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“Innovation will continue, probably now more than ever”

Key execs from ViacomCBS, Penguin Random House, The Kellogg Company, Just Play and Family Dollar discuss the future of consumer products in Licensing Week Virtual keynote.

A host of key executives from companies across the licensing spectrum gathered to discuss what the future of consumer products could look like in the keynote address on the second day of Licensing Week Virtual.

Moderated by Pam Kaufman, president of ViacomCBS Consumer Products, the panel consisted of Felicia Frazer, svp children’s and educational sales at Penguin Random House; Zion Doran, senior director, integrated promotions and partnerships at The Kellogg Company; Geoffrey Greenberg, co-president at Just Play; and Andrew Tucker, vp and ggm seasonal, toys and gm at Family Dollar.

Speaking on the changes seen at retail since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Andrew explained that Family Dollar was fortunate that it played into the mass and value segment. “The customer base continues to find other channels for consumer goods; mass and value have been strong over the last few months and will continue to be so,” he commented. “Customers need us more now than at any other time – they are looking to mass and value chains to help lower this cost of living and we are making sure that we continue to deliver on that.”

PRH‘s Felicia said that the first surge in sales the company saw was for work and activity books, before migrating to classic titles and trusted brands. “Now, as the conversation is changing, families need to find a way to talk about race and diversity, so we are seeing a lift in those kind of titles,” she offered. “Parents are looking for resources to be able to teach at home and we have so many opportunities to help books shape those conversations.”

Just Play‘s Geoffrey sees a “tremendous” opportunity in the toy space, with categories such as outdoor sports and games and puzzles seeing strong growth at the beginning of lockdown across the US (22% and 55% respectively). “I think in the early days, customers were uneasy so they sought comfort in classic brands,” he said. “We’ve seen an acceleration of online purchasing, while ‘baby boomer’ purchases have been incredible for us. We’re excited as states are starting to re-open – there is a tremendous opportunity in the toy space and everyone is optismistic.”

Tuesday's keynote panel (from top left, clockwise): Andrew Tucker, Family Dollar; Felicia Frazer, Penguin Random House; Geoffrey Greenberg, Just Play; Zion Doran, The Kellogg Company; and (centre) Pam Kaufman, ViacomCBS.
Tuesday's keynote panel (from top left, clockwise): Andrew Tucker, Family Dollar; Felicia Frazer, Penguin Random House; Geoffrey Greenberg, Just Play; Zion Doran, The Kellogg Company; and (centre) Pam Kaufman, ViacomCBS.

When it comes to adapting their businesses to what consumers want right now, The Kellogg Company‘s Zion explained its biggest challenge has been meeting demand due to high consumption of its food products.

The company also needed to pivot quickly on its marketing strategy, she added: “Where we have been tested is in our ability to be agile in how we market and talk to customers, and that happened pretty much overnight. I would say don’t let the current situation stop long-term partnerships, but also be agile enough to pivot to meet the demands of today.

“We do a lot in the sports industry, for example, and I think even our contingencies have contingencies for that!”

Family Dollar’s Andrew pointed out that learning to make customers feel safe in stores is key: “We’re learning how to adjust to make mom and the family feel safe – being proactive with signs, perspex shields, etc – and we’re seeing that correlate to the products consumers are buying, such as facemasks.”

Just Play’s Geoffrey said that adding plush complete with facemasks has been one of the changes the toy company has made. “We’re seeing a lot of anxiety among children and they are anxious about wearing facemasks, so parents are using plush toys to put masks on so that children become comfortable. It’s simply things like that, adapting to what this new world is like.”

Innovation certainly won’t go away though, he stated: “Innovation will continue, probably now more than ever. During this period we’ve spent a lot of time really focusing with our licensing partners and brainstorming.”

Licensing Week Virtual runs until Friday June 19 and there is still time to register and access the content, virtual show floor, Matchmaking and more. Visit www.licensingweekvirtual.com.

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