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Finding Footfall: Reflections and future gazing

Our regular column shining a light on retail trends kicks off the New Year by celebrating the successes of the last year and giving a glimpse into just some of what’s coming up in 2024.

At the start of a new year comes excitement of what’s to come and a renewed outlook. With this in mind, it feels a good time to celebrate the successes of last year, as we can’t look to the future without reflecting on the past.

The tricky retail trading environment that we were facing into does extend into 2024, but there is also plenty to look forward to at retail this year with the hope that consumer confidence is on the up and retail remains resilient.

FF2Partnerships we loved seeing last year included from the biggest brands in the world with the exclusive Disney homeware range at Dunelm and McDonald’s licensed collections such as Loungefly and Crocs. Also, the emergence of new retailers in the licensing sphere included Lush with the launch of Super Mario Brothers Movie, Barbie Movie and SpongeBob SquarePants inspired ranges; with the latter highlighted as being 100% plastic free and in partnership with Operation Sea Change to raise awareness for the environmental cause. Another up and coming retailer in 2023 was Miniso which broke through onto Oxford Street and announced its first collaboration at the close of the year with Care Bears.

It’s great to see retailers launching purpose-led product ranges like Fat Face with the Marine Conversation Society in the summer and Shelter at Christmas respectively. Whether it’s retailers launching inspiring products to encourage conscious shopping or offering us the opportunity to donate to chosen charities at the till; retailers once again showed the power for good they can do with each transaction made with their customers.

According to Diageo’s consumer trends report, there are a number of trends that will continue to grow in 2024 – one of these being ‘brand betterment’ where we want to see brands we love do good for the world. The report found 81% of people believe social media has increased pressure on businesses regarding environmental, social and governance accountability. The likes of Lush and Fat Face’s causal-first campaigns perfectly reflect this consumer feeling and it’s likely we will continue to see purpose-led partnerships come to life this year.

However, retailers should be cautious of just paying lip service to environmentalism – know as ‘greenwashing.’ The public have their finger on the pulse of their own environmental impact and also the companies they associate with so waving the green flag comes with a word of caution if not truly reflected in a businesses’ purpose and values.

FF3Another of the shopping habit trends Diageo is anticipating to see is how consumers are continuing to look to find meaning in everyday life and living well, often swapping things for experiences; which again is reflected in the licensing industry’s focus on location-based entertainment.

Examples of these from 2023 include Hasbro’s Monopoly Live, Universal’s Jurassic World Exhibition and Nerf Action Xperience to name a few that bring brands to life outside traditional retail and offer a truly unique and personal experience.

FF4Turning to 2024, across licensing and retail we’re looking forward to seeing some tentpole moments coming to life in stores and online with Noughties classic Mean Girls returning to screens as a musical with my teen self particularly looking forward to seeing how ‘fetch’ the Paramount offering on consumer products will be for fans. Other returning classics include Garfield, Beetlejuice, Gladiator and The Lion King telling Mufasa’s story all being released – plenty of throwbacks from the last four decades for us to enjoy on the big and small screens.

On the smaller screen, Netflix shared late last year and at no surprise to most the likes of Wednesday and Bridgerton’s prequel, Queen Charlotte, topped the charts and this was reflected at retail. With the latter seeing Bridgerton series three being released this summer – I look forward to seeing how the charming period is brought further to life through consumer products. To date we have seen Primark’s Bridgerton-inspired collection of nightwear, corsets, ‘tablescapes’ and stationery, as well as make-up by Pat McGrath and food, beverage mixes, tableware and gifts celebrating the regal styling from Williams Sonoma.

In children’s content on Netflix, we saw the highly anticipated Unicorn Academy come to the platform and, with a hugely positive reaction at retail, we look forward to seeing the supporting consumer products range come to life across toy, apparel, stationery and beauty. Like their adult counterparts, the younger audience is also looking for brands that share messages of positivity, friendship and teamwork and want to feel a part of it themselves.

FF6Despite the writers strikes potentially delaying content releases, the calendar looks strong with Marvel’s Madame Web, Paramount’s If, Disney’s Inside Out 2 and Universal’s Despicable Me 4 and Wicked all being released this year – which of these cross and see success at retail will be intriguing to see.

Anniversaries are also a key vehicle for moments at retail and with the likes of Rubik’s celebrating its 50th anniversary, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles not so teen anymore hitting 40 and Transformers also reaching the same milestone. There is plenty to capture the imagination of big kids this year and with retro and pop culture brands continuing to see growth from The Last of Us to Doctor Who to Five Nights at Freddy’s nostalgic brands are taking the high street by storm at the likes of HMV.

Also, event-led licensing will come to the fore with both the Euros and Paris Olympics the highlights this summer. However, other returning favourites include the F1 series, tennis majors, cricket fixtures aplenty including the Twenty20 World Cup, as well as a host of other sports for us all to enjoy. With sport continuing to be a growing area in licensing and examples of some sports brands like NFL merging into lifestyle, we anticipate retailers from grocery to more traditional sport, as well as apparel all hedging their bets behind some of the key sporting events this year.

FF1As we head into a New Year full of possibilities, I’ll take a favourite quote from Walt Disney which featured in the aforementioned Dunelm range – ‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible’ and at The Point.1888 we look forward to seeing what seemingly impossible innovations come to retail this year.

Mary Lewis is retail manager at Spotlight.1888, created in November 2021 to help brands and licensees with retail services, and retailers with licensing strategy.

Based on an extension of The Point.1888’s retail-first model, whereby new products are created based on the gaps seen at retail as well as what it thinks the brand’s target demographic might like, Spotlight.1888 works directly with retailers and brands to help them fill the gaps themselves using the agency’s retail team expertise.

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