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“I’m hoping we will see immersive experiences for fans return in 2021”

Source chats to John Taylor, vp Northern Europe and md UK & France at WildBrain CPLG, about success in the competitive preschool space.

Firstly, which preschool brands are you currently focusing on?

We’re currently focusing on WildBrain’s Teletubbies and In the Night Garden, which have become perennial favourites with a strong licensee base. We’re also starting to develop the fantastic publishing properties The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Mog the Forgetful Cat from HarperCollins Children’s Books, which are go-to first reads for any parent. Tiger Who Came to Tea recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and we’ve had a really positive retailer response to the property following this milestone occasion.

Can you run through how the licensing programmes for each are shaping up?

For In the Night Garden and Teletubbies, we have licensees who have been with the brands for a long-time, and are continuously looking to innovate and create new products which are still aligned with the DNA of each brand. We also continue to see strong retail buy-in across both properties, with regular new listings, demonstrating how these beloved IPs are still front of mind with parents.

For Tiger Who Came to Tea and Mog the Forgetful Cat, we are in the early stages of these programmes, but already have some best-in-class licensees on board and we’re looking to launch the first products for spring/summer 2021.

Teletubbies has become a perennial favourite, says John, with a strong licensee base.
Teletubbies has become a perennial favourite, says John, with a strong licensee base.

Have you seen any major trends emerging over the course of 2020 in the preschool space?

With all the unexpected and strange challenges 2020 has brought, it seems retailers are going back to what they know best and looking at brands they already know and trust. We are in a fortunate position to have properties that tick these boxes, such as Teletubbies and In the Night Garden. With the lockdown, we also saw parents looking for products to draw their children’s eyes off screens, which has meant role-play and arts and crafts have enjoyed a strong performance so far this year.

How healthy do you think the preschool licensed sector is in general?

The preschool sector has certainly come a long way and we have seen some huge steps forward in recent years. There’s been some key multi-million-pound brands which have really opened retailers’ eyes to the strength and power of licensing.

The licensing programmes for The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Mog will see products launch for SS21.
The licensing programmes for The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Mog will see products launch for SS21.

What are some of the key challenges that you think the sector is facing going forward (retail recovery from COVID-19, lack of shelf space, risk averse retail, etc)?

Before the pandemic, there was already a squeeze on shelf space and if you weren’t in the top three brands, it was very tough to get a foot in the door. COVID-19 has compounded this pressure as retailers are really looking at safe, trusted brands to drive sales in what is a competitive retail environment.

However, specialist retailers still play a huge role, as they are able to put their own stamp on a brand, gain great sales and become a destination for IPs which may sit outside the top-three brands. We are seeing some fantastic collaborations within this space, helping our brands stand out from the crowd.

Retailers turned to brands they know and trust during lockdown, such as In the Night Garden says John.
Retailers turned to brands they know and trust during lockdown, such as In the Night Garden says John.

How easy is it for new brands to break through at the moment?

It’s a very competitive environment right now. Preschool brands need patience and careful curation of the licensing programme – the properties which have turned into household names and evergreens have generally taken at least three years to become a consumer products success. Brand owners are naturally looking for return on their investment, which has the potential to be huge, but it can take a little while to come to fruition in the preschool market.

What would you most like to achieve for your preschool brands from the remainder of 2020 and into 2021?

There is nothing better than popping into a store and seeing your brands lining the shelves. In 2020, we have some exciting new product launches happening over autumn/winter, but naturally a few have been pushed back to spring/summer as a result of COVID-19.

Live events are also a key focus for the preschool market and are particularly important for brand awareness, so I’m very much hoping we will see immersive experiences for fans return in 2021.

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