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Face to face with… The National Gallery

We speak to buying and merchandising director, Judith Mather, about the gallery’s plans.

The National Gallery is a glorious place – elegant and refined. You feel calmed just walking around. It’s only natural that the many visitors it receives each year want to take a small part of it home with them.

A fast growing licensing programme – 15 of its 20 licensees have come on board in the last 12 months, and it also appointed JELC has its licensing agent in 2014 to help manage and develop the programme – means the gallery can meet the desires of its visitors.

Licensees do have to meet certain criteria though, as Judith Mather, buying and merchandising director for The National Gallery, explains: “Potential licensees need to be committed to the quality and values of the gallery. They need to produce ethical, good quality, well-designed products. We look for enthusiasm from a licensee partner and also passion for our brand. We also want to ensure that they have the distribution capabilities to support our strategic aims.

“So far we have had some exciting licensees join to increase market penetration and revenue potential.”

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Products currently available include stationery, bespoke wall art prints and posters, ceramics, jigsaws, toiletries, pocket squares, Delicious Art food and drink composite gifts, walking sticks, tote bags, cushions, jewellery and kitchen textiles to name a few.

In addition, the gallery has also attracted interesting new partnerships, such as that with interior design specialist Andrew Martin, and newcomer to licensing, Devancer, which has created the iBeani and beanbags for resting tablet devices on. Judith also says that DMC’s cross-stitch kits have been an “outstanding licence”, with the company being able to extend the range into other territories.

The next level of expansion will come in the form of the gallery introducing its greeting cards into Western Europe, North America, South America and Australasia.

Judith explains: “We want to appoint licensees in those regions to develop products within our core categories. We also want to recruit agents in Japan, China and the Middle East.

“The priorities for 2016 are table top, jewellery, fashion accessories, apparel (a potential fashion collaboration), cosmetics, art materials, expansion of outdoor and garden and to expand our Delicious Art range further.”

Reaction so far to the gallery’s acceleration of its licensing programme has been very strong, both from licensees and retailers. Judith’s aim is to now build relationships with a major high street retailer for the products, as well as independent retailers.

Considering the breadth and diversity of the gallery’s collection, products should certainly be able to achieve stand out on shelf – and also means there is room for even further growth.

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Judith continues: “The National Gallery is the third most visited art museum in the world and the second in the UK. It contains masterpieces from world-renowned artists such as Leonardo, Rubens, Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, Gainsborough, Constable and Stubbs.

“It also has a great location and an iconic building right in the heart of central London in Trafalgar Square.”

By the end of 2016, Judith would like to have achieved the successful expansion of its Delicious Art sub-brand and composite gifting into a major retailer. The range combines high quality food and drink with the gallery’s paintings, with lines including wine, champagne, chocolates, loose teas, gourmet jams and chutneys. And when she teasingly adds “watch this space”, you know a deal clearly isn’t far away.

Judith is clear on her longer term aims too: “In five years’ time I would like to have an international and UK licensing programme that is the best in the art sector.”

All of which means that more of us will be able to have our own little piece of The National Gallery.

This feature originally appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of The Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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