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The Licensing Lookout: Old haunts

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes is licence spotting in Waterloo’s Lower Marsh this week.

I had reason to return to one of my old haunts this week. I met someone in a café in Waterloo’s Lower Marsh. Lower Marsh used to be a vibrant daily street market with stalls selling fruit and veg, plus clothing and household items. It used to be part of a stretch of roads in Waterloo which was said to be London’s longest street market. The market served the local community and workforce. I had a spell as a teenager working on a stall selling jeans there – ‘our’ brands included Pace, Pepe and Easy. My first experience of selling brands! As well as stalls, there were a number of shops along the Lower Marsh including a large Woolworths which is now an Iceland.

Like many London street markets, the Marsh, as it is known locally, is much changed and diminished stall-wise. However it has developed a second life as a streetfood market with the chance to buy food from a range of countries. The make up of the retail estate has changed as well, with more coffee shops popping up and some new build hotels including Stowaway built from shipping containers.

The Lower Marsh is an interesting example of how London’s smaller shopping streets have changed and are adapting for a new generation of shoppers. It was also a useful spot for a bit of looking out, not least in more specialist shops.

The Ian Allan Bookshop specialises in books and related products featuring trains, buses, aviation and military history.
The Ian Allan Bookshop specialises in books and related products featuring trains, buses, aviation and military history.

A specialist shop that has survived is the Ian Allan Bookshop. This specialises in books and related products featuring trains, buses, aviation, local and military history. Overall Ian Allan has halved its retail outlets nationwide from four to two and seemed to have upped its focus on online sales. This is very much speciality retailing and I had the sense the shop was a destination for many customers.

Licensed products featured in-store in categories such as calendars, model kits and books. Well known publishing brands in the category – like Haynes – were well represented. Calendars from heritage brands such as The National Railway Museum were on sale, while Star Wars and Harry Potter model kits featured.

Brands such as Hornby had feature areas while the shop carries a large range of specialist magazines. The shop had a community feel to it and I imagine a high proportion of shoppers visit the store for this reason. The shop had a lot of information on museum open days and heritage railways which included some flyers about Thomas the Tank Engine-themed days.

Star Wars and Harry Potter model kits featured in-store.
Star Wars and Harry Potter model kits featured in-store.

As mentioned earlier, Iceland is situated in an old Woolworths store but is now firmly established in its own right. As reported before, Iceland is more than a frozen food retailer these days and offers a wide selection of products including fresh goods.

It is still backing two licensed ranges which I believe it has exclusively and seem to have become real success stories. These are a range of Greggs branded frozen goods and a range of Slimming World ready meals. Both ranges are well displayed in-store and stocked in depth. Iceland has really backed these brands and deployed them in a very focused way.

A new line of 'cook in' bags from Nando's featured in Iceland.
A new line of 'cook in' bags from Nando's featured in Iceland.

Licensing crops up in other ways through brands like Nando’s and Levi Roots. Both of these brands are well established in FMCG through licensing, but are refreshed with new lines regularly to keep consumers interested. An example was a new line of ‘cook in’ bags from Nando’s.

The brand team and licensees are well tuned into consumer trends coupled with having a good eye for new products that can be adapted for the licences. Iceland is a retailer which values brands and uses them well to create a good product mix for consumers, while keeping value and convenience in mind.

Crayola had a strong presence in Ryman with its range including a number of licences.
Crayola had a strong presence in Ryman with its range including a number of licences.

My final call on the Lower Marsh was to a branch of Ryman. Given Waterloo has a lot of offices and businesses it is no surprise to see Ryman located there. Furthermore, the product mix and services offered reflected the character of the area. As a result Ryman was licensing lite but that may be a reflection of this store.

That said, as a Back to School promotion was underway there was a strong showing for licensed brands in the pencil case category with Coca Cola, Pringles and Slush Puppie among the brands on offer. Licensee Helix has developed 3D product for Pringles and Slush Puppie which is firmly on brand and gives consumers a reason to buy beyond price and function.

Ryman is a supporter of creative products for both adults and children. Within this sector Crayola had a strong presence. A powerful brand that is trusted in the category. Given the strength of Crayola in the category, it was a vote of confidence in licensing to see licensed brands within its activity pack offering. I think it helps licensing generally to see well known brands like Crayola featuring licensed products. It is a good case study.

The TV Test Card was spotted on Leake Street.
The TV Test Card was spotted on Leake Street.

Another bonus of visiting the Lower Marsh is that you can stroll along Leake Street which adjoins the market. Leake Street is a hub for street art. Characters often feature in street art. However this time around I didn’t spot any new character art but I did spot a reminder of times past in broadcasting. There was a piece of street art featuring the TV Test Card. A real reminder of how times have changed so much in the way we watch ‘TV’. Street markets aren’t the only markets going through rapid change.

By the way I still have a few pairs of Pepe Jeans in my lock up if anyone is interested…

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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