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Value added… it’s this week’s Licensing Lookout

Start Licensing’s Ian Downes visits Poundland and Wilko this week to see how licensing is cutting through in-store.

Sometimes as a Lookout it can be about what you don’t see in retail, or rather what isn’t there. It is easy when you are sitting in the licensing bubble to think licensing cuts through everywhere or is performing consistently across the retail estate. My Lookout excursions often reveal a different picture. Albeit a snapshot in time. As we all know a day in retail is a long time and things can change overnight.

This week I popped into Poundland and Wilko. Over recent years both have been supporters of licensing but activity has ebbed and flowed. Generally the value sector has engaged with licensing, licensed brands and products but on their own terms. Licensing sits alongside other brands in-store and has to do a job. The value retailers know the value of their shelf space.

My visit to Poundland started off a little threadbare in licensing terms – I didn’t see much activity in categories like personal care and cosmetics for example. Of course the usual caveats apply – I may have missed things and stock does turnover quite rapidly. One interesting thing I noticed was that suppliers and retailers do seem to be tuned into licensing themes and franchises.

LL4For example Poundland had a large range of dinosaur-themed stationery lines. A range well timed to coincide with the arrival of the new Jurassic World film. Of course this may be a coincidence, but I do think it is worth noting and a reminder that it is important that as an industry we keep getting our message across about the in-built value that a licensed brand delivers versus a generic design. Conversely, it is a reminder that retailers have other options outside of licensed ones.

Within the stationery category it was interesting to see a range of BIC Disney-branded colouring books presented in cello bag format. This kind of format works well for occasions like parties but also ‘on the go’ activities. It is always interesting to see co-branded ranges like this and it is an interesting model for licensing.

LL6As I went further into the store there was a stronger licensing presence. Within Poundland’s apparel offer, which is presented under the Pep & Co banner, licensing was a key feature. The dominant brand was Disney with classic characters like Mickey and Minnie featuring prominently. Ranges included babywear, outerwear and nightwear. Design wise the look was on-trend and used the classic characters very well including repeat prints. Poundland promoted the product well with well maintained displays, good presentation and clear signage which clearly signalled the range. It was a well presented area and compared favourably to other retailers.

There was also messaging about Pep & Co’s investment in ‘better cotton’ which I imagine is to do with ongoing work in regards to sourcing and its supply chain. Other brands that were on offer included Looney Tunes. Classic characters clearly resonate with Poundland in this context.

LL5Licensing also popped up in Poundland’s confectionery aisles with Swizzel’s Minions Tropical Chew Bars – a bagged product. This was a category that used to have more licensing in it at Poundland. It may be that Poundland has found other non-licensed suppliers that offer products with better margins and it may also reflect less activity in the category from licensed brands especially character brands.

Rather like the BIC example co-branding Minions and Swizzels creates a strong offer not least as Swizzels is a confectionery brand consumers recognise and trust. In relative terms it is also a premium brand that in a retailer looking to deliver value has its own value.

LL3My visit to Wilko was initially even less rewarding in licensing terms. In categories like kitchenware, personal care, gardening and stationery it seemed to be a licensing free zone. One licensing highlight was the greeting cards section which had a reasonably strong licensing offer with Danilo’s cards featuring at the forefront. This appeared to be a well shopped fixture and is given decent space in store. Potentially success for licensing here may encourage other buyers to look at licensed lines in other related categories.


The licensing highlight at Wilko came from a rather unexpected source – car air fresheners. That said licensing and car air fresheners are no strangers. But Wilko has a number of licensed lines on offer including a range of Lynx car air fresheners. This range was available on a FSDU. The licensee has made good use of Lynx’s signature colourways and brand identity coupled with developing fragrances based on the core deodorant range including Chill and Africa. Given the demographics of the Lynx consumer it makes sense to see it being used as a brand in this category.

LL2Jelly Belly is firmly established in the category and has a strong presence. The car air fresheners really convey the Jelly Belly brand well in terms of shape, form and packaging.

Wilko also carries Febreze car air fresheners – rather like Lynx the car air freshener follows the core brand closely and it makes perfect sense to see the brand extended into this category. Overall, the fixture in Wilko was heavily skewed to licensed products. It is a good reminder that licensing can and does feature in a range of categories. In this case there seems to be some creative thinking applied to brand selection with an emphasise on how a brand can transfer successfully into a new category.

LL1Finally, I thought it was good to see WH Smith promoting greeting cards in its window displays with the message that it has ‘Great Cards For Every Occasion’ – the card featured on the poster was a Happy Jackson one I believe.

Very good exposure for cards generally and licensed cards specifically.

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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