This ad will be closed automatically in X seconds.

The Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes casts his eye over some Halloween and early Christmas activity.

Retail wise, Halloween is well and truly here. Most of the major retailers I have visited are carrying a lot of Halloween product – most is generic non-licensed but licensing is playing a role in this retail event.

As mentioned in previous columns, Halloween is a relatively new phenomenon in UK retail but now seems to be firmly established. I guess for retailers it is a bonus opportunity and a welcome curtain raiser for the Christmas season – my view is that this year could be the Halloween highpoint.


For me the ‘best in class’ licensing range is a line of Ghostbusters confectionery which includes jelly pops, Slimer Jellies and popping candy.

The range sits well together on shelf, the signature Ghostbusters graphics have been well deployed and as a brand it has cross generational awareness of course bolstered by the recent film release. It might not appeal at the younger end of the consumer market, but I think in this case adults are more likely to be buying the products for the junior Trick or Treaters and in this context Ghostbusters will score highly.

There is also a Ghostbusters Celebration Cake – not sure you celebrate Halloween but it ties in with the confectionery and rounds off the activity well.


I was also really impressed by a Trolls Celebration Cake. Not a sentence I imagined myself ever uttering but as a week at Olympia showed licensing moves in mysterious ways!

It is a 3D decorated cake representing a Troll character with the signature hair. It had great on-shelf impact and caught the eye because of its shape, finish and scale. It has arrived on-shelf with perfect timing to take advantage of the promotional push for the Trolls film. The cake seems a step up in the character cake market having the feel of a handmade ‘artisan’ cake.

The only concern I had about it was the price point of £12 which might be a little bit too much for some consumers, but as a ‘special occasion’ purchase I think it will win a lot of consumers over.


We are clearly in the run up to Christmas as I noticed that the Calendar Club has popped up in a lot of shopping centres. This is a really great example of pop up retailing in action – a very focused retail offering which is well managed and presented. They always seem to be well stocked as well.

Licensed calendars are a key part of the product offering and the overall offering is quite diverse, appealing to a broad church of consumers befitting the retail location. I have often wondered are their other ‘pop up’ retail opportunities that might follow a similar model with licensing a core part of the offering.

One idea I had was a Summer Toys pop up shop – maybe located at or near seaside shopping centres or maybe a variation on the theme of Confectionery Pick and Mix.


Debenhams seem to be in full Christmas mode now with their Christmas ranges on shelf. In the apparel category I noted that they had a range of licensed pyjamas for adults presented in gift boxes.

Using characters such as Batman, Grumpy and Marvel, the gift boxes make purchase easier and more of a neat solution. This is a good example of how a category has evolved and is embracing the potential of gifting with a shift in packaging and presentation.

Debenhams have also invested in a range rather than just focusing on a single product offering. It creates more retail presence and attracts the consumer in well. Also using a less exposed character like Grumpy adds interest – this is a well chosen character for present giving.


Debenhams are also embracing licensing in gifting categories such as lip balms with brands such as Hershey’s, Reese’s and Jolly Rancher co-packed into a Hershey Movie Lip Mix gift pack which has been developed to look like a popcorn carton. This sits alongside other lip balm gift sets such as Kellogg’s and Happy Jackson.

I know from my own work on Tango and J20 lip balms that this is a category in growth and brands ‘with flavours’ have helped the category grow. This is a category where the US has lead the way but one that offers the UK licensing market a good development opportunity.

Debenhams have also given Mr Men Little Miss and Happy Jackson a lot of space for gifting ranges. They are offering ranges that feature two or three licensees for each brand in a really well coordinated way. Both ranges are great examples of licensed products from different licensees being well coordinated at retail – testimony to a retailer’s vision and decision to ‘back’ a licensed property coupled with the licensor coordinating the activity well.


Back in the apparel aisle, I would highlight a Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon t-shirt that I saw in Sainsbury’s. It made me think about the ‘age’ of a Pink Floyd fan and whether the t-shirt design was chosen to reach the core fan or more likely chosen because it represents an iconic album and band that, rather like The Beatles, reaches beyond the fans who saw them live.

The Beatles won a Licensing Award this year in well deserved recognition for an expertly managed licensing programme that mixes creative licensed products with good distribution and a commitment to NPD (like the recently announced LEGO/Yellow Submarine product shows ).

Perhaps the ongoing success of The Beatles has encouraged other players in the music merchandising market to think harder about how they can develop the commercial potential of iconic bands like Pink Floyd. It will be interesting to see if there are further developments with the Pink Floyd brand or, indeed, other band brands start vying with The Beatles for shelf space.


Finally a week in politics is a long time they say – I would say a week in licensing seems longer… is it really a week ago that it was the last day at BLE? My ‘to do’ list isn’t reducing and there are still a lot of business cards to follow up – I guess that is the sign of a good show.

Like most other exhibitors I was stand bound for most of the show so didn’t really explore it in full. As a result I  was denied an opportunity to get a lot of selfies with celebrities and characters – but I did get to fulfil a childhood fantasy and became Action Man for a moment.

Apologies to Peter Rooke and his team if my photo undermines their sales efforts but thanks for my Action Man moment. I enjoyed it.

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.

Poetic is now planning a wide range of babywear, accessories, maternity wear, family apparel, footwear and luggage for the brand, inspired by the colourful and positive imagery associated with Sesame Street throughout its many decades....
Initial Boat Rocker properties that Firefly will be representing in the US include Orphan Black, Orphan Black: Echoes, Beacon 23, Big Comfy Couch, Danger Mouse, Rainbow and Count Duckula....
New RHS licensee, Willsow will highlight its range of RHS Plantable Seed Paper Calendars and Plantable Christmas Crackers, while established partner Moorcroft will present its newest range of RHS art pottery....
The collaboration sees Hasbro adopting Fabacus' technology, Xelacore, to enhance its data management capabilities worldwide, initiating with a phased regional rollout across Europe, the Middle East and Africa....
With season three now streaming on Netflix, the Regency era of Bridgerton has been inspiring a number of licensees across some key categories....
Jazwares has revealed a significant milestone in the company’s European growth strategy by opening its latest wholly owned office in Bilbao, Spain, to service the Iberian market in 2025....
Get the latest news sent to your inbox
Subscribe to our daily newsletter

The list doesn't exist! Make sure you have imported the list on the 'Manage List Forms' page.