Source chats to head of licensing, Dean Greasley, and Lorraine Westbury, director of corporate social responsibility, about the licensee’s ethical approach to business and how 2020 has been.
Firstly, how has business been for TDP since March when the initial lockdown happened?
Dean Greasley: We like others feared the worst, particularly as many customers kneejerk reaction was to cancel or postpone orders. Since then, we’ve had a superb reaction to the fact we carry a huge range of products in stock in the UK. Sales of these to our rapidly growing online customers and existing independents has been incredible and we’ve since been able to help some of the major bricks and mortar retailers too
And how is business now we’re into the key Q4 period?
DG: Overall, business is now solid but with a little hangover from the disruption of [previous] lockdown delays and cancellations. The success of our stock range has given us the confidence to increase this even further as we finish the year, knowing many retailers have a shortage of stock. We have some exciting new products due to launch in Q4 which we’re extremely confident in.
Have conversations with licensors been continuing? Are there any new signings you can tell us about?
DG: We’ve maintained constant regular contact with our licensor partners and kept them fully up to date throughout. This has proven beneficial and we’ve secured some major new signings as a result. On daywear we’re excited to have added Peppa Pig and Hey Duggee, two amazing preschool brands. On nightwear and underwear we’ve acquired the rights to Cocomelon and Nintendo’s Animal Crossing.
Lorraine Westbury: Communications with licensors have not only continued but have strengthened – for instance due an increased sharing of imagery, rather than physical samples, the processing of component approvals has been extremely efficient. This has facilitated a faster, more effective approval process, which in turn has improved critical path management.
What have been the top performing licences over the past several months?
DG: In difficult times people stick what they know, so it’s no surprise the Disney Classics, Harry Potter and PAW Patrol licences have all been very strong.
What has been the affect on your supply chain? What challenges does this present for the rest of 2020 and into 2021?
LW: COVID-19 has intensified the need for more complete and accurate supply chain data. Our primary concern has been to ensure production is manufactured and delivered in a safe and ethical way. One of the biggest challenges has been disruption to the supply chain in terms of sourcing raw materials and disruption to the production process due to COVID-19, which has been impacted by reduced and cancelled orders and delayed payments. Also, the disruption because of mandatory facility closures.
The biggest challenge for the factories has been the management of workforce in terms of maintaining skilled workers despite the reduction of orders by some retailers. TDP has supported factories regarding this issue by maintaining committed capacity. Another key consideration is the affect the pandemic is having on the people working in our supply chains, the impact on health and financial impact (food, rent, other necessities).
Is TDP still open to new business?
LW: We were never closed. Both branches of TDP (UK and India) have remained open since the start of the pandemic. Even during the period of lockdown in India, the lines of transparent communication stayed open between the UK and India teams, enabling TDP to continue day-to-day activity with the confidence of sharing accurate information with licensors and customers.
A vital benefit for TDP is our office and team in India – with office space of over 14,000 square feet, once the lockdown restrictions were lifted, the team in India were able to return to the office quickly with sufficient space for all employees to work safely. The size of our conference rooms enables meetings with factories to continue safely and responsibly without risk in accordance with government guidelines.
Virtual meetings between TDP UK and TDP India, including factories, are now the ‘norm’ and have proven to be a valuable tool during this time of restricted travel.
[The first] lockdown gave us an opportunity to review and adjust our operating practices to optimise the benefit of having our two offices, and the changes implemented are now ‘day-to-day’ practice for the teams.
COVID-19 awareness training has been conducted in TDP UK, TDP India and the facilities we partner with to ensure everyone is equally protected.
We have maintained a collaborative approach with the facilities in our supply chain, maintaining transparent and clear lines of communication with the increased use of virtual meetings and routine assessments. This focus on transparent communication not only supports the accuracy of the information shared with licensors and customers, it also enables us to extend our communications to worker level; an important factor for us during this period of restricted travel. Protecting workers throughout the pandemic and the recovery period at the forefront of TDP’s strategy. We have taken actions to protect the health and safety of the teams in the UK and India, also in the facilities in our supply chain.
Which licences do you have high hopes for during the rest of 2020 and into 2021?
DG: We’re expecting to increase market share as a result of all new signings, Peppa Pig, Hey Duggee, Cocomelon and Animal Crossing. We also have some big films planned to launch – Minions, The Batman and Space Jam to name just a few. From the existing portfolio, Friends and The Mandalorian are emerging as top performers.
Is sustainability still a major issue for TDP? What steps are you taking to tackle this and have they changed at all since the pandemic began?
LW: Most definitely, it was before the pandemic and continues to be so.
Our office in India is now 100% powered by solar energy and the water used is processed through our own water filtration plant. Our card point of sale on our own brand product is now entirely Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) sourced.
Disposable packaging is considered from the design stage with an agenda to simply reduce, use recyclable component, or consider a recyclable alternative.
With the retail landscape as it currently is, can new licences still breakthrough?
DG: With people wanting security it won’t be easy, however, more growth from gaming and YouTube content is sure to cut through.
Are we in danger of the licensed apparel category stagnating if retail isn’t open to taking a chance on licences outside of the evergreen ‘safe’ bets?
DG: With much change inevitable in so many areas and in such a dynamic industry, I don’t think stagnation is our biggest problem, indecision is. The bolder among us will make things happen by identifying and grasping the opportunities that are out there.
For TDP, what would you now most like to achieve by the end of 2020?
DG: Our objective is to take our teams and their families in the UK and India into an exciting 2021, in good health. We know we’re well placed for continued growth, thanks to talent, our commitment to ethics and sustainability along with a desire to continually enhance our product range.