This article was written by Ian Downes, Director at Start Licensing Limited, for The Bugg Report.
As the UK gradually moves out of Lockdown, the licensing industry is taking stock. In many cases literally taking stock. A number of retailers and licensees have significant quantities of stock in hand or in transit. There will be a hiatus period as retail manages to clear existing lines before buying in new stock. This will have an impact on the business of licensing. But beyond this and beyond the impact of Lockdown it has been increasingly difficult for licensed properties especially new ones to get traction at retail. Shelf space has been squeezed. One consequence of Lockdown has been a boom in Ecommerce and growth in the category. Licensees have taken advantage of this trend and there are some encouraging stories of success achieved through online sales for licensed products.
Against this backdrop it is worth noting how licensed products are finding new retail homes as licensees and rights holders find new channels to sell in. Indeed in some cases retailers are stepping up to take licenses directly themselves. A good example of this is furniture retailer DFS. They recently launched a new range of sofas developed under the Grand Designs license. Grand Designs is a long-running and successful TV show that focuses on home building and design. The range is available ‘exclusively’ at DFS. Exclusivity seems key here. DFS want to offer consumers a point of difference within a competitive marketplace.
In my own work we have recently partnered with e commerce firm Pong. Pong are a specialist retailer of cheeses. They offer consumers the chance to buy cheeses individually, in gift boxes or to sign up to a subscription service. We have developed a Wallace and Gromit cheese selection box with them which features signature cheeses inspired by the films such as Wensleydale and Stinking Bishop. For Pong a partnership like this opens up new consumer and promotional conversations. For Aardman it is a chance to work with a company that has access to a unique audience and one that manages the consumer relationship well. In simple terms it is well targeted licensing.
Direct marketing firms like the Westminster Collection know all about managing consumer relationships and have built up finely tuned consumer databases. Recently they launched a collection of coins based on the cult TV series Mr Benn. These were produced in tandem with the Guernsey Treasury. Around the same time The Royal Mint in the UK launched a coin collection featuring legendary rock band The Who. Both of these are examples of licensees using licensing to leverage their databases in a targeted way and to create compelling direct marketing offers. For rights holders direct selling like this opens up retail opportunities that probably wouldn’t exist otherwise.
Specialist retailers, direct marketing and e-commerce are all creating new opportunities for licensing. It is good to see new names popping up on the licensing retail radar but it is also important that rights holders and agents recognise that there are new ways of selling products to consumers. This needs to be done proactively and needs to be backed up with an understanding of their brands and what appeal they hold to consumers.