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How Boots is looking to bring joy this Christmas… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes explores how the retailer has curated its Christmas gifting offer for 2022.

The 1st of October seems to be the date that retailers unleash their Christmas ranges. Certainly a quick retail tour I undertook last week suggested that Christmas stock is coming into a store near you any time now. Retailers take different approaches to how they present their Christmas presents and how they market their ranges.

Boots is a retailer that catches the eye in terms of its approach to Christmas retailing. It focuses its efforts on a well produced paper Christmas Gift Guide. This year’s edition is titled Joy For All and stretches to 150 pages: it is quite an undertaking and a significant investment. I used to be responsible for a 300-page catalogue when I worked in publishing so feel for the Boots catalogue team. It is a creative and practical challenge pulling a catalogue like this together.

LL1The Boots Gift Guide has been an annual event for it for some time, so it is fair to assume it is a formula that has worked well. The catalogue is promoted strongly in-store and is freely available to customers in branded FSDU dispensers near the shop entrance/exit.

Boots also takes full advantage of its loyalty card scheme and sends out tailored offers to consumers on its database with offers linked to the Christmas ranges. Within store most of the Christmas products are grouped together in a Christmas Shop space. This is a fair amount of space and again indicative of the importance of Christmas to Boots. A challenge it faces is coordinating product being on shelf as the catalogues are released and people start planning their Christmas purchases. I think Boots is still pulling in product into store as I did spot a few gaps on the shelves of stores I visited.

Licensing plays a significant part in Boots’ Christmas range. That said it isn’t always clear what ranges are licensed ones rather than brand extensions, particularly in the toiletries category. Boots works with a range of licensees including composite gift specialists like Kimm & Miller, Beams, SLG and Scoop to develop own brand products in categories like food gifting.

LL2Certain ranges are highlighted in the introductory pages as ‘exciting new brands’. These include a range of baking tools developed by TV chef and baker John Waite. John also starred in and, was a finalist, in Strictly Come Dancing. His range has a full page in the catalogue. Other brands featured in the front of the brochure include Radley. Established in 1998 in Camden Lock Market, Radley seems to be a brand that uses licensing in a targeted way to broaden its reach and product mix.

A strong category for Boots appears to be advent calendars with the traditional format adapted to have a gifting element featuring product categories like cosmetics and toiletries. Brands featuring in this selection include Joules, Laura Ashley and Eleanor Bowmer. The concept stretches into food and drink with the likes of The English Tea Shop and Joe & Seph’s featuring.

LL5The brochure taps into the Secret Santa vibe with a section packed full of budget friendly gift ideas. I am guessing retailers are increasingly aware of the squeeze on consumer spending and seem to be responding to this challenge with tailored product offers. On a personal note, it was great to see our client Kendra Dandy and her design, Bouffants and Broken Hearts, featuring here. This is the second year that Kendra has been part of the Boots gifting range. This year’s products include a trinket tray that features Kendra’s bold and bright designs. It is good to see Boots embracing contemporary design like this. Other brands featured include Friends which now seems to be an evergreen brand in gifting. Disney characters feature as well. It is also good to see the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog featuring – products include lighting from Fizz Creations.

Of course, beauty is a core category for Boots. Brands dominate the category. Always difficult here to sort licensed ranges from non licensed ones, but what this category shows is the enduring power of brands in it and how Boots has built relationships with these brands. Within the catalogue Boots brings in some nice editorial touches to help sell particular products and ranges, with contributions from buyers and category experts. In some cases it even features celebrities – for example, Kylie Jenner presenting the Kylie cosmetics range.

Other brands that feature in the beauty, cosmetics and skincare category include Ted Baker, Joules and Radley. Fashion brands seem to crossover well into Boots’ territory.

LL3Mad Beauty and its Disney range feature heavily with products such as headbands, face masks, hair scrunching and lip balms. The packaging uses characters well, such as Disney Princesses, with a consistent ‘up close’ style coupled with bold and bright colourways: when grouped together it is very effective.

Fragrances are also a key part of the Boots offer. Again, in this category brands loom large. Other significant categories include men’s grooming. Here brands such as Champney’s and Ted Baker appear. Ted Baker has a number of male grooming shops and this range dovetails well with that development. From an entertainment brand perspective, Star Wars, The Grinch and Peaky Blinders appear.

LL4Other significant categories that feature licensing are food where composite gift sets include the likes of Friends, National Gallery and Costa Coffee. This category also leans on restaurant brands a lot – one reason being that casual dining restaurants are well known but also help curate specific cuisines in gifting terms. Featured brands include TGI Fridays and Nandos. Food brand Bosh! is also featured reflecting changes in consumer behaviour in terms of food and diet.

A final category to note is the kids gifting section which is perhaps smaller than you might expect but, not unexpectedly, features some licensed products including Harry Potter and Disney.

Overall, licensing features prominently in the Boots catalogue which is encouraging and underpins the value of licensing in the gifting sector. Within a busy period like Christmas, gifting well chosen licences can help consumers navigate through the buying journey and help them make buying decisions. Boots curates its Christmas offers well. The product ranges are well supported through the catalogue and coordinated with its direct marketing efforts. Hopefully it will be a good Christmas for Boots. I hope I haven’t spoiled anyone’s Christmas morning 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.

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