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Ladybird: “Books can often be an entry point to a brand”

Geraldine McBride, Ladybird publishing director and Leanne Gill, Ladybird licensing publishing director, on Bluey, Peppa, new launches and how books give consumers the chance to engage with a brand again and again.

How was your preschool publishing business in 2023?

We had another strong year for our preschool publishing in 2023 with our overall TCM value +2% against a soft UK market. We are very pleased that Penguin Random House (of which Ladybird is an imprint) retained its position as #1 preschool publisher for yet another year. We are particularly proud of our Ladybird licensed publishing in Peppa, Hey Duggee and of course the unparalleled new (ish) kid on the block – Bluey.

What were some of your big successes?

As the home of Peppa, Bluey and Hey Duggee, we have a standout preschool licensing list which resulted in a great year in 2023. One of our highlights was selling over 900,000 Bluey books through UK TCM and having Bluey books in the top 20 of the preschool charts 105 times! Our globally bestselling series Ten Minutes to Bed also reached new heights in 2023, selling over 1 million copies through UK tills – a huge, and rapid success for a series published first in 2018.

GeraldineLeanne500x500What new launches do you have coming up in the sector for 2024?

We’ve just launched our first picture book for Milo, the adorable and adventurous little black cat from Channel 5’s Milkshake. Milo lives in a launderette with his parents and dresses up to explore the vocations of their customers while their clothes are being cleaned. We are also excited to launch a new character from one half of the creative duo behind our bestselling Ten Minutes to Bed series. Chris Chatterton brings us a new toddler character in Uh Oh, Niko! – an interactive series with flaps and sliders helping a little bear through his everyday routine. Launching with Uh Oh, Niko! Bathtime and Bedtime we can’t wait to see toddlers and care-givers fall in love with the accident prone Niko.

How important is licensing in the preschool publishing sector?

Licensed publishing is so important at any age – we bring children to books through the characters they already love and help to create readers of the future with familiar favourites.

Milo500x500What ingredients does a successful preschool book/magazine need, in your opinion?

A really successful preschool book is one that parents love too. After all, they’re the ones who’ll be reading it again, and again, and again! That’s why Bluey, Peppa and Hey Duggee are so successful, as readers of all ages can see their own family lives reflected in the stories.

How healthy is the sector in general, in your opinion? What are some of the main challenges that publishers such as yourself face (cost of living, retail, lack of shelf space, sustainability, costs such as shipping, etc)?

The sector remains buoyant, but it is not without challenges. We continue to tackle the dual challenge of the cost of doing business and the cost of living crisis.

Bluey500x500How can retailers outside of the publishing space – for example, toy and nursery retailers – make the most of stocking preschool books to complement their offer? What are the main benefits to them?

Books can often be an entry point to a brand. They offer a physical product that explores the brand characters and the world deepening a child and care-givers connection to those characters. For the consumer, offering books alongside toy, apparel and other products, gives the chance to further engage with the brand with a book that they will read again and again. For the retailer, books offer a way to increase basket size – they make a great impulse add on for gifting or for on-the-go entertainment to keep little ones happy.

UhOhNiko500x500What would you most like to achieve in the category by the end of 2024?

We aim to retain our position as number one preschool publisher in the UK and continue to see our books reach consumers old and new. With so many new and exciting books publishing in 2024 from recognised brands like Bluey – and new characters such as Uh Oh, Niko! – we continue to strive to be the trusted home of playful books for little hands that help children grow and develop lifelong love of reading.

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