Start Licensing’s Ian Downes reports back on another busy week of looking out, from The Gift Awards to Superdrug and M&S, DISTOY and London Stationery Show.
I attended The Gift Awards (Gift of the Year x The Greats Awards) last week. We sponsored one of the awards to promote Wallace & Gromit to the gift trade.
I am pleased to say I think this sponsorship was a great success: we had a lot of positive comments about Wallace & Gromit during the evening. Even the host gave a positive shout out to Wallace & Gromit and the Wrong Trousers. The awards themselves were a great success. It was wonderful to see the gift industry celebrate together. The evening was a further sign that things are getting back to normal in business. So normal that maybe I don’t need to think that anymore.
As I had attended the awards, I stayed overnight in London and as a result I was able to get some early morning looking out in. I decided to pop into branches of Superdrug and Marks & Spencer near Paddington.
One category that I couldn’t report on in Superdrug was perfumes and fragrances. I am sure there were a lot of licensed products in Superdrug’s offer, but they were positioned behind the tills. I thought about asking for help but I did think it would be a bit odd at 9.30 on a Friday morning to ask the assistant to “show me your licensed perfumes”. I suppose it is a sign of the times that perfumes have to be locked away. I wonder if this secure display impacts impulse purchasing.
It is supporting the Marie Curie Charity with fundraising linked to product purchase. The partnership is promoted throughout the store and by window posters. It is a well chosen partnership and a good fit for Superdrug.
Thinking about how personalities are used in promotions and partnerships it was interesting to see a range of cosmetics called Flower by Drew. This was a range developed by actress Drew Barrymore. It wasn’t clear what the deal was, but it is a good example of how well known personalities are used in this category to develop and promote ranges. Drew Barrymore appears prominently on the sales material in-store and the range certainly stands out in a crowded fixture.
There were some interesting examples of licensing elsewhere in Superdrug. One in particular that caught my eye was a range of hairbrushes by Wet Brush featuring Disney characters including a limited edition Rapunzel one which seems a natural for the category.
Licensing also features in categories like multivitamins with Haliborange’s Mr Men & Little Miss range a prominent player in the category. I think this is a relatively long-term licence and one I assume that is performing well. Licensing has traditionally been featured in the dental hygiene category with licensed toothbrushes and toothpaste having been around for some time, but now it seems like the larger brands are leveraging licensing to add to their core ranges. Examples include Oral B Disney toothbrushes and Colgate x Minions toothbrushes.
I think in this category consumers are probably looking for the reassurance of a well known brand name, while the bigger brands have recognised that well known characters can help recruit new consumers who may then become brand loyalists from an early age. It was also good to see Carex is still working with the Love Hearts brand on products such as handwash and hand gel. Again this seems to be a successful long-term partnership and the licence is adding some additional fun to the category. It is good to see licensees such as Haliborange and Carex sticking with their chosen licences and seemingly enjoying ongoing success through licensing.
I moved on from Superdrug to the Edgware Road branch of Marks & Spencer. This is a fairly large branch but I would guess around 50% of it is a Food Hall. Location wise that would make sense in terms of the customer profile which ordinarily would be office staff, commuters and tourists (plus of course local residents – it is easy to forget that there are local communities in central London).
Overall I thought M&S felt a little bit licensing light, but that could be explained by the store format that was skewed towards its food offering. It could also be that I missed things! But I was a little bit surprised given that M&S has traditionally been a big supporter of licensing. That said there were some noteworthy examples to report on.
In the children’s clothing department it seems that Peter Rabbit is an ongoing success and there were some lovely products such as babygros featuring nice detailing like applique and embroidery. There was also a good range of Harry Potter product with a fresh design that has a nod to the sports world. Other brands that were featured in the children’s clothing section were Thomas, Star Wars and Batman.
In other parts of M&S it was difficult to find too much licensing, but it does have an ongoing partnership with TV personality Fred Serieix who curates M&S’ wine selections under the banner of Fred’s Wine List. Again, a good example of how personalities can help retailers create a point of difference and also help navigate the consumer journey in store.
Within greetings cards I didn’t spot any licences but it was interesting to see M&S promoting its Father’s Day range with a prominent FSDU. One department that did feature a lot of licences was children’s comics and magazines. Licensed titles were the dominant force in this area. Happily the fixture was a tidier and less cluttered than the ‘average’ comics retail display. I am sure this will please the publishers and the designers – you could actually see most of the covers and appreciate the great design job done on most of them.
One interesting aspect of M&S’ product range is how Percy Pig is being used across product categories. Percy was featured on ranges like party paperware and ice cream sauces. He also featured on a Father’s Day cards. I am guessing M&S has recognised the appeal and value of its own IP and that in certain product categories Percy can do as good a job as a bought in character.
To reinforce the fact that business is back on a normal track in terms of events and meetings (last time I say that honestly), I actually attended two trade shows in one day this week. I visited DISTOY which is a great way of meeting a board range of international toy partners and looking at distribution opportunities. My feeling is that licensing and the potential of licensing is more widely acknowledged in this world now. Interestingly I met a lot of licensing colleagues at DISTOY who seemed to be having very busy and productive days.
I also visited the London Stationery Show. Licensing highlights included Manuscript Brands featuring a large range of LEGO pens and pencils. This is a range that has been around for a while, but it is a great use of the LEGO licence and works well in the category. Indeed it was recognised by the show organisers in its awards as it was listed as number one in the Licensed Stationery of the Year category.
Other products featured in this list included Moleskine x Missioni notebooks and Gorjuss craft kits from West Design. It was good to see licensed products highlighted in this way at the show.
It was also good to see Puckator at the show. Puckator has a great range of licences including Shaun the Sheep, Asterix and Minecraft. It showcased its Original Stormtrooper range prominently along with Minecraft and Pac-Man. It is also well known for its solar pals figurines and these were on display with the likes of Wallace & Gromit featured. It is good to see a licensee using an event like the London Stationery Show to reach new customers and explore new avenues of distribution.
The Puckator range is also a reminder that retailers in the category are looking for a variety of products and also that new opportunities have emerged through lifestyle changes such as more people working from home these days. All home office desks would probably benefit from a solar pal!
Talking of the sun make sure you pack some sunscreen if you are off the Las Vegas. Wishing all my licensing colleagues a safe and successful visit. I am sure Vegas: the Comeback tour will be a big hit. Let’s hope you don’t bump into Mike Tyson and any tigers though.
Ian Downes runs Start Licensing, an independent brand licensing agency. His Twitter handle is @startlicensing – he would welcome your suggestions for what to look out for.