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Magic in the making… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes takes a look at how Lakeland is using licensing and brands in its Christmas gifting offer.

Retailers publishing their Christmas catalogues is a retail moment I have always looked forward to, but one I suspect that we will see less and less.

The switch to online and digital retail being one reason, while I suspect some retailers are also looking at the cost of production plus, of course, environmental concerns when weighing up the value of printed catalogues. I still think that a well produced paper catalogue has a role to play in retail marketing particularly at Christmas when it is reasonable to think that consumers take more time to weigh up purchases and plan their gifting campaign.

I spent time perusing the Boots catalogue last week, while this week I dived into the Lakeland catalogue. Lakeland has traditionally been a heavy user of catalogues throughout the year. I assume it feels that its core consumers are comfortable using printed catalogues and that this adds to the shopping experience. Bearing in mind the range of products that Lakeland sells, many of them fall into the ‘considered’ purchase category and consumers probably welcome the opportunity to read about them at leisure.

I would also reflect that not all consumers are digitally savvy or indeed digitally switched on. For some consumers printed catalogues are a welcome way of shopping in combination with store visits and in-store purchases. Lakeland has 68 stores nationwide with many of its stores being in prime high street or shopping centre locations. I would imagine recent trading has been tough, but of course its core product categories include kitchenware, bakeware and food – all of which seem to have been categories that have performed reasonably well during lockdown.

Lakeland's pitch is that its catalogue is '...packed with Christmas magic'.
Lakeland's pitch is that its catalogue is '...packed with Christmas magic'.

Licensing wise Lakeland has licensed its own ranges in recent years and is also a stockist of other licensed lines from manufacturers, but these products are part of a wider product mix that includes a lot of well known and trusted brands from categories like bakeware and cookware so it is quite tough to create a stand out impression in-store.

Lakeland’s pitch is that the catalogue is ‘..packed with Christmas magic’. It is tapping into the Christmas feelgood factor and the fact that it is a time for family and friends. This family time plays well in Lakeland’s core areas.

Food is a key feature of the Lakeland Christmas catalogue including gifting formats. It is big on flavour and taste: one aspect of this is a range of hampers that are themed around foodstuffs such as a Garlic Lover’s Hamper and a Taste of Italy Hamper. It seems to have a broad base of suppliers which allows it to access a good variety of products and formats. It stocks an own brand Whisky Lover’s Hamper which includes Jim Beam Triple Cooked BBQ Pork Crackling which I presume is sourced from a licensee, while it also features Harris & James’ Rye Malt Whisky Chocolates which are produced in association with Adnams.

Vintage Ladybird Books-branded travel sweets feature among the confectionery in the catalogue.
Vintage Ladybird Books-branded travel sweets feature among the confectionery in the catalogue.

It also features a selection of Mr Men & Little Miss sugar confectionery and chocolate products including Christmas Jellies, Snowballs (vanilla bon bons ) and mini Chocolate bars. These are all good gift items and also stocking fillers. It is also featuring vintage Ladybird Books-branded travel sweets. These are in tins and feature well chosen ‘tongue in cheek’ artwork including The Ladybird Book of Budget Airlines and UK Rail Travel – the latter visual features, you guessed it, a bus! Mind you I think we would all love the opportunity to take a Replacement Bus Service at the moment. The Ladybird brand in licensing terms has made good use of its vintage art assets coupled with humour. It is a good example of how assets can be repurposed and targeted at specific market sectors.

Lakeland is a go to retailer if you are looking for tinned biscuits – it has a great selection. With art based designs it is difficult to know if these feature licensed designs, but one licensed product that stood out was an Airfix Spitfire biscuit tin. Trading on nostalgia and with a vintage feel it is an interesting selection, but one that works well from a gifting point of view. Hopefully the biscuits don’t come in little pieces that you have to stick together!

As noted earlier, Lakeland uses a lot of well known brands and, of course, creates a lot of own brand product so it is a tough place for licensing to find a home. Numbers wise I think licensing would only make up a small percentage of the overall stock it is currently carrying. This should mean that Lakeland is a retailer where there is growth potential for licensing, but my sense is that it is deliberately cautious and considered in regards to licensing. A position that may have been influenced by some of its past experiences.

Mary Berry has contributed a Double Chocolate Traybake recipe.
Mary Berry has contributed a Double Chocolate Traybake recipe.

Against this cautious approach and thinking of its traditional customers, it is no great surprise that the doyen of bakers – Mary Berry – features in the catalogue. Mary has contributed a Double Chocolate Traybake recipe to the catalogue and has an ‘exclusive’ Non-Stick Traybake product featured (nicely coordinated with her recipe). Likewise it has developed an exclusive range with Prue Leith. The range – branded as Prue’s World – includes items such as bamboo steamers and a casserole dish. The collection is influenced by Prue’s global travels.

Lakeland is a retailer that I think is a bit of a destination store where consumers know they can find what they want, get some advice and buy products from trusted brands. In that sense Mary and Prue fit in with other brands such as Kenwood, Morphy Richards and Cole & Mason. But there is probably room for some new brands with an eye on younger consumers.

The V&A has a presence in the catalogue with a range using William Morris and J H Dearle prints.
The V&A has a presence in the catalogue with a range using William Morris and J H Dearle prints.

Lakeland provided further confirmation that heritage brands are firmly on the licensing and retail radars. The V&A has been a trailblazer in the category and has developed a very strong licensing programme. It has a full page in the Lakeland catalogue with a range using William Morris and J H Dearle prints on products such as Lip Balms, a Trinket Tray and a Compact Mirror. In the context of Lakeland, V&A offers a low risk way for it to offer a personal care range and using floral patterns is a relative safe bet design wise. It is a well constructed range.

It will also be interesting to see if Lakeland persists with its commitment to catalogues. Like many retailers, I guess this is a big Christmas for it.

Beyond the catalogue I have noticed how increasingly there is a trend for brands and companies to work together – maybe this partnership approach has been fired up by the challenges we all facing. Working on the basis that one plus one can make three. There are some interesting partnerships out there.

One that caught my eye was the growing partnership between Ginsters and Quorn. Following on from the launch of Quorn pasties and sausage rolls earlier in the year, the partnership announced a vegan version of Ginsters’ peppered slice this week. This is a reflection of changing consumer habits and a reflection from Ginsters that the Quorn brand carries a lot of weight in the category.

The Illy coffee brand is working with Italian illustrator, Olimpia Zagnoli, while Jackpot peanut butter has teamed with The Conran Store.
The Illy coffee brand is working with Italian illustrator, Olimpia Zagnoli, while Jackpot peanut butter has teamed with The Conran Store.

Similarly Asda and The Entertainer teaming up is another example of partnerships being forged in new ways. Asda is also teaming up with B&Q.

Two other unexpected partnerships were announced in The Grocer this week – further evidence of free thinking at play.

The Illy coffee brand has developed a Limited Edition can design with Italian illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli to be launched exclusively in Waitrose, while Jackpot peanut butter has created its first ever bespoke pot. The pot has been created for The Conran Store.

Both look good enough not to eat or drink!

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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