Head of licensing Dean Greasley on how further growth is on the cards for the apparel supplier.
Since TDP’s inception in 1982 it has grown to a £30m+ business, but Dean Greasley, who joined the company a year ago as head of licensing, is keen that it is now recognised as an ‘apparel supplier’ rather than being pigeon-holed into one particular area.
“We have portfolio deals with all the major studios – Disney, Warner Bros., Nickelodeon, Hasbro and Universal/DreamWorks – and in total I would say we have around 60+ licences; and that’s counting each studio as just one,” he outlines.
The company is incredibly strong in preschool with kids products representing around 70% of TDP’s business and of that 40% is preschool.
“Adult merchandise ebbs and flows depending on the characters, but preschool is perennially strong,” affirms Dean. “We’re just riding the PAW Patrol wave at the moment; it’s one of those juggernauts that rolls into town every so often. If only they came along more often”
In terms of product trends Dean points out that people want experiential products: “For example, we had a girl’s nightdress that had a QR code on it and when you scanned it the music from Frozen played.”
For Dean though the biggest growth area of the business is outerwear, including lounge wear and men’s and ladies t-shirts. Although it’s a similar process to developing a nightwear range he adds that you do need to look at things with a slightly different eye. The product might also feature less mainstream licences, such as classic or retro properties like The Goonies or the original Transformers.
He continues: “Our licensing portfolio is quite diverse with brands such as Volkswagen and the MOD joining our stalwart character brands. My feeling about properties after 25 years in this business is that if I go to a trade show to find out about a property, I’ve failed.”
When you mention the company name TDP in the industry it is often inextricably linked with another leading supplier, Aykroyds.
When Dean joined the company his remit was simple: to forge ahead with the very strong relationship between the two companies, but also to grow independently in areas where there isn’t a common ground between the two.
Back in 1996 the two companies were competing for the same licences and business so rather than butting horns and eroding margins Tim Dawson, and David Aykroyd, owners of TDP and Aykroyds respectively, decided to create a strategic alliance.
“We have a formal joint venture in place so if there is a licensing deal to be done in nightwear, we would put a joint pitch together and propose terms of behalf of both parties,” explains Dean.
“We are incredibly proud of our relationship with Aykroyds, it’s very strong and allows us to work together seamlessly, but also independently. The majority of both of our businesses is nightwear, but Aykroyds is very strong in swimwear which we don’t get involved in and we supply underwear which they don’t.”
As part of the company’s commitment to growth back in 2012 it opened TDP India which now employs 50 of the company’s 150 worldwide employees.
“It’s a significant investment, but it allows us to be reactive to materials and to be able to buy with confidence from the best factories,” says Dean. In addition, asides from the directors the company employs three department heads, including one for compliance and ethical trading.
Dean explains the rationale: “Tim [Dawson] decided that because this was understandably such a major requirement for licensors and retailers that he wanted to lead in this regard rather than being pulled along so this was put in place back in 2010.”
A new website has also just launched which features two tranches; the corporate side, but also a gateway for wholesale customers to buy directly via e-commerce.
“We hold a huge stock commitment for our customers and we feel this is very important,” adds Dean. “We also carry stock of blanks of pyjamas and nightdresses which can be converted and over-printed into character merchandise within 2-3 weeks.”
This worked very favourably for TDP last year when the Pokémon Go craze took the market by storm and the company was able to deliver product to precisely hit the crest of the wave.
Reflecting on the past year Dean says his tenure at TDP has flown by: “I’ve known TDP for such a long time and I’d decided to move away from the licensing industry a couple of years ago to work for an Italian sportswear company. As well as managing the company Tim was also managing all the licensing and he has stepped away from that side of his role and given me complete freedom, which has been amazing. The last 12 months has gone so quickly, simply because I’ve enjoyed it so much.”
As for the next chapter in TDP’s development, Dean is playing his cards close to his chest. “We will continue to grow our outerwear business, but we will also be launching into a new category,” he smiles.