LicensingSource chats to the licensee’s sales director, Michael Ball, to find out more on its future plans and how it’s eyeing up the opening of new doors at retail.
“The retail world has changed so much over the last five years and will no doubt continue to change and offer new challenges. We want to be able to meet these challenges and to thrive and continue to evolve our business as we do,” Michael Ball, sales director at Drew Pearson International (Europe), explains. “As the retailers grow in confidence after lockdown, we want to be there to offer the product that meets their requirements, to always have the best designs, best quality and surety on delivery.”
While there is the usual caveat of a global pandemic when speaking about the past year, Michael says that DPI is seeing the green shoots of recovery from several key retailers, with opportunities opening up in other sectors, too.
And DPI itself certainly hasn’t been resting on its laurels – it has been busy securing new licences and moving into new categories, with Michael confidently saying: “We want to be the first people that customers and licensors think of when they think of licensed accessories. We want to be the company that supplies the bulk of the market with great product and great service.”
In terms of success stories, PAW Patrol, Hey Duggee, Peppa and George have continued to lead the way in the preschool space, while CoComelon and Blippi are gaining momentum. Batman, Superman, Nerf and Xbox are must-haves for the older boys market, with Patrick and England Football working well in the sports/outdoor arena. In terms of new signings, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home will support DPI’s expansion into the lifestyle and gifting area.
“We are best known for our high quality baseball caps, knitted headwear, scarves and gloves and they continue to lead the way for Drew Pearson, but sunglasses and bags are now starting to feature more in our business and we have a lot more to come,” says Michael. “In spite of the difficulties on the high street, spring sales for retailers were fantastic on licensed properties with customers repeating within the season; initial feedback on AW is equally positive.”
Michael says that items such as bags, wallets, belts and sunglasses “sit perfectly” alongside its headwear and allow the company to offer complementary ranges that merchandise well together in-store. “We are always looking for innovative and interesting new product ideas that will complement our current offering, so watch this space,” he teases.
DPI was also boosted by an investment completed in 2019 on a ten-storey 500,000 sq ft factory in Bangladesh which now produces more than 60 million pieces of headwear per year. Over 6,000 workers are employed in the facility, while the benefits to DPI are also significant, says Michael.
“We have our own merchandising team within the factory that works exclusively for us, and our parent company ensures that we receive great pricing, the best possible lead times, world class product and exemplary service at all times. In a time when sourcing from China is challenging, it is essential that we have this fantastic facility available to us and retailers and licensors are now very open to Bangladesh as a source of well made, well priced product.
“There aren’t a great deal of headwear and accessories specialists in our world and we stand out as being a company that innovates, produces great headwear from socially and environmentally responsible factories that works with many of the key licensors and retailers.”
The long-term aim for DPI, says Michael, is to continue to grow the business and continue to improve in all areas along the way. “We want to open new doors at retail including additional space on areas with existing customers, but also to deal with entirely new buyers in garden centres, pet stores, high-end stores, new brands and the ecommerce customer base, too,” he concludes.
“Power outages, fabric and raw material price increases, freight charges, increased lead times to name but a few,” says Michael when asked about some of the biggest challenges facing licensees such as DPI currently.
“The issues with shipping from China has been the headline news for the last 12 months and although through the hard work of our great team we have managed to limit the impact on deliveries, it now looks like we are due to face new challenges due to the power restrictions in China.
“At the time of writing this, the full picture has not emerged in terms of how this will effect critical paths and ultimately delivery to customers, but we have a strong supply base and the flexibility to offer retailers options.”
New product categories, new licences and new retail partners are part of future growth plans for DPI.
“We are pushing forward to grow our position with ecommerce customers as this is a real growth area for us,” adds Michael. “We see opportunities in gifting, sports licences and collaborations, plus high-end retail.
“As our supply base is capable of producing many different products, we see strength in offering the retailers a complete look – headwear, bags, sunglasses, holiday shops, all from one source.”