Returns to the high street and Jersey royals… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes reports back on some good examples of licensing activity from a recent a trip to Jersey this week.

As reported by LicensingSource on Wednesday, there has been some good news retail wise this week with HMV announcing the re-opening of its Oxford Street store. Thinking about the history of that store and its location it is good news for Oxford Street itself – the HMV shop was a feature of the Oxford Street shopping experience and shopping there was a real highlight for me. It is also a measure of the ongoing success of HMV and its focused approach to retailing.

The team at HMV are category experts and have built up a great rapport with the licensing community. They understand their customers and what they want well. I have dealt with HMV recently regarding Wallace & Gromit and found it to be a very worthwhile exercise. Fingers crossed the Oxford Street shop will prove to be a success and I look forward to taking a stroll down memory lane with a visit there soon.

Closer to home for me these days I was also pleased to see Waterstones re-opening in Petersfield. It is encouraging to see ‘big name’ retailers opening shops and supporting town centres.

Despite the positivity around new shops opening we can’t ignore the fact that retailing is hard going at the moment, but it seems like retailers are looking at new ways of tackling this. I recently flew out of Gatwick Airport and did some Looking Out while waiting for my plane.

LL8One highlight retail wise was a shop called Curi-o-city. It has bought into licensing in a significant way, but also in a way that acknowledges the location of the shop. It had a number of feature bays in-store. Brands featured included a range of London Zoo (ZSL) plush, while there was also a range of Natural History Museum products alongside a larger range of Paddington products. The other featured brand was Harry Potter. All four brands would appeal to domestic and international travellers. The product mix reflected the location as well in regards to price and type of product on sale.

It was encouraging to see this store featuring licensed products and brands in such depth. Selling in locations like this can be complex, but it is a good example of how brand owners and licensees need to be tuned into new ways of retailing.

LL6Indeed, with this thought in mind it was interesting to see WH Smith trying something different at Gatwick. It has created a separate retail space under the Kids’ Stop by WH Smith banner. The location I saw is in the middle of the concourse on the walkway to the departure gates and I guess works on a ‘grab and go’ principle. The retail space was open and you can quickly walk through it. It was supported by illuminated POS on the sides of it.

Given this site is all about quick purchases and grabbing consumer’s attention it was no surprise that it featured well known brands such as Paddington, Harry Potter and also tapped into the football market with some Topps products. It was also interesting to see companies like Aurora and Ty supporting the concept. I am not sure how long this retail feature has been in place, but I think it is good to see retailers trying new formats and also good to see licensing being used in this context.

LL5Licensing featured in other retail locations at Gatwick. One range that caught my eye in particular was a partnership between Swatch and Dragonball Z. Swatch was supporting this collection prominently in its store. Swatch uses licensing in a careful and considered way. Working with Dragonball Z is a great example of how it embraces pop culture and is open to different types of IP. In other locations licensing featured in other watch collections and in categories such as eyewear.

I travelled a day after the Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards and being ‘in the field’ at Gatwick was a good way of tieing some of the Bellas threads together – it was good to see lifestyle, personality and heritage brands being used across a range of products.

LL2I was flying out to Jersey primarily to visit World War 2 sites and as part of this itinerary I visited the German Underground Hospital. A fascinating and thought-provoking site. As a visitor attraction it comes with a gift shop. Continuing the theme of selling products where consumers are, sites like this one offer suppliers the chance to reach a focused and engaged group of consumers. Supplying individual shops is probably labour intensive, but I imagine the trade off is repeat orders and higher margins. There was a branded FSDU featuring licensed Airfix jigsaw puzzles. One of the products includes an Airfix kit. A very smart way of a licensed product delivering the core brand experience.

Other licensed ranges included a range of IWM jigsaw puzzles from Lagoon. This is a reminder of the growing strength of heritage licensing, but also the fact that smaller museums seem content to buy other museum branded products as they can’t commit to MOQs, but are keen to find products that fit well with their museum theme. Gibsons also featured in the shop with a number of its licensed puzzles including a Marmite one.

LL3On the way home from Jersey I spent a bit of time Looking Out in the airport departure lounge there. The local Jersey Zoo has its own shop on site which sells its own merchandise, but stocks other generic merchandise and some licensed products.

It is a bold move by Jersey Zoo to have its own retail outlet at the airport, but one that I imagine works well for it. It is an interesting model and one that I think could work for other brands.

Ranges it had in stock included colouring books from Millie Marotta and, of course, given his connection to the Zoo it was no surprise to see a full range of Gerald Durrell books.

LL4A rather charming retail feature at the airport was an Honesty Shop – a kiosk selling pre weighed bags of Jersey New Potatoes. It was self serve and payment was via an app or in the Honesty Box. A lovely reminder of the small stalls and kiosks that exist in places like Jersey where you drop your money in a tin and pick up your goods.

I remember Sir Michael Caine talking fondly of these kind of ‘retail outlets’ a few years ago. Judging by the amount of people stopping and buying a bag of potatoes honesty does seem to a good policy when it comes to airport retailing.

LL1Sometimes in my Looking Out you spot things which are probably ‘not official’ but nevertheless are noteworthy. Often I think such ideas could inspire an ‘official programme’. On Jersey I saw a Scooby Shack catering kiosk themed out with Scooby-Doo designs. I thought it was a lovely tribute to Scooby-Doo and the idea has potential for ‘pop up’ catering I think. The Shack was shut so I can’t give a full review but visually very engaging.

As noted it was the B&LLAS last week. A really enjoyable event and one made more so because our Nadiya licensee Prestige won an award.

Is it just me or do awards events always seem more enjoyable when you win something?

LL7Overall I thought it was a really enjoyable event and expertly compered by Matt Forde. Our table guests included Nerdy Banana who brought us all mini versions of ourselves with custom made Air Bods. Nerdy Banana is a great example of a number of companies who are growing their businesses through blending ‘special edition’ products, e-commerce, digital marketing and licensing successfully.

Nerdy Banana also Air Bod’d Matt Forde and presented it to him at the B&LLAs. He seemed very pleased with the mini version of himself – a fun way to finish a fun day.

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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