We chat to Anna Knight, vp global licensing, about Brand Licensing Europe’s big year.
As we sit down with Anna Knight – fresh from her promotion to vice president of Informa Market’s Global Licensing Group – it is a mere three weeks until the doors open for Brand Licensing Europe.
She’s remarkably calm, but then, this year perhaps more than any other, everything to do with the show is likely to have been checked, checked and then checked again. 2019 marks a big year for two reasons – it is BLE’s 21st anniversary and it’s moving venue, from West London’s Olympia across to East London’s ExCeL.
“It is a big year. It’s a huge milestone for any business, but more so for a trade show, to reach 21,” Anna tells LSB. “But the important thing this year is our move to ExCeL and putting on a brilliant show for visitors and exhibitors.”
2018 was a record year for BLE, with overall attendee numbers rising 6% to 7,862. Overseas visitor numbers were up 40% and retailers were up 24%. There were 262 exhibitors, compared to 244 the year before, including 67 first timers, and there was a significant uplift in brands and lifestyle exhibitor numbers, which rose by 28% to 73. In addition, over 2,800 meetings were booked through the show’s Matchmaking Service, with an average attendance at 85% compared to 71% in 2017.
Anna and her team are expecting to welcome similar visitor numbers this year, however, she’s also aware it will take the new venue time to bed in with the industry.
“Exhibitors are excited about the move to ExCeL for the same reasons we are,” she continues. “The venue gives us the flexibility, facilities and future opportunities to grow the show and engage visitors in a way that just wasn’t possible at Olympia. Retail has shown us that the future lies in experiences and you’re going to see a lot more of that at BLE this year, both in the BLE activations and from our exhibitors.
“It’ll take time for the venue to fully bed down and we know that lots of people are getting to know the area, so my advice is to ask us if you need any information, download our after-hours guide on the website and/or speak to ExCeL who are very happy to help.”
The BLE has certainly put together a bumper line-up of attractions for visitors. Anna says: “As you know, we don’t have a single theme for BLE for 2019 – we chose to focus on several licensing categories that we feel are all inclusive, that offer something for everyone to take inspiration and ideas from. These are animation, gaming and eSports, heritage x interiors and publishing.”
To mention a few highlights, keynote panels will take place on esports – with panellists from Nintendo Europe and Difuzed among others – plus animation, with execs from Aardman, Magic Light Pictures, Acamar, Blue Zoo and Coolabi. Author meet and greets are planned for the Beyond the Book publishing activation, while Natural History Museum, Van Gogh Museum, V&A and Style Library will be bringing a touch of high-end luxury to proceedings in the Heritage x Interiors collab.
In addition, next year’s BLE theme will be teased in Fresh off the Runway in each of the five visitor entrances (N1, N2, N3, N4 and N5).
Anna continues: “We have more places to eat, drink and sit down than ever before including the Character & Entertainment Bar on stand D200, the Van Gogh Museum Bar on stand D400, the Interiors Café on stand F462 or the BLE Café on stands B101 and B120. You can also find loads of seating across the back row of the show from stands F121 to F401.
“And, finally, we have loads of new exhibitors across all three BLE zones, the most sports brands at the show ever, a brilliant conference programme with lots of new topics, including sustainability and eSports, our new retail programme including daily breakfast briefings and content in the Trends Lounge. Plus some really cool stuff that will be announced very soon and unveiled in full on the day…”
We’ll see you at ExCeL, Anna…
First timer advice
So, what advice would Anna give to those who are making the trip to check out Brand Licensing Europe for the first time? Simple… “plan, plan, plan”.
“Unlike other shows, there are several exhibitors who will have a fully planned meeting schedule before they arrive onsite,” says Anna. “Register early and make the most of the Matchmaking Service to ensure you get to see the exhibitors you want to see. Search the exhibitor list first to put together your wish list.
“Check out the floorplan and plan your visit – find the best route for you and work that into your meeting schedule. Look at the seminar programme early doors and work your meetings around it so you don’t miss out. And use the website – there is lots and lots of guidance on there – where visitors can download how to guides, case studies and a great handbook called ‘what is brand licensing?’.”
Retailers should also make the most of the daily breakfast briefings at The Bridge restaurant (held at 8am each morning), as well as checking out the content in the Retail Trends Lounge which has been specifically tailored.
Finally, Anna advises: “Do a little research before visiting this year – we’re at a new venue, and it’s super straightforward to get to and get around, but it’s always worth being prepared. Once again, our customer services team is here to help so please reach out to them with any questions, big or small.”