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Christmas is coming (at least for Boots)… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes takes a look through the Boots catalogue to see how the retailer is preparing for the festive season.

Christmas is coming. Well at least at Boots. I picked up Boots’ Christmas catalogue this week. It is interesting that it is sticking with the paper catalogue format. Maybe this will be reviewed in future years, but at the moment it seems to be a perennial part of Boots’ Christmas strategy. Licensing plays its part throughout the catalogue.

One general observation is that Boots has made sure that its gift offer includes a number of low price points – the front cover calls out ‘over 750 Gift Ideas from only £5’. I am guessing they feel it is important to cater for consumers who may be operating on a tighter budget this year. With so many work places empty at the moment or running on reduced staff levels, it will be interesting to see if the Secret Santa economy survives. Secret Santa in the office seemed to drive a lot of low value purchases with gift spend limits of £5 to £10 seeming to be the norm in offices. We may also see a Christmas season devoid of office parties as well. Boots is also pushing a 3 for 2 offer on gifting as well.

One of the first ranges in the catalogue is a new BBC Earth bathroom range. The range features sustainably sourced wrapping and to quote the catalogue is “focusing on reducing waste and abandoning single-use items”. The range includes washbags, soap bars and a recycling bag for bathroom recycling. It is a well coordinated range and is, of course, of the moment. I am sure it will look good in-store. It is also linked to information on sustainability via the BBC Earth website so it may have an influence on shaping consumer behaviour as well.

One category that is flourishing seems to be Advent Calendars. Things have moved beyond paper or chocolate Advent Calendars and it is now a gift format that is used in numerous categories. Boots features a Wizard of Oz No 7 cosmetics Advent Calendar and also a Harry Potter one centred on personal care as well.

The Boots' catalogue calls out 'over 750 gift ideas from only £5'.
The Boots' catalogue calls out 'over 750 gift ideas from only £5'.

In its value range brands such as Friends, Harry Potter and Disney feature, while Boots also includes other retail brands such as Joules in its offer. Boots also dips into the fashion market to create products such as a FILA gift set that features boxer shorts, body spray and body wash. Featuring well known brands makes sense as they catch the eye and are safe bets in terms of impulse purchasing. FILA is a brand that crops up in other places in the catalogue and seems to be one that Boots is backing. Part of the motivation for this seems to be to tap into the ‘dad’ market with a throwback to brands from the 1990s.

Licensing wise, Friends seems to be a property on the rise as it seems to pop up in a range of retailers. It is a brand that has benefitted from increased availability of the TV programme and, of course, strong support from the licensor. It fits well into a lifestyle and life stage for certain consumers; many who watched the series when it originally launched are now catching up with these Friends again. Boots has used Friends in categories like make up with a Friends Eyeshadow palette from Mad Beauty. Cleverly packaged to include a faux Friends mirror, this is a great example of pushing a brand further with a focus on bespoke design.

Boots also works with designers and celebrities to create ranges. One example this year is a beauty range developed with designer Julien Macdonald. The range is linked to and inspired by Julien’s London Fashion Week Show. Again it is well presented on the page, seems very authentic and is well coordinated from a design point of view. This is a great example of how celebrity lead brands have to work a little harder these days to stand out and appear authentic. Arguably consumers can see through a shallow partnership. This one seems like a genuine collaboration that has seen the designer get hands-on in development terms.

Not surprisingly Boots also features a large range of fragrances for Men and Women. Many of these feature brands that have crossed over from other categories including Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Mont Blanc. In this category there is a lot of work put into bottle designs and shapes to give products stand out in a busy category. Extending this into the body care category, brands such as Ted Baker, Champneys and Joules feature. Character wise Harry Potter features a lot with comic style artwork of characters like Hagrid.

Boots’ offer includes electrical gifts incorporating categories like haircare, toothbrushes and shavers. This seemed licensing light and there may be scope for more brand licensing in this category. Wellness is also a big theme for Boots and in this category it was interesting to see the Eve mattress brand having a full page of products positioned as ‘new and exclusive’ including bed socks, a hot water bottle and bedtime set including a room spray. This is a good example of how brands can emerge from new categories and have a relevance in licensing terms especially if there is a commitment to a focused product range that is ‘on brand’.

The National Gallery Delicious Art food gifting range is a long-term partnership with Boots.
The National Gallery Delicious Art food gifting range is a long-term partnership with Boots.

Boots also carries a significant food gifting range. One of the stars in this category is the National Gallery Delicious Art food gifting range from Scoop. I think this is the third or fourth year this range has been in Boots. This year, the catalogue also features a British Museum Tea Time set. Further evidence that heritage licensing is gaining traction with mainstream retailers. Boots also taps into food, beverage and restaurant brands like Jack Daniel’s and Nandos to create gift items such as a Jack Daniel’s Four Sauce Selection Set.

In a very comprehensive catalogue and offering, Boots also features products for children including gift items such as Spider-Man bath sets and Peppa Pig plush. It also features an apparel range which is a partnership between Boots and Mothercare. Other featured brands include Disney Princesses and The Snowman: with a rather fetching moulded bath soap in a gift pack format. Boots also features some Early Learning Centre items and also has a charity link with the NSPCC via a Lindt chocolate Teddy Bear.

As the Boots catalogue proclaims there does seem to something for everyone at Boots at the moment. It has pulled together a great range which includes some noteworthy licensing ranges. A feature of the use of licensing is an attention to detail in development terms with a real effort to be ‘on brand’ and the support of certain licences on an ‘exclusive’ basis.

It's important to get your priorities correct when moving home.
It's important to get your priorities correct when moving home.

Outside of Christmas catalogue viewing, my recent week has been dominated by the Festival of Licensing which I think was a great success and a very welcome platform. It was nice to catch up with so many people albeit virtually and to have some very progressive conversations. I left the Festival in a very upbeat mood.

I have also moved home/office recently – new address details below. Many friends and family have kindly sent me ‘New Home’ cards. I reckon we have received around 30 cards which I think is a good result for me and the greeting cards sector! One observation I made though was that very few of these cards appeared to be licensed ones. One licensed card was a Happy Jackson one. While my favourite card was from Woodmansterne and designer Ian Blake. The image on the card pretty much summed up my new life!

I think there is scope for a few more licensed New Home cards – Friends would seem a good bet for this category, while in my own work I will be pushing for a Wallace & Gromit New Home card. I am sure Wallace would oblige with a Welcome to Your New Home invention!

My new address – cards not compulsory – is: Fletten House, Alma Road, Headley Down, Bordon, Hampshire GU35 8JR.

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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