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“Anything I do stems from the needs of the retailers” chats to Laura Freedman-Dagg, head of retail for Global Licensing Group, about why retailers’ experience and the value they get from BLE is her priority.

You joined Global Licensing Group as head of retail for Brand Licensing Europe and Licensing Expo in May, but you’re not new to licensing, are you?

No, I’m not, I joined the BLE team in 2016 when UBM acquired Advanstar. I was senior marketing manager moving quickly to event manager and through that role I got to know the UK and European licensing industries really well. I managed BLE’s Retail Mentoring Programme (RMP), too. I took maternity leave twice and then came back into this brand new retail role, which is a pure delight because we had been talking about bringing it into the business for a long time.

Why does BLE and Expo need a head of retail?

Retail has always been an important part of the visitor make up to the show, but it had never previously had a defined focus. Instead, it was an important part of the marketing and content campaigns. But we know now that retailers have very different requirements from the show compared to other groups of visitors. They don’t even have the same requirements as each other.

They’re a really diverse group of people that need special attention. So that’s my job. It is an audience development role but it’s just as much about customer insight and a concierge service to really make sure that they get what they need from the show. The important thing to say is that anything I do stems from the needs of the retailers themselves. Their experience and the value they derive from the show is my priority.

Tell us a bit about your job remit?

BLE is such a great show, it’s hugely successful and the team behind it really are the best. So, I sometimes describe my role as simply sprinkling a bit of retail glitter dust across all of the things that are already happening.

My remit on BLE is very different to that on Licensing Expo. BLE has very established domestic retail programmes – with RMP and the content we create for the alumni – so we’ve got a group of engaged retailers already. Even though licensing may not be a huge part of their role, they probably already know BLE is the place to go. So, for them, it’s really about honing their experience and giving them introductions to brands that can offer that differentiation to their product range. I’m working on what more we can do here, in particular around further engagement with our European audience.

On Licensing Expo, my role is focused on developing similar programmes and launching them, whereas on BLE it’s about really nurturing them and making sure that we are delivering the best possible experience for retailers both at the shows and between them.

It probably goes without saying that growth is always front and centre in our audience strategies, so much of what I do is focused on bringing people into the licensing community. Our ongoing collaboration with Licensing International is central to that and we intend to announce some exciting new initiatives for 2023 very soon.

How will this role and your actions help retailers?

By me having that focus. It’s the fact that I’m developing one to one relationships with individual retailers, giving them a bespoke consultative service, that everything I do comes from consultancy and understanding and not assumption.

It’s easy for organisers to focus 100% on what exhibitors want, and that’s where BLE is different, because we’ve always treated the visitor as priority – if you bring the right visitors to the show, then the exhibitors will be happy. And it’s about creating the right content for them to come. With retailers, it goes even deeper into almost developing unique itineraries for them. I consider myself having an account management role because I treat them like individual customers – I want them to know they can come to me at any point in the year, and I will be a useful resource for them.

And how will your new role help brands?

Similarly, I think it’s about understanding what brands are doing and why and then I can relay those conversations with retailers directly. I will be in a much better place to know where the sweet spot is and match retailers and brands through conversations on both sides.

What have you been doing to date, what have you got planned in the run up to BLE, and what can you tease for further down the line?

Up until now, it’s been a lot of customer insight, meetings and calls. I’ve done an audit on the retail programmes we already offer, so next step is about making sure the offering at BLE matches the way retailers are developing outside of BLE.

We’ve also run our first BLRA (Brand Licensing Retailers’ Academy) session in partnership with Licensing International on kids licensing with 20 high value retailers in the room. It was lovely because they had lots of questions for each other as well as for the presenters – all very specific, which is further indication my role needs to be about helping retailers to find the right IP for the right category to fill the gaps knowing that they have shrinking shelf space and no time.

BLRA was our first step outside the show to offer elevated education to retailers who are more experienced in licensing, and we’re planning to build on this with a bigger, better launch next year.

What’s in store at BLE for retailers? Why should they take a day out of the office?

There are so many highlights at BLE 2022 for retailers including meeting with owners and agents of major brands, of course, plus access to the retail lounge to:
•    Catch up on work
•    Hold meetings
•    Recharge batteries – devices and brains
•    Get specific advice on navigating the show
•    Find out about next year’s Retail Mentoring Programme

And then on specific days I have handpicked the following:

Tuesday 20 September
•    9.30am: Orientation session followed by show tour (for first time visitors)
•    1pm: Keynote – Barbie x Fashion presented by Mattel’s President and COO, Richard Dixon
•    4:15pm: Can the Licensing Process be Rebuilt? A panel debate between experts from across the industry including Susan Bolsover of Lightbulb Licensing, Emily Fawcett from Abysse Corp and Steve Manners from Licensing International
•    5pm: Opening night drinks – everyone welcome!

Wednesday 21 September
•    9:15am: Forecasting the Future of Retail through Consumer Trends, a discussion moderated by Francesca Lisle of Lisle Licensing and featuring Hannah Craggs from Trend Bible and Abi Wilson from Sainsbury’s
•    1pm: Keynote – Leaders Panel: Building a Post-Pandemic Retail & Licensing Strategy, moderated by Ben Roberts of License Global and featuring Marianne James from Hasbro and Jalil Rahman from Liberty
•    4:15pm: Following the Money – How the New Age of Consumer Spends, a discussion between Gary Pope from Kids Industries and Sian Rider from KidsKnowBest

Thursday 22 September

Sustainability & Brand Purpose: day three of BLE will focus on various areas of sustainability, from diversity and inclusion to environmental challenges. This will include a fantastic keynote and live catwalks featuring Products of Change, Black Lives Matter Licensing and more. We’ll be announcing more specifics on this important area of focus very soon.

Brand Licensing Europe runs from 20-22 September at London’s ExCeL. Visitor registration is open and can be completed via this link.

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