It’s time… Christmas is coming… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes takes a dive into the Boots Christmas 2021 catalogue this week, and finds a healthy showing for licensed character and brand names.

Christmas has arrived. Well at least in Boots.

This week Boots launched its Christmas 2021 catalogue. It is a retailer that has stuck with a printed catalogue which is distributed in-store via branded FSDUs at the front of stores.

The Christmas 2021 catalogue is titled Bags of Joy and the Christmas range is promoted throughout store with signage. That said, not all products have arrived in-store yet and the planning process is still underway, but it is clear that Boots is going big on Christmas gifting this year.

A central plank of the campaign is a 3 for 2 offer with the cheapest gift of the three being free. It is a strong offer. The range encompasses personal care through to food gifting and includes the likes of toys and perfumes. A real sign of the times is that there is a double page spread of beard care products!

It is a feature of this catalogue that Boots is acknowledging the backstory of featured designers. Another nice touch is that members of the Boots team are featured with their comments and observations on items in the range.

Boots has launched its Christmas 2021 catalogue this week - entitled Bags of Joy.
Boots has launched its Christmas 2021 catalogue this week - entitled Bags of Joy.

Licensing features strongly throughout the catalogue and the range.

Christmas sees Boots list products and brands that it might not list at other times as it develops an offering that it feels will appeal to consumers, but also set it aside from its competitors. In categories like composite gifting and food gifting, it works with a range of specialist suppliers.

For me the stand out range, and the one I was looking out for, was a gifting range based on our client Kendra Dandy’s Bouffants and Brokenhearts brand.

The Kendra Dandy gifting range has been developed remotely and showcases her distinctive contemporary style.
The Kendra Dandy gifting range has been developed remotely and showcases her distinctive contemporary style.

Kendra is a US-based artist and designer who has a distinctive contemporary style. Her designs include very striking depictions of cheetahs and also self portraits. The range includes items like desk calendars, plant pots, reed diffusers and candles. The range and Kendra are featured on a page in the brochure and featured in the introduction to the catalogue.

This is a real feel good moment seeing it launch, not least as it is a range that has been developed remotely. My colleague Karen Addison lead the way on this and she, the supplier, Kendra and Boots have done a fabulous job.

Advent calendars have evolved from the traditional paper and chocolate treat calendars. It is now a category that encompasses product-based calendars with Boots featuring brands like Joe & Seph’s popcorn through to the English Tea Shop. Licensing features in this category with the likes of Disney Princess and Marvel Avengers Bath Advent Calendars.

There is also a dedicated Secret Santa section. It will be interesting to see how offices run their Secret Santa gifting this year, but it is clearly a category that Boots is happy to support. Licensing again plays a key role in this selection including food gifting lines such as a Nutella mug with small jars of spread included and tinned shortbread from Dean’s featuring artist Stephen Brown’s signature Highland cow design. Other licensed lines here include Friends mugs and coasters.

It is also interesting to see licensing being applied to formats like boxed card games – for example for £4 you can buy a Disney 90’s Film Trivia quiz. Might be a good revision pack for the forthcoming Light Fund Southern Quiz Night!

The range and Kendra are featured on a page in the catalogue and also featured in the introduction.
The range and Kendra are featured on a page in the catalogue and also featured in the introduction.

The Boots’ catalogue is divided into core sections and selections such as Make Up, Beauty and Skincare. These categories seem to be dominated by big brands, but Disney features strongly with a range that includes Star Wars, Disney Villains and Disney Princesses with the likes of make up bags, eyeshadow palettes and sleep masks. It is a well coordinated range with bright design work.

Another feature of this range is a Winnie the Pooh facemasks selection which features some charming illustrations of Pooh, Tigger and Piglet. This range is from Mad Beauty I believe. Within this overall category, as well as household names from the beauty and personal care world, Boots taps into fashion brands like Ted Baker to create gift sets.

In the men’s gifting section products include sock sets featuring Sonic the Hedgehog and The Grinch. Interestingly, products also include other apparel lines such as loungepants. These include The Grinch – I think we will be seeing a lot of The Grinch this Christmas. Within men’s, Boots again taps into fashion brands to create gift packs with brands such as Fila, FCUK, Fat Face and Superdry being featured. Men should be okay for socks this Christmas as a lot of these gift sets featured socks as an additional item.

It seems a sensible move for Boots to work with Davina McCall in a category like exercise.
It seems a sensible move for Boots to work with Davina McCall in a category like exercise.

Other noteworthy ranges include an exercise range presented by TV personality Davina McCall. The range includes items such as yoga mats, free weights and ankle weights. Davina is a well known, well established and trusted personality. It seems a sensible move to work with her to create an offering in a category like exercise.

Boots also features Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place range which is a wellness range with a focus on products that help with sleep and relaxation. In both cases both celebrities are featured in the catalogue which adds to the authenticity of their involvement and is a good sales aid for Boots.

Food gifting is a big part of Boots’ Christmas offer. The range mixes ranges from FMCG suppliers which I presume work directly with Boots, but also includes a number of licensed ranges created by specialist licensees for Boots. These licensees take the licence from brand owners and then create bespoke products for Boots.

Brands featured here include The British Museum with an Afternoon Treats pack of tea and biscuits using Japanese print artwork. Costa Coffee has a full page with gift sets featuring coffee cups, coffee and biscuits. Restaurant brands are also a feature with Nando’s and Yo! featuring. FMCG brands such as Pot Noodle are also included.

Being featured in Boots’ Christmas offer is good business for brands in terms of the revenue returned, but probably more importantly for them is the brand exposure this activity brings and the chance to build a relationship with consumers. In many cases it is a reinforcement of the gift recipients’ love for a brand.

Costa is among the licensed food gifting offer in the Boots catalogue.
Costa is among the licensed food gifting offer in the Boots catalogue.

Licensing is also a key feature of the childrens’ offer with brands such as Harry Potter, Marvel, Peter Rabbit and Crayola being used to create bath sets and stationery gift packs. My sense is that Boots places an importance on developing ‘exclusive’ offers and products in this category. Indeed it flags up that certain products are ‘exclusives’. I think this helps give it a competitive edge and also allows it to design product formats for its consumers. Given Boots’ long-running involvement in gifting programmes, it has a lot of accumulated experience to draw on in product development terms.

While not all products are on shelf yet, it seems Boots has created a very strong Christmas offering this year and it is one that licensing features heavily in. On a personal note it is great to see Kendra Dandy and her artwork getting this level of exposure. It is a reminder that retailers and suppliers are open to working with ‘new’ brands providing there is a strong case for them doing so.

Given the quality of the gifting offer and the 3 for 2 offer, you could do a lot worse than take a trip to your local Boots this year. There is even something for The Grinch there this year!

Finally, it was the London Marathon on Sunday. I popped along to see a few runners. I was pleased to spot the LicensingSource’s editor Samantha Loveday running the marathon and to give her a cheer of encouragement along the way. As well as being a great editor, Sam is a fantastic runner. Well done Sam!

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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