We chat to licensing manager Cathy Snow about how the brand can continue to grow.
While the Royal Horticultural Society has worked with some licensees for over 20 years, just recently its licensing programme seems to have moved to another level.
There are currently more than 50 licensing agreements in place – with a large presence in the gardening and gifting categories (both for inside and outside the home) – all utilising the glorious images which are held in the RHS Lindley Library.
And there’s more to come too – the RHS is looking to expand further into the apparel, food and toy categories over the next few months.
“We look for partners who understand the values of the organisation and the positive impact that gardening can have on people’s lives and well-being,” Cathy Snow (pictured above with RHS director general Sue Biggs), RHS licensing manager, explains. “Our programme is carefully balanced, with a good spread of experienced licensees with excellent distribution channels and partners who have excellent craftsmanship selling to niche markets.”
This solid mix of partners means that despite the unpredictable British weather, the RHS has seen some strong sales of its licensed product across the board so far this year – with Cathy saying that a record high in royalties was returned to the end of June.
Several licensees are also enjoying success outside of the UK. Cathy continues: “A number of our licensees are enjoying considerable export business to the Far East, Australia and also the US. Other licensees have plans to expand abroad, too. We have also enjoyed success in the Scandinavian countries and across Europe.”
Future growth is also being earmarked in the apparel category, with Cathy saying the RHS is keen to develop both practical outdoor clothing and high fashion. Meanwhile, child-specific product is also being targeted.
“We’re keen to create a fun and informative range of products for children, so they can start to enjoy the garden with their parents and grandparents and to encourage horticulturists for the future,” Cathy explains. “Our work with schools – and the Campaign for School Gardening – is hugely important to the organisation and we hope to create merchandise that sits with this.
“And, as we grow so much fruit and veg at every RHS garden and endorse many products to help gardeners get the best crops, we wanted to look at developing a food offering, too.”
The future certainly seems rosy (excuse the pun) for the RHS in the licensing arena, and it is steadily moving towards a target of £1 million which it has been asked to generate for the organisation within the next two years. As well as new categories and territories, the RHS will also delve deeper into the vast botanical archives to release more artwork for licensees and look for new ways to use it.
“I hope the licensees feel we’ve created plenty of promotional opportunities this year – I certainly feel RHS licensing has stepped up a gear,” enthuses Cathy. “We are really exceptionally proud of our licensees and the products they create under our brand.
“I genuinely feel that the RHS has something for everyone through every season. I can’t think of any other charitable organisation that has such a diverse remit and a broad worldwide reach and appeal.”
Two of the RHS’ three top licensees in terms of best selling product are within the gardening sector, explains Cathy.
Burgon & Ball has a range of endorsed tools and gifts for gardeners, while Apta has pots and planters which are sold by over 1,000 garden centres throughout the UK. Markets in Japan and Australia are also performing well.
Wax Lyrical is the top gifting licensee for the brand with its range of home fragrances.
Cathy continues: “Then we have a cluster of significantly growing deals ranging from greenhouse (Gabriel Ash), china and textiles (Churchill China, Royal Worcester, The Present Company, Ulster Weavers), stationery (Frances Lincoln, Carousel Calendars, Michael O’Mara, Padblocks), toiletries (Bronnley) and many more.
“There is also a growing ‘made in the UK’ specialist group of licensees such as Sitting Spiritually (bespoke benches and swing seats), Whichford (hand thrown terracotta pots and planters) and Moorcroft (fine art painted pottery).”