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Retailers are working hard to ‘sell’ on the high street… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Some window shopping reveals some of the challenges that the high street is facing for Start Licensing’s Ian Downes this week, however there are also a number of positives.

This week I went window shopping. I spent a few days in Bristol meeting with a client and some of our licensees. One of the nice things about staying in Bristol is that it is an easy city to walk around and you can have a nice morning stroll. My walking route took me through a couple of shopping centres and streets, but I was up early so the shops were closed so my looking out was confined to looking in windows.

One general observation I made was that the majority of retailers – big or small – are making good use of their windows and have recognised that this is a valuable bit of their retail estate. There were some very engaging and imaginative window displays on show. Of course, not all of them had a licensing connection.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that I also saw a lot of ‘dark’ windows – shops that had been closed or were closing down. For example a branch of M&S has been closed in central Bristol while Shoezone was flagging up a closing down sale. This is, of course, a retail reality at the moment and trading conditions are tough.

LL1Thankfully there were also some positive signs with new shops opening. For example I spotted a supersized photo of footballer Erling Haaland on a billboard covering a shop in Cabot Circus – looks like a new jewellery store is opening. Haaland’s image was certainly striking and hard to miss.

It was linked to a Breitling watch which Haaland is promoting. A good example of how sporting personalities are being used to promote products particularly in the luxury goods area – they bring credibility and for some consumers are aspirational ‘role models’. Footballers in particular are attractive to luxury brands, not least as the Premier League is a ‘global product’ now.

LL5Continuing the theme of brand ambassadors, not far from the Breitling billboard there was a branch of Yankee Candle.

It was using the window to promote its partnership with model and influencer Vogue Williams – she is working with Yankee Candle to highlight specific products and fragrances.

A further example of how brands are using celebrities to promote their products particularly celebrities that can bring an audience with them.

LL4My tour of Bristol’s windows took me to Waterstones where I saw a great display for a book published under licence from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. The book, What Do You See When You Look At A Tree?, was displayed in a really clever way by Waterstones. It used multiple copies of the book to show the cover and also interior spreads showcasing the artwork really effectively. It also included a plant as part of the display.

The children’s book is published by Templar and written and illustrated by Emma Carlisle. A really good example of a retailer using a product to sell itself as in this case the watercolour illustrations are first class and visually appealing. Of course, having the endorsement of Kew makes the book an even stronger proposition.

LL3Waterstones was also using its window displays to promote its commitment to manga. It is shouting out that ‘New Manga (is) Arriving Daily’. A sure sign that manga is a good seller for them and drawing in consumers.

It was also interesting to see The Television and Movie store in Bristol. A specialist retailer. Another sign that fan culture and fandom are growing trends in retail. Interestingly this shop was using Funko pop vinyls as a core part of its window display, promoting a price driven Funko Pop Deal (3 for £40 if you are interested). This shows the selling power of Funko pop vinyl and how some products can be real footfall drivers for retailers.

LL2Although pop culture isn’t just confined to specialists – as reported on previously, LUSH is running a product range and promotion with The Super Mario Bros Movie. The range was highlighted prominently via window displays and in-store. This probably gives a good clue to the role of this range for LUSH – it is a range that will draw attention to the retailer and drive footfall. I presume it will appeal to specific consumers who may not be existing LUSH customers and in that regard is a really interesting use of licensing as part of a retail marketing strategy.

Outside of my window shopping I also picked up a couple of flyers for stage shows in Bristol. These were Judith Kerr’s Mog – the Forgetful Cat and David Walliams’ Demon Dentist. Both shows have been developed and produced under licence. A really good reminder of how licensing is making an impact and in-roads into the theatre and live events category. This underpins the pulling power of well established characters and brands.

While my window shopping walk revealed some of the challenges that the high street is facing, it also encouraged me that retailers are working hard and creatively to ‘sell’ on the high street with licensing playing a strong part of this initiative. It was also encouraging to see some new shops opening… hopefully retail will have a ‘good’ Easter.

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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