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Face to face with… Misirli

We chat to director Kim Bown about the licensee’s aims heading into 2017 and beyond.

When you arrive in Leicester, it is clear it is a city still in a buoyant mood – the worldwide press coverage that ensued from its Premier League winning football team and the reburial of Richard III has certainly helped put a spring in its collective step.

Just outside the city centre, in Thurmaston, apparel licensee Misirli also enjoyed strong success last year – boosted in no small part, not by football blue, but by Minion yellow.

Coming off the back of a great year often means, of course, that there is a bit of a lull the following year, and the loss of BHS from the high street has undoubtedly been a blow to many in the licensing trade. However, Misirli is in the process of setting itself up for next year and is eyeing further growth – with the preschool and luxury areas being key.

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“What we are doing internally is putting a structure in place that allows for our business to grow,” says Kim Bown, one of the directors at Misirli. “Up until last year it was myself, Gary [Bown] and Ihsan Erturgut. Now we have a management team of five people, including Faye [Hillard, who has been promoted to design manager], who are putting a strategy together for the business, that they will then go and deliver.”

That succession means that Misirli is in a great place to take advantage of the opportunities which Kim says are still out there. “Even though there are challenges, there are huge opportunities to harness and to deliver next year and onwards,” she says.

Meanwhile, Melanie Humberstone-Garley came on board last year to help bolster the licensing side of the business. And this is an area that has really geared up for the company, in particular on the sock side, where it currently has a healthy portfolio.

“Our sock portfolio has enabled us to get into retailers that we previously weren’t in, including George which we opened up this year,” Kim continues. “Mel helps to coordinate what we do – she makes sure that Misirli is ‘seen’ and feeds back general updates on what’s happening, follows up leads and sees new properties.

“Mel also works with Faye to coordinate all of that internally, so that we can bring it all together and bring it to the business.”

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Misirli’s business is probably evenly split between licensed and non-licensed, says Kim – as well as its nightwear and underwear lines, it has a solid own brand sock division (in both children’s and adults), and also turns over a healthy amount of direct to retail business. Its 11-strong design team is well respected for its handwriting, quality and being able to deliver on time.

In terms of category expansion, there are plans for the preschool space – nothing was ready to be announced at the time of press, but Kim did say the company is looking at a couple of new licences currently, as well as hinting at something a bit bigger, too.

Meanwhile, Misirli will also be launching a new luxury designed brand. The initial launch will be ladies premium socks aimed at online and high-end retailers, with the brand name set to be unveiled shortly.

Recent signings include Sausage Party, Garfield, Animal Jam and Justin Bieber, as well as Bob the Builder, Star Trek, The Power Puff Girls and Wissper.

Disney and Marvel brands, as well as classic properties such as Peppa Pig, Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are consistently strong sellers.

Faye is looking forward to seeing more from the hotly tipped Moana, as well as Despicable Me 3 – “the style guide artwork looks really good”.

Faye continues: “Toy Story is ramping up again already, while I think Finding Dory is going to go bigger.”

The design team also takes cues from the fashion trends of the moment – with one of this summer’s being a tropical theme – and then think about how they can link them back to licensed characters.

It’s clear that Misirli has ambitious plans, but it has also put in place a solid structure to make them achievable. However Leicester performs on the football pitch this season, there will still be one part of the city celebrating success.

(Main picture, left to right: Melanie Humberstone-Garley; design manager Faye Hillard; and directors Kim and Gary Bown.)

This feature originally appeared in the autumn edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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