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Face to face with… Santoro London

We chat to general manager Jo Campbell about a stellar year for Gorjuss in 2016.

“The pace of business this year is really accelerating! Last year was a strong year for Santoro but this year is incredible,” sums up Jo Campbell, general manager of Santoro Licensing. And leading the charge in this growth is the company’s strongest brand, Gorjuss, which launched back in 2010.

Santoro as a company is unusual in its business model in that it sits with a foot in both the licensor and licensee camp. The company tends to launch a new branded collection with its own products first (gifts, stationery and accessories) to establish it at retail and then follows with licensed products. That is exactly how Gorjuss came to life, but as soon as Santoro’s initial products hit the market the phones started ringing.

“I think the unique thing is the artwork itself,” Jo suggests. “It’s so beautiful, captures you instantly, and really speaks from the heart.” Gorjuss was created by Scottish artist Suzanne Woolcott and has been acquired and is now totally managed by Santoro.

Fast forward to 2016 and the pace of growth is still accelerating. “New business proposals are coming in every week, with many licensees pitching to develop new product categories,” Jo reveals.

“There’s lots of new contracts being signed, and many, particularly our Spanish licensees, are really pushing to get product out for the fourth quarter. For instance, we recently signed a beach towels licence with Textil Tarrago and it can’t have been more than three weeks later when they shipped in first samples from Brazil.”

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Jo points out that it’s also a sign of the brand’s growth that it is expanding into such an array of exciting new categories. In the beginning the majority of the licensing programme was with back to school products across Europe. Products now range from home baking, slippers, collectables, watches, lunchbags, EDT, toiletries, arts and crafts, luggage, apparel, book and publishing to dolls, puzzles and toys.

There have also been many success stories already this year. “If I were to pick out a couple it would be Paola Reina’s Gorjuss doll collection, and the collectable Photocard collection from Panini,” says Jo.

The products are a complete contrast – one selling in over 25,000 kiosks in Spain, launched December 2015 with sales of 1.25 million photocard packets being reported by end of quarter one 2016.

“On the other hand six most beautiful Gorjuss dolls, with beautifully stitched clothing, made in Spain, retailing at approx €50, launched at Nuremberg Toy Fair,” adds Jo. “They are not only selling in Spain but now in 16 other countries.”

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Notwithstanding the surge of new licences, in April this year Santoro found out that Gorjuss had been awarded the accolade of Best Licensed Art & Design Property of 2015 for Gorjuss in Spain, which is presently the strongest market for Gorjuss, followed by Italy, Greece, and France.

Outside of Spain there are exciting developments afoot too. “I’m also very excited about a big brand collaboration within the stationery sector that I can’t mention just yet, but when that comes to fruition I’ll be beside myself, as will my eldest daughter,” fizzes Jo.

On home turf in the UK, Santoro is looking to grow its retail presence for Gorjuss and it has strong plans in the offing to grow into what Jo describes as the “premium mass market” for 2017.

One step in the domestic retail growth plans was the opening of the Santoro shop in Bath in November 2015 which is a destination shop to showcase Santoro’s products.

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“Customers travel for miles to visit the shops,” says Jo. Walker Books is also doing its bit for growth in the UK with Once Upon A Gorjuss Time, a new collection of Gorjuss themed fairy stories launching.

Looking ahead the Gorjuss brand has been breaking into the world of toy this year, and Jo promises toys will be even stronger in 2017 with new licensees and products planned for release worldwide.

Of course, Gorjuss is not the only property in the Santoro stable, with Kori Kumi launched last year and the programme has got off to a really strong start with many categories signed. Additionally, there is a select licensing programme for teens and adults for the property Mirabelle, while a craft-based property Willow is growing in stature, too.

“It’s a really exciting time at the moment at Santoro and it is extremely gratifying to see our brands growing,” concludes Jo.

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

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