Start Licensing’s Ian Downes is impressed by what he finds at his local branch of The Entertainer.
The closest I have got to being a retailer was working on a market stall. My job was selling jeans and specifically my prime skill was being able to bark out a few brand names and prices as loudly as I could to drum up trade. I didn’t have any of the worries that retailers have these days such as rates, the rise of online selling and lower footfall. It is clearly tough out there. You need to do more than shout loudly.
Against this backdrop it was refreshing to walk into The Entertainer in Wimbledon and to be greeted by a sales assistant who was smiling and welcoming; a good start and a reminder that good staff are vital to successful retailing. The Entertainer team may not be calling out brand names and prices but they are alert to customers, know their shop well and, importantly, know the brands on offer. This sets a good tone for a retail visit.
The Entertainer is a retailer making good progress and one that has embraced licensing. That said, licensing is part of a mix of activities and programmes that The Entertainer has blended to create success. Pricing is a bedrock – it has lots of offers and competitive prices. This is down to good buying and negotiation. It also blends in hot items like collectables and has a dedicated space for the ‘latest crazes’. Buying at a keen price is a skill but, arguably, knowing what to buy in and when is even more important. The Wimbledon shop is a fair sized one on one level. It is well stocked and has full shelves. It feels busy but not overcrowded. Some other retailers don’t use space and display so well with stores ending up feeling cluttered. The Entertainer makes good use of FSDUs and clip strips to maximise space.
The Entertainer also taps into simple promotions in-store such as free activity sheets and competitions. It relies on suppliers and licensors to help with this no doubt, but it is a relatively simple way of adding some interest in-store and creating another reason for consumers to call in. A retail visit should be a good experience.
Licensing wise, The Entertainer has a broad offer and seems to be in touch with latest opportunities, while supporting more long-term properties. Not surprisingly, the bulk of its product offer is toy-based but recognising the make up of its consumers and buying occasions it also carries items such as backpacks, greetings cards, books and giftwrap. Much of the product in these categories is licensed. On the book side, Centum appears to be a key supplier and its products feature in dedicated space and displays. It is good to see a toy retailer selling books.
As mentioned above, The Entertainer makes good use of FSDUs and this seems to be a good way of it selling licensed goods. As an ex Power Rangers man, it was interesting to see Hasbro‘s take on a classic toy brand. I thought it looked strong and fresh but also hadn’t moved too far from the brand’s heritage. It will be interesting to see how Power Rangers performs toy-wise and whether it succeeds in the wider licensing market.
A significant part of the store is given over to Funko products including a dedicated Fortnite display. Funko and its Pop! vinyl figures are a licensing success story, tapping into fan and pop culture. The Entertainer has backed them and I guess buying into the range in depth pays off as it has become a go to retailer for consumers.
I also sense The Entertainer gets to know its locale well and has a good handle on competition. In this case the local HMV closed a while ago and it would have been a go to place for Pop! figures. Furthermore, I suspect Pop! make good presents. The Entertainer seems to be a shop where consumers go to buy gifts for birthday parties and having easy to choose product in the £5 to £ 10 categories is a good play in this context.
Connected to this, it is interesting to see how toycos in categories like figurines are using contemporary designs in the category even for younger years products . This is in part I suspect due to the popularity of Pop! vinyls and other brands such as LEGO coupled with the influence of gaming. Design taste is changing and the toy world is reflecting this.
It was interesting to see The Entertainer backing new types of licences as well. It was carrying a range of Ryan’s World products from Vivid. Ryan is a YouTube star I believe and this brand is an example of a new breed that has emerged without a conventional TV platform driving it. The dynamics and source of licences are changing. It is a sign that The Entertainer and its chosen suppliers are tuned into change.
I also noticed a Wonder Park range. I didn’t know about Wonder Park but the toys inspired me to do some research. It was/is a film I believe. I need to get out more. I guess this in itself shows how licensing can be a brand billboard.
One of The Entertainer’s strengths is that it supports traditional toy categories and offers a comprehensive range. From a licensing perspective, it is good to see licensing still featuring in categories such as die-cast. Good examples here include CAT-branded vehicles and a Mini Cooper product. The latter is under the Early Learning Centre brand which The Entertainer acquired from Mothercare. It will be interesting to see how the ELC brand is deployed in the future. It could be a strong brand for The Entertainer to use in conjunction with preschool licences.
Another category supported in-depth by The Entertainer are board games and within the category brands such as Monopoly feature including special edition versions like L.O.L. Surprise. I wonder if the Go to Jail square has been replaced by Go to your Bedroom in this version.
It was also good to see the Heelys brand alive and kicking in The Entertainer. I particularly liked the Wonder Woman Heelys – sadly no adult sizes available, but I could see these coming in useful at shows like Brand Licensing Europe. Stocking Heelys underpins the fact that The Entertainer is trying to deliver a variety of products and brands in physical retail and not just online. This suggests there is still a value in consumers getting to see real products and to be inspired to buy in-store.
Licensing needs retailers like The Entertainer but, conversely, retailers need licensing. There should be a mutuality in the relationship. I haven’t had much direct business with The Entertainer recently but I do know it is active in licensing, attending events and holding meetings with licensors. Of course like any retailer The Entertainer has to take care of its own business, but at least it has licensing on the radar and recognise it is a useful tool in a tough retail market. It also knows you can’t rely on one single property or product to succeed – it operates a balanced and mixed portfolio. This should encourage licensors and agents that there is a chance to get some retail traction if the offer is compelling enough.
Finally, I spotted a very clever piece of art this week which fused together two comic book franchises. I spotted a Tintin meets Obelix artwork in Gosh Comics in Soho. Could be the start of a trend – maybe one for Funko!
Gosh is a great example of a specialist retailer that knows its stuff and its customers. It is a really well presented shop and a pleasure to shop in. Like The Entertainer, it also has friendly and knowledgeable staff. Times are tough retail wise but it seems some retailers are fighting back with a strong product offering, good staff and investing in the shopping experience.
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.