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Being a B&LLA: “We consider our B&LLAs to be a badge of honour”

B&LLA winners not once but twice over, DFS took home the top prizes for Best Specialist Brand Licensed Retailer Execution in 2018 and Best Brand Licensed Home Décor Product or Range for its Good Housekeeping Sofa Collection in 2022. asks Kellie Wyles, head of upholstery and brands at DFS, what it means to be a double B&LLA winner, and about the challenges and opportunities in bringing lifestyle-branded collections to market.

How did it feel to win a B&LLA? What did it mean to you and the team, and the business?

We are very proud to have won not just one, but two B&LLAs. Over the last few years, we’ve been delighted to be recognised with the awards and to have been nominated in several categories. The B&LLAs are a reflection of the dedication and passion of our team at DFS and our licensing partners, and our consistent hard work in bringing to life engaging and commercially successful collaborations. We consider the awards to be a badge of honour that demonstrates we’re getting things right and reflects our strength and expertise as a market-leading licensor within our sector.

Can you briefly outline what’s happened, licensing-wise, since your first win in 2018? Have you entered many new partnerships?

Since our first win we have super-charged our exclusive brand portfolio, more than doubling our number of licensing partners. We’ve also continued to grow our existing licences with partners such as House Beautiful, Country Living and French Connection at a significant rate.

Over the past five or so years we’ve launched new licences including Joules, Grand Designs and Good Housekeeping, and most recently we’ve partnered with iconic British brand Cath Kidston. We’ve also expanded our successful licensing portfolio into new categories such as bedroom furniture.

Together with our continued work with some of the UK’s leading and best-loved brands, we’ve also expanded the licensing team at DFS and joined the Brand Licensing Europe Retail Mentoring Programme, to help our team continue to grow and develop in this thriving industry. We have some really exciting launches planned for late 2023 with more to come, to support our continued success and our ambitious plans for growth.

The team celebrating the 2022 win for Best Brand Licensed Home Décor Product or Range for its Good Housekeeping Sofa Collection.
The team celebrating the 2022 win for Best Brand Licensed Home Décor Product or Range for its Good Housekeeping Sofa Collection.

What kind of advantages do licensing partnerships bring to a major retailer like DFS?

Our exclusive licensed partnerships are a key pillar within our customer-led strategy to drive growth and continue to encourage new customer acquisitions. Our trusted UK partnerships with leading lifestyle brands enable us to offer a unique and differentiated product range in what is a very competitive landscape, allowing customers to purchase the look and feel of the brand style they love, with the benefit of our 50 years of experience in market-leading furniture design and our handcrafted furniture quality. Each of our partners holds a unique brand identity and place within our offering, so that we can continue to offer our customers the broadest range in the UK upholstered furniture market.

Conversely, what are some of the current challenges involved in getting licensed products to market?

It’s great to be able to bring product ideas to life for our brand partners and we always make sure that we’re able to give each range a clear and unique identity, which can be challenging when certain trends or materials are particularly popular. However, we work hard to make sure that each brand’s collection is uniquely differentiated and a real reflection of the brand’s personality.

Like many UK retailers and leading brands we work with, our commitment to building a sustainable business model is an important part of our ongoing business strategy. As a consequence, we’re always working to explore innovative and sustainable components and techniques to help drive this ambition forward. Our Grand Designs collection is a strong example of this, where every aspect of the collection has been carefully considered for its ability to reduce the impact on the environment.

What qualities do you look for in a licensing partner?

We look for like-minded UK brands who are well-known, well-loved, and who boast strong expertise in their field. DFS has been designing, handcrafting and selling upholstery for over 50 years, so it’s important to us to partner with brands who can connect with our roots in British manufacturing, craftsmanship and quality.

We value our relationships with our brand partners and we pride ourselves on building close, creative partnerships rooted in clear communication and passion for the products we deliver, right from the start. The fact that we have several partners who have been with us for years is testament to this.

Entries for the B&LLAs 2023 are now closed.

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.

For ticket and table information for The B&LLAs awards event, please click here.

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