investment but a worthwhile one. Primus also works with the RSPB and Peppa Pig but has also recognised that it needs to have a balanced portfolio of licensed and non-licensed products. The new Aardman products were very well received at GLEE.

LL4Another company that has used licensing strategically in the product mix is Burgon & Ball. It works with the National Trust among others.

It has developed a range of children’s gardening tools under the Get Me Gardening strapline. I imagine this is part of an overall National Trust strategy to target children and families.

Gardening is a good way to reach this market and this is a good example of licensing being integrated with a wider campaign, plus the value in nurturing partnerships.

LL5There were a number of greetings card companies exhibiting at GLEE. These included Woodmansterne, Noel Tatt and Museums & Galleries. This is a reflection of how important the garden trade is to greetings cards in distribution terms, but also of how gardening, flowers and horticulture are good creative sources for card companies.

Woodmansterne’s licences include Emma Bridgewater and it was interesting to see how it has worked with her to develop design themes that fit into this market, while it was good to see it working with the Greenfingers Charity. The Greenfingers Charity creates gardens for children’s hospices and it is good to see Woodmansterne finding a way to work with such a worthwhile charity.

Not unexpectedly there was a good presence for the RHS at GLEE – it is of course its home turf. Other noteworthy brand partnerships on show included Spear & Jackson working with The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew to develop The Kew Gardens Collection. This is quite an extensive range and I can imagine it makes a strong impact in retail. Indeed, the range was shown on Spear & Jackson’s stand in a retail friendly way showing buyers how the brand could work in retail.

LL8Pets, pet care and pet accessories were also a strong theme in the show, reflecting the mix of products sold through the garden retail channel and of course associated retail channels such as farm shops, country stores and equestrian outlets.

PMS had a Crufts range on its stand – quite fitting as Crufts is now staged at the NEC. It is a range that encompasses pet toys, feeding bowls and accessories. It is a real thought of confidence in the category to have the Crufts and Kennel Club endorsement on a range. From Crufts point of view I would imagine PMS’ distribution reach was quite appealing.

LL7Interestingly PMS was also showcasing its own brand, Elves Behavin’ Badly. It has developed a broad product range for this brand itself, but is topping this up with selected licensing deals.

I think we may see more of this kind of blended licensing programme with a brand owner incorporating licensee and licensed products into their programme, but also proactively supporting their brand in different retail channels. I am sure licensees are pleased to see PMS promoting the brand at GLEE.

LL3A recurring trend and licensing theme in the gardening sector, especially in the seed category, is the use of well known gardening personalities. Gardeners that are known through their work in the sector, media work and also are ‘experts in specific categories.

This approach to licensing seems well suited to the sector not least as consumers actively seek out advice from experts. A good example of this at GLEE was a range of Vegetable Seeds presented and curated by David Domoney. This range was developed with Mr Fothergill’s. It also taps into the trend for ‘growing your own’. David Domoney is well known for championing the benefits of fresh produce in terms of health and he also promotes community gardening. A good fit for this range.

LL6It was also interesting to see Mr Fothergills’ BBC Children In Need range of seeds which include Pudsey Bear-shaped seed packs. This range is aimed at children and is linked to fundraising. Visually the range works well and will create a good impact in-store. It is also a really good example of the drive within gardening to encourage children to get involved with gardening, but also to open up opportunities for children to learn about gardening.

GLEE was, of course, a good reminder that garden centres and the garden trade are now selling a variety of products. A couple of good examples of this were Museum & Galleries’ extensive range of jigsaw puzzles which included the Natural History Museum, TATE, V&A and the British Library. Also underpinning how popular jigsaw puzzles seem to be at the moment. A number of toy companies were also exhibiting including Mookie Toys and Play Monster. Categories like arts, crafts and outdoor toys were featured prominently including brands such as JCB.

LL1It was also interesting to see a number of art and designer lead ranges on show. There was a fabulous range of footwear and umbrellas designed by Laurence Llewelleyn-Bowen – he was very much hands-on in the development of this range, while the Sock Shop featured a range of Caroline Gardner socks and Evercreatures were showcasing its recently launched Julie Dodsworth Collection. This includes a ‘collab’ with Shaun the Sheep – a specially designed Shaun the Sheep Julie Dodsworth pattern. All these examples show the value of authenticity in licensing and also how a personality brand can be leveraged at retail to create a visual identity and a point of difference within a busy retail sector.

GLEE certainly confirmed that licensing has a role to play within the garden products trade and that there are great examples of licensing to point to. But I think there also has to be a bespoke approach taken to the category and the channel.

It would be easy just to see it as another place to sell licences and products, but it is a category that has to be approached carefully with a gardener like mindset. It is important to prepare the ground properly, nurture things carefully. Growth will come, but you have to be patient and make sure you plant the right things in the right places!

Ian Downes runs Start Licensing, an independent brand licensing agency. His Twitter handle is @startlicensing – he would welcome your suggestions for what to look out for.

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