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Being a B&LLA: “Winning a B&LLA is a clear sign that we are doing something right”

The Natural History Museum has been nominated for multiple B&LLAs since the Awards’ inception in 2016, and took home the top prize in 2020, 2021 and 2022 for Best Licensed Heritage or Institution Brand. It also won the Best Brand Licensed Adult Apparel Product or Range in 2021 for the Natural History Museum + Finisterre collection.

Ahead of the 8 March closing date for entries for the B&LLAs 2023, chats to the Museum’s head of licensing, Maxine Lister, about storytelling, sustainability and other factors that have helped it win big at the B&LLAs.

How does it feel to have been awarded multiple B&LLAs? What does it mean to you and the team?

I am always surprised and thrilled when we are awarded a B&LLA, but also immensely happy that our team and licensing partners are recognised for their contribution to making the licensing programme a success.

It’s a clear sign that we are doing something right and encourages us further to continue to push the boundaries of what heritage licensing can do, especially in terms of sustainability. I think the Awards have significant impact, as we can clearly show success to new partners and our growing portfolio of retailers, brands and licensees that have us on their radar.

MLdouble500x500Can you briefly outline what’s happened to your licensing programme since you won your first B&LLA in 2020?

The licensing programme has expanded significantly in the past three years. During lockdown we were lucky enough to continue to support our licensing partners, and see strong growth from new product and ranges in what was a challenging environment. In the last 12 months we have expanded the licensing team and appointed TSBA to help us develop our business internationally. To facilitate this international growth, one of my current priorities is to ensure our trademarks are protected and registered across key territories.

We have also developed some fantastic collaborations over the last few years in various categories including homewares (Farrow & Ball, Dunelm) and apparel (Desmond & Dempsey, Joanie) and are now looking to expand the portfolio with new and disruptive collaborations and further exploration of new categories, with launches planned for the next couple of years. One of my priorities is growing and supporting our international ambitions, and now that Emma Russell has joined the team to manage the UK licensing programme, the foundations are in place to expand our programme at pace over the next two to three years.


Do you think the licensing industry has changed since lockdown? Have you spotted any trends, or any sectors ripe for growth?

Obviously, sustainability has become a huge discussion point over the last few years and lockdown enabled people to pause and reflect on their impact on the planet and appreciate nature on a whole new level. We see this shift in consumer perception as a positive change, one that ties into the Museum’s overall strategy of creating advocates for the planet. For me, location-based entertainment is one of the big opportunities for the Museum and we are looking at the broad spectrum of opportunities within this category, both in the UK and internationally. I am excited to see where this takes us.

What do you think are the major challenges/opportunities currently facing the heritage licensing industry?

Heritage continues to grow at pace within the licensing industry, with many in this sector looking to increase their activity or start a licensing programme, which is great to see. There is so much breadth and opportunity within the sector and I am always interested to see what my peers are achieving. I feel heritage can offer surprising and refreshing opportunities to licensees and retailers, and within our own programme we thrive on integrating and elevating storytelling in the products we develop, engaging the consumer in different ways.

As the cost of living dominates headlines, and discussion at a retail and consumer level, we’re aware that consumers will be making more considered purchases. Now is the time to embrace agility and lean into unique brand identities and storytelling to make an impact, whether it be through purposeful product, or seeking out consumers through disruptive and non-traditional channels.


Are you able to share details of your plans for 2023?

We have some new and exciting announcements coming very soon, across various categories, and appealing to a cross-section of consumers. I am looking forward to working with our partners to develop best-in-class product and explore new retail channels. We also have some great launches planned early in 2023 with our Dunelm Spring range just launched, our second collection with Joanie, and much more to come throughout the year.

Are there particular qualities you look for in a licensing partner?

We seek out long-term partners that have strong sustainable ambitions, create best-in-class product, and are agile enough to react to changing retail and consumer climates. We welcome conversations with partners who can see the limitless potential that comes with our collections and are energised by the artistic freedom and expression we encourage.

Retail partnerships are also incredibly important, and we want to work with partners to grow and support their existing relationships and facilitate new ones across a broad spectrum of demographics and channels.

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.

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

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