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The view from France: “It seems that everyone is adapting”

COVID-19: how the industry is coping across the globe – today, Paris-based agency, Sagoo.

On March 17, 2020, French President, Emmanuel Macron issued guidance for citizens to remain at home for two weeks, unless they are going to work, if they can’t do otherwise, grocery shopping, walking a dog, exercising, or going to a doctor or pharmacy. Anyone leaving their house must carry a filled-in trip certificate, or face a fine of €135, enforced by 100,000 police officers.

All bars, restaurants and non-essential shops in the country were closed on the March 14, and creches, schools and universities closed on March 16. Meanwhile, all non-essential travel has been prohibited, and reduced services are running on public transport. The EU has since banned all non-EU national from visiting the EU for 30 days, effectively closing its borders to reduce the spread of infection.

But what does this mean for business in the country? Laurent Taieb from Sagoo, an independent Paris-based agency, which represents a range of unique brands in France, Europe and worldwide, remains philosophical about the lockdown: “Most offices are closed now throughout Southern Europe and most of partners are working from home. This said it seems that everyone is adapting and there is nothing so far that will prevent us from doing our work.”

Macron has issued some relief to businesses, whereby gas, electric, heating and rent bills will be suspended throughout the crisis.

Sagoo and other licensing agents and companies are finding new ways to keep the processes of design, approvals and product development working while physical samples aren’t a possibility. For Sagoo’s brands, including Kawaii brand, Rilakkuma, artist Keith Haring, Miffy, and a range of music properties including The Beatles, Blondie, David Bowie and Pink Floyd, among many others, the product development process is surging ahead.

Music acts such as The Beatles and David Bowie are included in Sagoo's portfolio.
Music acts such as The Beatles and David Bowie are included in Sagoo's portfolio.

Laurent continued: “We are all adapting to the changing circumstances, licensors and licensees alike. For example, our pre-production samples are now approved through really high res images, which will allow all parties involved to have a perfect view of the details and quality of the goods.”

Recent weeks have seen the majority of trade shows, including Licensing Expo in Las Vegas, either postponing or cancelling upcoming dates, which for many, causes the most concern for business.

Laurent commented: “The most problematic issue will be around trade fairs, as with the report of cancellations of many of them, this will delay our opportunities to meet with our customers face to face. But once again that will also help us invent new ways of working or communicating with our partners.”

Meanwhile, the impact of the delays in Chinese manufacturing have eased recently, as the factories are slowly getting back on track, but with sell-through slowing down dramatically as shops close, the demand for stock has been lessened anyway.

Sagoo manages deals across a range of categories, including apparel, homewares, toys, textiles, accessories, gifting and many more. Each of these sectors has been affected in different ways by the slow down in manufacturing, with some adapting more easily than others.

Kawaii brand Rilakkuma is among the brands in Sagoo's roster for which the product development process is moving ahead.
Kawaii brand Rilakkuma is among the brands in Sagoo's roster for which the product development process is moving ahead.

Laurent explained: “Some of our partners, mainly in the apparel industry, started to review their buying/manufacturing policies a few months ago when the disruption began and are now increasingly producing in Southern Europe meaning they’ve been less affected by the Chinese factory closures, but with the situation now affecting all of Europe, that might not be a solution either.”

In terms of sell-through and the retail landscape in France, all non-essential bricks and mortar shops have now been closed until further notice. Online shops are still able to operate and are doing so where possible. Laurent added: “Deliveries are starting to be a problem. Online shops are open, but will close when their stocks run out.”

Overall, the French licensing industry is, where possible, continuing business as usual and weathering the storm, ensuring new product development continues so that industry can continue when the disruption of Coronavirus passes.

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