Magic Light’s Daryl Shute on The Gruffalo, BLE and new opportunities.
With Brand Licensing Europe fast approaching, The Source caught up with a number of licensors and agents with successful properties in the preschool space to find out their plans for the remainder of the year, thoughts on the retail landscape, trends and why the show is so important for them.
Today: Daryl Shute, brand director, Magic Light Pictures
Which preschool brands will you be showcasing at BLE?
The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, Stick Man, The Highway Rat and Zog.
Can you run through how the licensing programmes for each are shaping up?
It can only be said that The Gruffalo goes from strength to strength for us. We’ve had another incredible year of sales, marketing activations, awards and new product launches. Our next Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler animated special is in the final stages of production ready for BBC One this Christmas; The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure at Chessington World of Adventures Resort welcomed over a million riders last year; and our Highway Rat activity trails at Forestry Commission England sites have been hugely popular throughout the wonderful summer we’ve had. Our key retail partners, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis among others continue to experience consistent sales throughout the year for our classic, evergreen brand.
Will there be any new launches or sneak peaks of upcoming brands?
The overall Donaldson/Scheffler portfolio is building nicely for us. We’ve seen great success with the plush characters from Aurora World for each title, particularly at John Lewis and we have a bespoke apparel collaboration for Zog launching in the autumn. This really is a universe of characters that families love and there’s appetite to keep extending the licensed offering.
Magic Light has also started to develop Axel Scheffler’s Pip & Posy as a preschool television series, so we’ll be talking to people about licensing opportunities that might come with that.
How important is BLE for you when it comes to showing your preschool brands?
This is our second year to exhibit at the show, last year was a huge success allowing us to showcase our brands and the company. It’s great to have a strong Gruffalo presence at BLE and to meet our licensees from across Europe. Plus the costume character parade is always lots of fun.
What messages will you be looking to convey to licensees and potential licensees at the show?
Next year we’re celebrating 20 years since The Gruffalo was published and ten years of our licensing programme launching. We’ve developed a bespoke anniversary style guide which is proving very popular with all our licensees. We’ve got lots of fun marketing activities lined up throughout the year so we’re excited to share them everyone as well.
How healthy do you think the preschool licensed sector is in general?
Overall it feels like the sector is in a good place, though never without it’s challenges. There are a lot of properties out there, but competition is healthy and there is plenty of variation. There is fantastic new content being created, in publishing, television and digitally which is wonderful for new young audiences and what’s coming through into the licensed product sector has some real newness and innovation as well. But the retail landscape is very challenging with so much uncertainty facing everyone at the moment.
How easy is it for new brands to break through at the moment?
It’s really very tough for every sector of the market but particularly for retailers. Consumers have less to spend and choosing to list something new instead of well-established character is a harder decision than ever. Saying that we launched The Gruffalo licensing programme in 2009 following the GFC so I guess there are always opportunities you should go after.
What would you most like to achieve for your preschool brands from this year’s show?
We have an outstanding licensing programme, with a large number of licensees having joined us from the very beginning. As we enter the tenth year at retail we want all our partners to know how important they are to the overall programme and that The Gruffalo maintains a unique position and continues to be a high-quality offering, on the road to be becoming a classic brand.