LicensingSource.net catches up with joint md, Danny Schweiger, to find out more on the licensee’s plans, how he sees further opportunities on the horizon and why, after a quarter of a century, the most exciting time is yet to come.
“25 years and we are about to enter the most exciting time for the business,” begins Danny Schweiger, joint md of Character World Brands, looking ahead to the company’s 25th anniversary in 2023.
Like all businesses, Covid-19 presented some real challenges for the licensee, however Danny says that it has been able to adapt and achieve growth by pivoting and leaning into the way that consumers have been shopping.
“The team have done an amazing job of working virtually over the last two years due to Covid-19, and have demonstrated absolute trust in each other while working through the uncertainty,” Danny comments. “We’ve now resumed flexible office working, and we’re seeing a real appetite and ambition to push forward into a period of more optimistic growth and opportunity, which in turn creates a great vibe and buzz, and an even stronger desire to grow.”
One of the key areas of focus for the licensee is developing and delivering against a robust product, channel and territory strategy.
Looking back at its almost 25-year history, Character World has developed from a predominantly UK-based business to a European-wide operation, with one of its main strategic pillars being the growth in territories.
“On the geographical front, mainland Europe is Character World’s biggest growth area currently, with plans for 2022 to be a record year,” says Danny. “We are also focused on expanding and developing existing retailer partnerships. Our channel strategy is simple – we want to ensure that we’re offering something for all consumers, making products accessible and also affordable. Our plan is to closely analyse the retail landscape and work with our current partners to develop our depth of range and optimise our listings. With those retailers with whom we’re not optimising opportunities, we will explore how we might collaborate on a product offering suited to their consumers’ needs.”
The company also sees a significant opportunity for growth in ecommerce, as James Walker – who joined as ceo in January – explains: “If you have the right tools to capitalise on it, then ecommerce is essentially a borderless world in which geography disappears, and the opportunities are many. There is a real opportunity to look at the broader categories and offerings within our product areas, and to deliver a better proposition for all our key partners as well as consumers.”
Danny continues: “A digital-first approach for us is very much about being nimble in the marketplace. We have been consciously approaching this over the last few years having made great progress and optimisation of omni-channel selling. Via marketing, photography, video content and the technical aspects such as seo and metatags, we have been able to support retailers and brands throughout the digital landscape.”
New categories and product areas have also helped to fuel growth, with the Rest Easy Sleep Better range being one example. Danny adds: “Having now been in the market for over two years, Rest Easy Sleep Better features frequently in consumer press and has a strong online presence which we will continue to grow. We are seeing the same success building for our Coverless Carefree Bedding range too, and are currently developing further newness for AW22 and beyond.”
The final strategic pillar is CSR, something which is already at the “heart and soul” of the business, Danny points out. “The company has a focus on its sustainability policy, its manufacturing base, how we work as a team and how we look after our people. We want to keep leading the way as an organisation, and to preserve our point of difference.”
While Danny is well aware of the challenges in business at the moment, he also sees some exciting times on the horizon: “There are a lot of factors contributing to the challenges that we are all facing in 2022, however we are not letting any opportunities pass us by. If we can bring a new brand or product to market we will, if we can get a promotion live with a key retailer we will. Nothing is off the table at this point.”
With the 25th anniversary celebrations about to be ramped up, the company will be gradually rolling out its new look, logo and branding assets across its B2B communications and its D2C platforms over coming months.
“We wanted a name, logo and branding that felt more representative of what we do, who we work with and what we are known for, while still keeping a firm link to our heritage,” concludes Danny. “The timing seemed right as we start gearing up for our 25th celebrations next year. We have never been a business to miss an opportunity to celebrate so we are definitely looking forward to marking the occasion within the industry.”
“We offer a robust portfolio”
“We are always on the lookout for a new or emerging brands to collaborate with; they could be from entertainment, toy, lifestyle or anywhere,” says Danny. “Our brand portfolio is always evolving, but it is anchored in great content or narrative. Our unique portfolio ensures that we can offer a robust portfolio across key consumer ages and stages.”
Preschool, entertainment and gaming licences continue to perform well, while there has also been an increase in demand across EMEA for products that reflect favourite toys, such as Barbie, LEGO and Rainbow High.
Danny continues: “Also it’s great to be offering Disney products again; we are anticipating success with these lines as well as all our others.”