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Know your audience… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes is reminded that licensing can come in lots of forms and styles this week.

As noted in recent weeks, retailers are in full festive mode now, with ranges in-store reflecting the Christmas sales opportunity.

It is interesting to see certain types and format of product coming to the fore – in publishing annuals are a good example of this. There are some other categories where particular products are pushed to the front of shelf for the Christmas season. In toys and games, it is boxed board games. This is a category that seems to be in growth generally, but Christmas gives it extra fizz as the products are bought as gifts but also as ‘family entertainment’ – Christmas is a time where family and friends get together and are likely to play board games together.

LL4Foyles is a good example of a retailer that is backing this category in depth. It has a dedicated space on the ground floor of the Charing Cross Road store for board games and puzzles. It is quite a substantial space as well. Within the board game offering there were a number of licensed lines. One selection theme seems to be backing board games based on popular TV game shows. These bring big brand names and often recognisable ‘talent’ – they also fit well to the idea of ‘family entertainment’ and families choosing to play a game together. Examples of this include Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel and Richard Osman’s House of Games.

It also stocks the Popmaster Board Game – this is based on Ken Bruce’s very popular Radio 2 music quiz. It is quite refreshing to see a brand built on a radio show featuring. There was also a presence for games based on programmes from platforms like Netflix, an example being The Queen’s Gambit board game. It is clear that TV (and radio) tie ins are a strong component of the board game market particularly at this time of year.

LL5Foyles also supports jigsaw puzzles in depth with a large selection. Licensing wise, one puzzle that was particularly interesting was a 750-piece shaped puzzle featuring the Liberty shop – the design featured a lovely illustration of the iconic Liberty shopfront. I believe the puzzle was published by a US company.

I am guessing Liberty as a brand resonates well in the United States as a classic British brand. But it also speaks to the uniqueness of Liberty that a retailer like Foyles is happy to stock a product featuring another retailer.

LL3As a former purchaser, I received an email update from Biscuiteers recently. It was introducing a new licensed range featuring Paddington Bear. The range includes a biscuit tin and a postable letterbox friendly giftbox. The products include a Paddington biscuit and a Marmalade jar shaped biscuit, along with other designs featuring iconic London images. It is a well presented collection and uses the Paddington licence well. It was also interesting to note that the Biscuiteers products are available in Hamleys, reinforcing the fact that Paddington is a brand that has strong appeal and resonance with visitors to London. It is also interesting to see a retailer like Hamleys stocking a product like this, but again a reflection that retailers are taking a much more flexible approach to what they sell these days and are less rigid in their product selection.

Having received the product update via email, I was reminded how important it is becoming for companies to have a direct relationship with consumers. With product updates and news they can really engage with consumers. From a licensing point of view it is much more common to have conversations about supporting product launches through email marketing and social media these days. Paddington has been a very busy bear recently, as I also noted he now has a London bus tour where you can have tea with Paddington. Again a great example of a new style of licensing and building Paddington’s profile in the visitor marketplace.

It was also interesting to see how different types of licensing are making an impact in the independent gift retail sector. Independent retailers are a core part of the retail mix and it is easy to overlook them sometimes. They can have a particular strong impact in and on local high streets. It is increasingly common to see independents in the gift sector selling a mix of product categories. Of course independents also buy and select to reflect their customer base and often their geographic location.

LL1I was further reminded of the uniqueness of the Liberty brand by a product range I saw in a gift shop at Cowdray Park. It was selling a range of products such as hot water bottles and make up bags by Alice Caroline which feature a Liberty print and are accompanied by the distinctive Liberty swingtag.

The product range suited the retail environment and from Liberty’s point of view this partnership gives it access to a network of retailers in a kind of outreach programme. It helps reinforce its brand credentials and remind consumers about the brand.

LL2I also visited Gilbert White’s House – a very interesting location and a site that has its own gift shop as well. Here again it has selected product to suit the shop and the location including art-based ranges. A big part of its product selection are stationery lines such as Notecards from Art Angels which feature illustrations from a number of artists featuring subject matter like birds, nature and country scenes. The product and subject is well chosen for the location and a great example of how art licensing can have an impact in the independent marketplace.

Licensing can come in lots of forms and styles – it is easy to forget that licensing features in a broad spectrum of retailers, but increasingly it seems that success in licensing and retail is about knowing your audience … including those that might be tempted by a sweet biscuit or two!

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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