With the 8 March closing date for entries for the B&LLAs 2023 fast approaching, LicensingSource.net has launched a new series of interviews catching up with previous winners, beginning with Sara Miller of Sara Miller London, recipient of a hat-trick of awards in 2018, 2020 and 2022 for Best Licensed Fashion or Talent Brand.
Winning three B&LLAs is quite an achievement! What did it mean to you personally and as a business?
I was totally stunned and it was such an honour to be recognised with a B&LLA, and especially to have achieved winning Best Licensed Fashion or Talent Brand three times! It’s something we are very proud of and is useful to share with new licensors as it helps demonstrate how Sara Miller London remains at the forefront of our industry.
Can you tell us a little about what’s happened to your licensing programme in the intervening years?
Over the past few years Sara Miller London has continued to grow at a phenomenal rate. From the eight licensees we had in 2018, we have now amassed 14 licence partners and a collection of over 1,000 products. Our expansion into new categories wasn’t hindered by the pandemic; our unique, vibrant and uplifting designs are full of colour and positivity. We now have licensing deals for categories across gifting and homeware including gifts, greeting cards, gift wrap, stationery, bath and body, luggage, handbags, watches, tableware, glassware, home fragrance, bedding, wallpaper and upholstery.
Just before the pandemic we started working with the award-winning Shortbread House of Edinburgh, a family-run bakery renowned for their premium handmade biscuits, launching a range of uniquely elegant Sara Miller London shortbread tins in five delicious flavours right in the middle of lockdown, and more recently (launching AW22) we created a beautiful new home fragrance collection of candles and diffusers with Wax Lyrical.
In addition, building on the success of our gifting categories we have grown our homeware category significantly with the launch of our bedding and cushion collection with Ashley Wilde in Spring 2020, progressed into curtains and blinds in 2021 and a stunning and extensive upholstery, fabric and wallpaper collection in 2022, cementing Sara Miller London’s place in the world of interiors.
Since 2018 the brand’s distribution has also grown internationally to supply over 60 countries worldwide, with key growth and activity in Canada, Japan and Singapore. In Japan there have been over 30 Sara Miller London pop-up shops over the past few years in the likes of Isetan, Takashimaya, Sogo, Seibu and Hankyu stores across Japan as well as a strong presence at the British Fairs in 2020, 2021 and 2022 and most notably an impressive display with dedicated store window at the Odakya department store in Shinjuku, Tokyo, viewed directly from the major Shinjuku railway station in 2021.
And, while I did have a little down time during lockdown, I fulfilled a childhood dream to write a children’s book with my sister called Party Parade, licensed and published by Scholastic.
Since our first B&LLAs win in 2018, the licensing industry feels like has gone from strength to strength with continued support and demand from retail for the USPs brands can offer them. Of course, during the pandemic some categories such as home saw huge growth and we had a fantastic launch of our bed linen collection just as the UK went into its first lockdown and people took to their beds. Conversely, categories like luggage really suffered with nobody travelling anywhere.
We see huge potential in a number of sectors we haven’t explored yet, particularly fashion and accessories, and since becoming a mum of two in the last five years and having now written a children’s book, I can see so many opportunities for other Sara Miller London products for children.
What are the challenges currently facing your business, and how are you working to overcome them?
It’s so exciting seeing our designs across new categories, but we are very conscious of continuing to refresh and grow the Sara Miller London collections across our existing categories. With so many partners, brand consistency across so many surfaces and substrates remains a constant challenge for us but is something so important and key, as is the drive to find more sustainable options and work with techniques to reduce waste and make our products as environmentally friendly as possible.
We have so many new things coming for 2023. We are really excited to launch Artisanne Noir, a brand-new table and serveware collection with Portmeirion inspired by Moroccan and Middle Eastern dining. We are launching our Haveli Garden Collection across stationery, gifts, bedding, cushions, tins and bath and body, with gorgeous new prints and handbag shapes for A/W.
Finally, what qualities do you look for in a licensing partner?
We have found some amazing licensing partners to work with so far. We always look for a partner with true expertise in their particular field, with a focus on premium quality so that we can be confident our designs will always be presented and treated in the best possible way. Communication is also key in working successfully together and understanding each other’s needs, aims and limits, so this is always really important from the start, as is a licensing partner’s relationships with their retailers, which is vital for a commercially successful and long-lasting licensing partnership.
The B&LLAs 2023 are now open for entry. The awards are FREE to enter and all entries are made digitally. The closing date for entry submission is Wednesday 8th March, 2023. CLICK HERE TO ENTER.
The winners of the awards will be revealed at a lavish afternoon event held at The Royal Lancaster Hotel, Lancaster Terrace, London on Thursday 27 April 2023, that will be attended by over 500 retailers, licensees, brand owners and representatives.