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The Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes continues his trade show tour with a Business Design Centre brace.

If trade shows did loyalty cards I think I could claim my free trade show now. Another week another show. In fact two shows in one.

I visited Exclusively Housewares and Exclusively Electrical this week – two shows held in parallel at the Business Design Centre. Both shows are focused on their industry sector which seems to be a formula that exhibitors like – they create a forum that buyers like and it seems the prevailing view is that most buyers who attend are there to buy and meet suppliers.

There was a reasonable presence for licensing across both shows.


In the Housewares show it was good to see DNC UK flying the flag for licensing in a very significant way. DNC is well known for its licensed lunchware and it was good to see it at the show. It has a broad range of licences and displayed the range well with a wall of licensed products. This was presented under a banner proclaiming the range is ‘packed with character’. A lot of what it does is focused on entertainment licensing, but it has moved into brand licensing.

It used the show to present a range of cooler and picnic bags based on the Wall’s Ice Cream licence. Brands such Twister and Funny Feet are a good fit for the category. DNC has used bright colours with a retro feel design. The brands have been used in a similar category by another licensee before, but it may be that DNC is a better fit as it can cross sell the range alongside its character licences.

From a Licensing PLC point of view it is good to see a licensee like DNC back its licensed ranges at a show like Exclusively Housewares. I think it adds credibility to the licensing model.


I was surprised to see a range of National Trust brooms, brushes and garden tools licensed by Charles Bentley. Not a category you would immediately expect to feature licensing. But given the fact the National Trust has so many gardens under its control and is committed to maintaining these to a high standard, there is a logic to the licence. Further when you visit National Trust sites it is not uncommon to see ground staff in action using brushes, brooms, scrapers and edgers. National Trust is a brand that is well regarded and resonates with retailers – forgive the pun but it is a brand that is trusted.

Charles Bentley has produced a range to a high standard , it is well presented and will fit well into a range of retailers – I am guessing the National Trust will sell the range at the sites as well.

On the subject of licensed brooms I would love to see the BBC licence someone to create Trigger’s Broom. The roadsweeper from Only Fools and Horses apparently had the same broom for over ten years – although it had five new handles and 11 brush heads in that time!


Within Exclusively Electrical, a licensing highlight was Swan Electrical’s range of appliances developed under licence with TV personality Fearne Cotton. The range includes Food Processors and Stand Mixers. The packaging features Fearne and her signature on bright, contemporary packaging. Swan is not new to licensing and understands the market well.

Apparently this range has taken some time to come to fruition but the consensus is that this is an appropriate time to launch it. The range is presented in four different colourways – all bright contemporary colours. The idea being these will coordinate well with modern kitchens and kitchen fittings.

A lot of small electricals are sold through mail order and online channels – in this context a well chosen celebrity licence can help products stand out and also are social media friendly. The latter point is quite important in today’s market – consumer reviews and recommendations are an important part of the marketing mix.


Europasonic featured a Hairy Bikers range which included Bread Makers and Pie Makers. This range has been in the market for a while and the licensee was launching some new products in a new colourway. The range is sold under the Hairy Bikers banner – they appear on the packaging with their brand device plus their ‘quality’ statement of Honest, Reliable and Robust.

With celebrity endorsements there has to be some thought given to the fit between product and brand – Hairy Bikers seem to fit well with pie and bread making. However one challenge all celebrity-based products face is what happens when you take the product out of the box. It is important that the product is as good as the box it is in. I think manufacturers and retailers are working harder to make sure these kind of products represent lasting value.

In the case of Hairy Bikers the product was accompanied with an offer of a Free trial of their Diet Club. This is a way of adding value to the product and maybe sets aside concerns about diet.

We represent Nadiya Hussain in licensing and one thing we are trying to do is to make sure that there is a Nadiya ‘twist’ to each product that is developed under her name and brand. She has contributed a lot of ideas and suggestions in regards to product development and we hope to bring these to bear in NPD terms. We hope this approach will ensure that the product is original and delivers good value to consumers. My view is that celebrity licensing will grow in importance in the licensing sector but it has to be deployed in a responsible and thoughtful fashion.

It was encouraging to see companies such as Swan and Europasonic using celebrities and working hard at developing product ranges that used the celebrities in an effective way.


Smart presented a range of Coca-Cola branded popcorn makers, blenders and snow cone makers. It made good use of the signature Coca-Cola branding, colourways and identity. There is a good link between Coca-Cola’s positioning as an American Classic and Americana plus, of course, taps into markets such as popcorn which seem to be in growth.

This range works well as a gift range and will fit well into a broad range of retail channels including mail order but also department stores and independents. It works well at a visual level and should stand out well at retail. You can imagine retailers ranging the products together but also alongside other Coca-Cola products such as composite gifts and barware. The range should also give encouragement to other brand owners that their brands can be developed in licensing in new categories outside their core area based on heritage and lifestyle drivers.

I am now searching ‘trade shows, UK, June’ – I haven’t got one in the diary next week. I won’t know what to do with myself.

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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