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The Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes takes stock of some newer stores that are embracing licensing.

If you happen to be near London’s Shaftesbury Avenue soon, it is well worth paying a visit to the Forbidden Planet superstore there. Their windows are always good to see and show a lot of creativity – at the moment they are using popular characters such as Iron Man to help showcase their Christmas offerings under the strapline ‘This Is Christmas’. The displays work very well and ‘sell’ the shop well.

The store is a great one stop shop for fan-based merchandise including an amazing range of Pop! Vinyl Figures, comics, apparel and giftware. Forbidden Planet builds ranges around properties like Harry Potter, Sherlock and Dr Who in depth – it really is a destination store for consumers. When I visited there was a real buzz in the store with a mix of consumers including tourists, but with a bias to twentysomethings. They have also produced a great catalogue for Christmas to promote product which has a lot of licensed products in.

fplanet

The store has a long history of hosting author and celebrity signings adding reasons to visit for consumers. Forbidden Planet are also now developing and selling their own range of licensed products from small items such as travelcard holders (acknowledging their commuter/tourist location) through to a more recent entry into blind bag vinyl figures with a range sold under the Titans name that includes Star Trek – Next Generation.

Clearly Forbidden Planet is a retailer that knows its customer base well and what they want – licensing is a big part of their offer and it is great to see so much licensed product under one roof. It is a great shop to visit.

graphicnovels

Related to this it is encouraging to see HMV supporting graphic novels – recently I popped into their Wimbledon store and was pleased to see a sizeable space for them. Not all of these will be licensed products, as many are produced by the ultimate owners, but graphic novels and the characters they portray are an important link to television and film franchises that spawn successful licensing programmes.

It is good to see this genre being supported at retail and, of course, graphic novels can act as an anchor point for other products in store. Interestingly, HMV also have a great range of Pop! Vinyl Figures – a further reminder of the strong consumer market and demand for collectables.

j-me

When you next use a Bic biro you should reflect on the brand licensing opportunity that got away. This week I spotted a great product from gift company J-Me – it is a pen holder based on the pen top from Bic biros and has been developed under licence from Bic. It is a really novel idea which uses the brand licence well with the endorsement clearly shown on pack.

I wonder if it was an Eureka moment when a J-Me employee was writing with a Bic biro. It is a neat and novel idea showing that one quality you need in licensing is openmindedness – never rule anything out and be open to new ideas. It is a great use of a well-known brand and an iconic product form.

beatles

Moleskine’s Beatles stationery range is featuring regularly in retail at the moment. I spotted The Beatles – Yellow Submarine Moleskine range in Ryman, which seems to be a retailer selling more licensed products at the moment. I am guessing ranges like the Moleskine ones appeal as they can command a higher price and create new reasons to buy standard products plus, of course, at this time of the year they become ‘gift’ purchases.

jbasford

Ryman were also featuring licensed products such as Marvel Wall Lights, Vintage Ladybird games, Animal Planet Pixel bricks and a selection of licensed board games including Game of Thrones Cluedo. I was also interested to see that Ryman are still carrying a full range of adult colouring books and associated products.

I had thought that the demand for adult colouring may have been slowing down, but based on the space that Ryman are giving it at the moment it appears not to be the case. Within the colouring section there were licensed products associated with leading artist Johanna Basford including Colouring Canvases. A simple but effective way to tap into her art and the consumer interest in colouring. Ryman really seem to have embraced licensing and have recognised that licensed brands can be a valuable ally in their retail activities blending licensing well with non-licensed ranges.

There is a heavy emphasis on gifting at this time of the year, but it seems Ryman are fully on board the licensing train now.

birds

Finally, it is great to see how book shops like Waterstones are embracing licensed products based on successful books – it makes perfect sense to see products such as stationery, calendars, ceramics and games sold alongside or near books. I like the fact that Waterstones apply this approach to books from a range of genres and do not just focus on TV/film-based books or children’s products.

A good example of this is a product range including calendars, notebooks and notepads based on Matt Sewell’s Birds. This is a successful book series published by Random House featuring distinctive bird artwork from Matt Sewell. I am working with the publisher to help manage this programme and it has given me a great insight into how retailers like Waterstones are tapping into the loyalty and demand created by successful books, particularly ones like Matt’s that come with original and distinctive artwork.

For Licensing PLC it is great to see retailers such as Forbidden Planet, HMV, Ryman and Waterstones really embracing licensing, but also a great reminder that licensing comes in all shapes, sizes and forms – including pen lid shaped!

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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