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An alternative New Year message for the licensing industry

Licensing International’s UK md, Graham Saltmarsh, on how the industry has shown its customary resilience in times of crisis.

Happy New Year… Happy 2021… was the message from my mum that pinged through on my phone. The words were just about in focus and made me pause for thought. I wondered why the New Year didn’t start earlier in the evening and not midnight when we might have all over imbibed…

2020 was a bit of a stinker for most people, but there were some companies which bucked the trend, online shopping was embraced by the whole country and the number of delivery drivers needed to handle this multiplied significantly.

We all hunkered down in our blissful isolation, bought subscriptions to Disney+, Netflix and Amazon Prime and immersed ourselves in worlds so different to those we actually found ourselves living in.

The pandemic has been difficult, but there have been some positives and the licensing industry has shown its customary resilience in times of crisis.

At Licensing International, we have launched our small business grant programme which is designed to help small business employers in the brand licensing sector impacted by COVID-19. So far we’ve awarded over $25,000 in grants and the application process remains open until January 29, so please do have a look.

I spoke to many licensing folk throughout 2020 and the feelings have been furtively positive – with COVID rates rising and a lot of people feeling the strain, it almost feels wrong to admit that you enjoy working from home and that you are thrilled not to have the long cramped commute to work every day… you are even more thrilled to have saved thousands of pounds by not having to commute.

More time has been available to spend with your family, children, dogs and we have managed to find time to smarten up our homes and gardens (both areas have seen a very positive increase in sales).

The Gen Z generation who have been bought up on the internet and social media have been indulged with new high tech gizmos – also an area that has performed very well during the pandemic. This group will eventually only have one finger and thumb on each hand and will have lost the power of speech, but before evolution does this they will have made the owners of TikTok many more billions of dollars.

We have also been treating ourselves and our kids to gifts and fun things to help keep them occupied. Licensed products have fared well and certain areas like puzzles and games have seen a welcome resurgence.

With online retailing growing, it gives an opportunity for the more agile and creative licensing agents to create fun new products based on non mainstream properties and brands. By using clever digital marketing they can target the potential customers very successfully (another area that has done well during lockdown).

I was talking to one well known licensing chum about pent up demand and when I enquired in what area she said “fun”… I have to agree that the very effervescent licensing industry is ready to pop its collective cork once the vaccination process has taken place – to misquote Winston Churchill, never have so many people waited so long for a small prick.

Meanwhile, back in the Saltmarsh household I am still very much keeping a low profile having disgraced myself by drinking too much grappa on New Year’s Eve and challenging my kids (aged 24 and 26) to a dance off – unfortunately there is evidence, as you can see below…

Have a happy 2021 and keep looking out for each other – we are almost through this.

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