Check those first impressions… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes checks out Wilko and finds a comprehensive spread of licensing across the store.

Sometimes first impressions can be wrong.

This week I popped into my local Wilko store to check out its licensing offer and my first impression was that Wilko was Licensing Lite. This impression was created initially by looking in the toy aisle. The shelves weren’t brimming with product suggesting that there may be some supply chain issues, but the product that was on shelf was a mix of branded lines such as Pokémon card sets and Wilko’s own brand lines.

I didn’t spot any obvious licensing lines, although I should qualify things by saying under current shopping conditions my looking out is a little less intense and forensic so I may well have missed something. But I got my licensing eye in at the end of the toy aisle by spotting a number of licensed lines within the playball offering. This particular store had sited two dumpbins of playballs in the store as part of a push on summer lines which linked back to its own brand ranges. Featured characters in the playball range included Toy Story and PAW Patrol. Wilko’s summer toys range was badged under the SunClub brand which I assume is an own brand offering. This included items like water guns and paddling pools. These kind of lines would be popping up in retail now, but I suspect retailers are going a bit heavier on them this year as more people will be staying at home and making use of their gardens or local parks.

On further investigation there was actually a lot more licensing going on in Wilko than I first thought, but examples were dispersed around the store rather than consolidated in ranges. My sense was that Wilko had decided to cherry pick licensed products from trusted suppliers category by category rather than drive licensing itself more directly. For example in the confectionery section companies like Rose Marketing, Golden Casket and Kinnerton were featured with products such as Tango popping candy, Vimto Jelly Babies and character chocolate bars. This is an example of where suppliers can build up credibility as suppliers of licensed products and retailers grow to trust them as suppliers.

Peppa Pig sunglasses were on clip strips near Wilko's suncare products.
Peppa Pig sunglasses were on clip strips near Wilko's suncare products.

Wilko uses a lot of clip strips, dumpbins and off shelf selling fixtures. I think this is to encourage pick up and impulse purchases. Licensing is playing its part in this strategy for Wilko with products such as Peppa Pig sunglasses featuring on clip strips near the suncare products.

Greeting cards are also a category that feature licensed lines. I think in this case Wilko works with Danilo to get an ongoing supply of licensed cards. Current selections include PAW Patrol, Peter Rabbit, PJ Masks and Pokémon. There is a reasonable amount of space given over to licensed cards and I assume this is a strong performing area for Wilko. Again it is trusting a licensing ‘expert’ supplier to curate the category with it and ensure there is a good mix of cards that mix classic with contemporary appeal.

There were other products in store that I thought could benefit from a licensing offer – a good example was decorative stickers. It has a Sticker Fun fixture which is a licensing free zone. I would think this is a category that could be coordinated with other products and where popular characters could be good sellers.

The greeting cards fixture was well stocked with licensed names.
The greeting cards fixture was well stocked with licensed names.

It was interesting to see examples of licensing in the personal care category where well known brands in the category dip into licensing to supplement their  product offers.

Colgate toothbrushes included Minions, Barbie and Wonder Woman products. Elastoplast plasters included Frozen, Marvel and PAW Patrol plaster packs. It was also interesting to see Wellkid Peppa Pig Vitamin Jellies selling alongside own brand offers. The own brand products are considerably cheaper, but in a category like this the combination of a popular character coupled with a trusted brand is a powerful one.

Vosene Kids shampoo featured an on-pack Peter Rabbit 2 promotion.
Vosene Kids shampoo featured an on-pack Peter Rabbit 2 promotion.

Licensing also popped up promotionally in Wilko – I spotted Vosene Kids shampoo featuring an on-pack promotion with Peter Rabbit 2. A reminder that licensing can work promotionally for well known brands and that there is scope for further development in these kind of categories.

Wilko also features licensing in categories like bedding with featured brands including Frozen. This reinforces the point that Wilko appreciates that licensing has a role to play for it, particularly in the children’s category. The approach does seem to be to use licensing in a selective way to top up the own brand offers and in selected categories in concert with trusted brands. My feeling is that there is scope for Wilko to use licensing a bit more in other categories, but that it might prefer for this to be lead by suppliers helping it to manage a licensing offer within a category rather than going it alone.

It was also interesting to see how Wilko is using different in-store selling techniques to connect with consumers. A good example of this is the work with JML, a direct selling company which specialises in categories such as cleaning and cleaning aids. It has an end cap in-store with a TV unit showing infomercials of a range of products that are available to buy in store. This is direct selling. It is an interesting model and maybe one that licensing should investigate further.

VANS has collaborated with The Simpsons on apparel and footwear.
VANS has collaborated with The Simpsons on apparel and footwear.

Outside of my visit to Wilko I saw that footwear brand VANS announced a new licensing partnership this week. It has created a VANS line featuring The Simpsons. The partnership includes footwear and apparel. VANS website describes this as a celebration of an American classic, “An American icon in its own right, Vans uses its collaborations to pay tribute to American culture”. VANS is a frequent user of licensing and it is always good to see its latest move in the sector.

I think VANS is a great example of how a brand can blend licensing into its offer and also a great brand to show other brands what licensing can deliver. Of course, this is also a great partnership for The Simpsons and reconfirms that this is a licensing brand with staying power.

Numerous licensed faces have made their presence felt at Waterloo's Leake Street.
Numerous licensed faces have made their presence felt at Waterloo's Leake Street.

Finally, I managed to visit Waterloo’s Leake Street last week and had chance to see some of the latest street art offerings there. Yet again characters featured – street artists seem to enjoy painting well known characters and take a lot of inspiration from film, TV and comics. This reinforces the fact that characters are at the centre of pop culture.

Featured characters this time included the Pink Panther, The Flintstones and South Park. Often paintings will only remain in place for a few weeks so they may well have already been painted over.

It is always worth a visit and seeing what is new artwise – I am betting that there will be a few characters from The Simpsons up on the walls soon. There is a VANS skatepark in the arches and I can imagine the opportunity to feature Bart in Bart VANS on the wall won’t be missed.

Ian Downes runs Start Licensing, an independent brand licensing agency. His Twitter handle is @startlicensing – he would welcome your suggestions for what to look out for.

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