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‘We want to add innovation to our publishing’

Centum’s Fiona Macmillan on why the future is set to be a real page turner for the publisher.

Geoffrey Reynolds, ceo and owner of Centum Books, implemented a restructure of the company in January this year to allow him to devote more time to the ongoing strategy of the company.

As part of the restructure, Fiona Macmillan took on the role of managing director in addition to her role as head of publishing. To support her in this new position, the company promoted Adrian Stimpson to head of UK sales and brought in Mark Burge from Igloo as commercial director.

“We also grew our French operation to have a dedicated sales team based in Paris working with our local distributers due to the double-digit growth we’ve had since we launched in 2016,” adds Fiona. “We made these changes at the beginning of the year to bring further stability and experience into the rapidly growing company.”

So why has the company been growing at such a pace? According to Fiona, property selection has been key: “Initially One Direction and our relationship with Bravado was the driving force of the business, quickly followed by our partnership with Universal on Despicable Me 2, Minions Movie, Secret Life of Pets and now Despicable Me 3. We have seen robust performances from our relationship with Nickelodeon, Moose and Hasbro and will be looking to continue this success onwards into 2018.”

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During the course of this year the company has also partnered with Warner Bros. for Wonder Woman and Justice League of America, Cartoon Network for Ben 10, and has extended its relationship with Nickelodeon to cover JoJo Siwa (for which Fiona reveals sales at present are flying) and Sony with the Emoji Movie.

Preschool too has been a strong area of activity with Shimmer and Shine, Blaze, Mr Potato Head and Play-Doh all performing well. “We are always looking for new preschool opportunities and we are at present pitching for a new preschool licence which we want to launch next year,” she adds.

“Plus the amazing world of Animal Jam is still in the early stages, but as a company are very excited by the opportunity here.”

Centum has also finalised a deal with Disney for the next three years to be master publisher in the UK for its live action movie slate, which will begin in 2018 with A Wrinkle in Time, Nut Cracker and Mary Poppins.

Says Fiona: “We are really excited by this latest partnership, especially following the amazing success of Beauty and Beast this year, with more exciting developments to be actioned very shortly.”

When it comes to formats storybooks, novel of movies, sticker/activity books, seek and find formats and the company’s gifting ranges including annuals are at the core of success to date.

“We are always looking to add innovation to our publishing but at the same time ensure we delivery the maximum value to our end customers,” points out Fiona. “Keeping retail shelves interesting and fresh is the only way to drive sales. What we really believe in as a company is making reading fun for all ages, but at the same time ensuring we get parental endorsement as at the end of the day they hold the purse strings.”

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One such innovative format is the new Treasure Cove format for story books. “At this stage, I don’t want to give too much away but we are really excited for the launch as it focuses on the strengths of our business and will very much complement our existing programmes,” says Fiona with a smile.

Another focus for growth for the future is expanding the publisher’s presence overseas. Centum is currently finalising a number of local licence agreements in France, which it believes will work well in publishing terms due to a strong presence on the continent.

“This is new for us,” Fiona explains, “as in the past we have only ever published through our pan-European deals. Through our Despicable Me 3 and Secret Life of Pets agreement we launched products in over 30 countries across Europe with best in class partners in each territory.”

With so much happening, what is there left to achieve this year and into next? “We want to continue to reinforce the partnerships which we have already formed to date and work together with the licensor and retailers to deliver new and exciting product ranges,” Fiona promises. “And of course, have some fun, as if you can’t have fun working in this industry then you need to start asking questions.”

Becoming a disruptor

Centum prides itself on finding gaps in the market where it can be disruptive, but what does that really mean?

Fiona explains: “Whether it’s with new retail channels, ways of working or turning around new licences or formats in a very short window, Centum as a company can’t lose that as a focus. A good example is with JoJo and our partnership with Nickelodeon. Our first book launch was just over ten days ago and all our initial stock was sold out in the first five days of trading. On the back of this we will be launching two new products on the November 1 following the requests from our customers.”

Fiona continues: “The main focus for us is to make reading fun for all ages, while at the same time look to deliver real value for money to our end customer to ensure we get the repeat purchase. We also work hard with our retailers and listen to their requirement as ‘one size doesn’t fit all’, especially in the non-traditional sector and when the retail environment is challenging.”

This feature originally appeared in the autumn 2017 edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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