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Face to face with… Wow Stuff

We talk to founder Richard North about the company’s plans in the gifting sector.

When Wow Stuff first began 10 years ago it kicked off with the Science Museum licence. Back then the company’s founder Richard North recalls the company was initially seen as “just another licensee in a packed roster” but he truly believed the company could innovate and fill a niche with innovative gifts.

“Over the next three or four years we became the master licensee [for the Science Museum] almost by default because we kept innovating and the products kept selling,” Richard recalls.

Other early licences Wow Stuff signed include the Natural History Museum and Mensa, with the relationships still ongoing to this day.

In true entrepreneurial style, three years ago the company decided to enter the competitive toy arena. “We thought we could apply the same successful formula to toys, but the toy industry relies on you having scale to start with,” explains Richard.

Despite some huge successes in toys, including the introduction of Dave the Monkey (which sold 250,000 pieces in just six weeks) and the creation of Giant Air Swimmers, Richard admits that the mechanics of the toy industry and lengthier development time for toys prompted a rethink and led him to completely re-structure the business.

The company bought back the large chunk of the business it had sold to private equity when Wow Stuff diversified into toys and effectively divided the company in half two years ago.

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Wow Labs is now the company’s toy division which acts as the inventors and creators of innovative toys, but handing over the process of manufacturing and marketing under licence to leading toy manufacturers.

Meanwhile Wow Stuff is refocusing on its goal to become the number one gifting brand in its sector.

A little over eight months ago the company signed the Mr. Men and Little Miss licence with some 30 lines, which all embody Wow Stuff’s trademark innovative approach, are currently with retailers for feedback.

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Undoubtedly though the jewel in the company’s brand crown at the moment is its The Great British Bake Off for which it recently signed as master toy licensee.

“It’s such a colossus,” Richard says of GBBO. “15 million people tuned in for the finals – that’s more than the World Cup finals!”

Lines will include everything from tote bags through to cake slicers, stands and cake forks, but all done with what Richard describes as “real thought”.

Other licensed brands in the Wow Stuff portfolio include new lines from the Natural History Museum, MENSA, Doctor Who (for men’s gifting) and Dangermouse which sit alongside its own trademark brands.

Richard promises there will be more brands to come into 2017. “We’re doing lots of work on trending and looking way ahead now so you can expect more inventions and some surprises along the way.”

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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