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What retail’s Xmas figures could mean for licensing

Much is uncertain about 2017, but the industry can take a number of positives from ‘Super Thursday’.

After Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Panic Saturday, yesterday (January 12) was Super Thursday – the day that the majority of retailers report their trading figures from the key Christmas trading period.

And there was much for the licensing industry to take heart in them – from across the retail spectrum, too.

Marks & Spencer posted a rise in Christmas like for likes; Mothercare edged its way back into growth; Primark saw sales jump 11%; high street stalwart John Lewis enjoyed further growth; high-end fashion brand Ted Baker saw a rise of almost 18% in retail sales; toy retailer The Entertainer delivered its fifth consecutive year of like for like growth; and ASOS hailed its Christmas period ‘a record’.

Earlier in the week, both Sainsbury’s and Tesco revealed that general merchandise, clothing and toys had all performed well, boosted by various initiatives in the festive run up.

All the above are retailers with a strong interest in licensed product, and no doubt there are many licensors and licensees greeting their success with applause (and perhaps a sigh of relief). You can read our full round up of the latest results by clicking here.

However, there was inevitably a note of caution sounded, too – no one really knows the Brexit-based implications that will need to be faced once the Government triggers Article 50.

Licensees, licensors and agents have already felt the bite of the fall of the pound against the dollar and the euro. We spoke to a number of them for the next edition of Licensing Source Book (which will hit desks next week) and many were in agreement that prices at the checkout will need to rise.

Pricing and margins will be keenly fought, however there is opportunity out there.

It seems there is more choice than ever at a retail level for licensed products. Earlier this week, The Source highlighted several retailers who are significantly upping their licensing activity – from B&M through to Joules (which saw like for like sales over the Christmas period grow by a healthy 22.8%).

Retailers, too, are working more cleverly in the way they present licensed product on the shop floor. Debenhams, for example, worked with Sanrio on a cross category offer for the Mr Men Little Miss brand before Christmas, with a dedicated area in-store. House of Fraser in Hull also has a special shop-in-shop to promote Hull 2017 product.

The squeeze in margins has also made some licensors identify the strongest selling licensed lines, and focus on promoting these – meaning the range is more in line with what consumers want.

The trick, as with anything, is in brand owners, agents, licensees and retailers all working together to find the best possible solutions; checking them off one at a time, navigating step by step through 2017.

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