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Keeping up with the Joneses… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes heads to Peter Jones in Sloane Square for a dose of licensing-specific Christmas cheer.

Even after nearly 30 years or so in licensing, there is still a great thrill in seeing products that you have helped develop being on sale in shops.

The Peter Jones store on Sloane Square had certainly decked the halls.
The Peter Jones store on Sloane Square had certainly decked the halls.

This week I popped into the Peter Jones store in Sloane Square. Peter Jones is part of the John Lewis Partnership and the Sloane Square shop is considered a flagship store. It is situated at the foot of the ever fashionable King’s Road.

It is a lovely shop to visit throughout the year, but even more so at this time of the year. It has certainly decked the halls with wonderful Christmas decorations.

The Nadiya Hussain kitchenware range from Bliss was attractively displayed in a dedicated space in the store.
The Nadiya Hussain kitchenware range from Bliss was attractively displayed in a dedicated space in the store.

Anyway back to the product. I popped into store to check on Bliss’ Nadiya Hussain kitchenware. I wasn’t disappointed as I was directed to the product by a very helpful staff member who knew instantly where the product was located. Service with a smile and shop knowledge!

Peter Jones has a really well developed display of Nadiya’s products in a dedicated space which is attractively displayed. It was great to see the whole range on sale and gave me a real sense of achievement to see it in-store.

We can often get tied up with the day to day in licensing and seeking out new deals, overlooking deals we have already done. This partnership is now entering its fourth year and seems to be going from strength to strength. It is very satisfying to see the range in-store and to know it is selling well. My tip is to get out to a few shops and see your products.

The Ken Hom range is a reminder that product can travel from trade show to shop floor.
The Ken Hom range is a reminder that product can travel from trade show to shop floor.

Located near the Nadiya range were some Ken Hom products including a four-piece carbon steel wok set. This caught my eye as I remember seeing the Ken Hom range at a trade show earlier in the year. It was quite reassuring to be reminded that product can travel from trade show to shop floor. A reminder of the importance of trade shows.

In the case of this product, it was also a reminder of the importance of strong and distinctive packaging. Ken features strongly on his products with an on-trend portrait in a fetching shade of blue. It works well in-store. In Nadiya’s case she, too, appears on her product but Peter Jones has also included a show card with Nadiya on it with notes about her. This adds to the authenticity of the range.

I also saw Le Creuset’s Harry Potter range. Again the product range was well presented and ranged with a dedicated table feature area. As an aside I think the display, merchandising and presentation of product in Peter Jones was generally excellent. The Le Creuset product features well crafted Harry Potter branding, for example on product handles. It is obviously a range and product launch that has been well thought out and considered. I believe Le Creuset has previously developed a Star Wars range. I imagine part of the appeal of developments of this kind is to draw in new consumers and open up gifting opportunities.

There is always a challenge for a well known and established brand when creating licensed ranges. There is a challenge over maintaining existing customer and retail relationships, while developing new ones. Presumably Star Wars worked for it and has encouraged it to develop more licensed products. Of course, it is very welcome to see brands like Le Creuset engaging with licensing in such innovative and creative ways.

The LEGO zone was guarded by a Batman display figure.
The LEGO zone was guarded by a Batman display figure.

Licensing was on show in other parts of Peter Jones. One particular highlight was within the toy department which houses a large dedicated LEGO feature area. It is easy to forget that LEGO didn’t always embrace licensing, but of course now it is a leading player both in terms of inbound and outbound licensing. Definitely a company that provides good ammunition when constructing an argument to demonstrate licensing works.

A feature of the LEGO zone at Peter Jones was a Batman display figure. A nice touch and piece of retail theatre. There were some great examples of licensed LEGO products on show including a 2,049-piece Batmobile Tumbler set and a Sesame Street street scene.

It was also good to see examples of innovation such as a Mickey Mouse/Minnie Mouse product that features two build options: you can make a Minnie or Mickey picture with the same pieces I believe. This is an 18 + product billed as a LEGO art product and is a good example of how LEGO has managed to age up without losing its place in the children’s market and also create an art movement. There were, of course, a lot of other Disney products pitched at younger ages and at cheaper price points – the Mickey/Minnie product is over £100.

There was lots of product innovation on display in the LEGO zone including a two-build Mickey/Minnie Mouse line.
There was lots of product innovation on display in the LEGO zone including a two-build Mickey/Minnie Mouse line.

Peter Jones’ LEGO department was well stocked and featured a full range of LEGO products including Minecraft and Super Mario. Both these brands and ranges being great examples of how the worlds of gaming and toys are crossing over so often these days. A further example of LEGO’s licensing credentials was a licensed LEGO Rainbow Bricks 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. A good example of the creative use of a creative brand.

Another category that Peter Jones is supporting in depth that features a lot of licensing is board games, which were part of the Christmas Emporium on the ground floor. Featured in this space were classic brands such as Top of the Pops, Crystal Maze and Mr & Mrs, alongside a number of new players such as Richard Osman’s House of Games. The connection between TV programming and licensed board games was reinforced with the presence of a Top Gear board game.

Then & Now artwork of Waterloo Station was part of Gibsons' jigsaw offer in-store.
Then & Now artwork of Waterloo Station was part of Gibsons' jigsaw offer in-store.

Board games is a product category that is very fertile ground for TV production companies to explore licensing in. Given the central London location of Peter Jones it was no surprise to see a display of London Underground jigsaw puzzles and boxed games. It featured two games – Race The Rails and Connecting London from Gibsons, alongside jigsaws from the same company. Sure these products have year round appeal, but also do well in the Christmas gifting market. They are great London gifts. For someone who grew up in Waterloo I was also pleased to see Gibsons classic jigsaw featuring Then & Now artwork of Waterloo Station from 1848 and 1948. And no I wasn’t featured in either painting!

Another licensing and product highlight for me was found in the baby and nursery department. There were some great examples of high-end plush and wooden toys featuring licensed characters. Wooden toys in particular seem to be an area of growth for licensing and one that is showing some great creativity. Featured characters included Peter Rabbit, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Winnie the Pooh. Disney has also developed a nice line of Dumbo wooden toys showing how it makes the most of its extensive character portfolio.

A Dumbo wooden toy range is one example of Disney making the most of its extensive character portfolio.
A Dumbo wooden toy range is one example of Disney making the most of its extensive character portfolio.

It was also encouraging to see some great representation of licensing in the ceramics department with brands such as Morris & Co featuring plus Sophie Conran, Joules and an interesting ‘collab’ between Cath Kidston and Harry Potter.

My five minute pop in to Peter Jones to check on Nadiya’s products turned into 45 minutes of licensing looking out – it gave me renewed enthusiasm, lots of ideas and a real sense of encouragement that licensing has a real role to play in retail and that retailers like John Lewis/Peter Jones recognise that licensing can make a positive contribution to their business.

I recommend a visit especially at this time of the year – it is definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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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