According to Downsey — Edition 15 (Getting Back on Track!)

This article was written by Ian Downes, Director at Start Licensing Limited, for The Bugg Report.


Post the COVID-19 Lockdown, like all industry sectors, the licensing market in the UK is looking to get back on track and return to ‘normal’. Encouragingly, benchmark events like trade shows are taking place regularly, companies are returning to their offices and licensing networking is back on the agenda. Talking of networking the BELLAs Brand & Lifestyle awards recently took place. A very positive demonstration of the licensing business being back on track.

That said it is unlikely that things will return to how they were prior to the Lockdown. Ways of working have changed, methods of meeting have changed and business has been re-shaped. I think we are emerging into the light blinking our eyes and seeing a changed licensing landscape. This change is both a challenge and an opportunity. There are some exciting new opportunities for licensing that have emerged — a good example is the growing success of eCommerce and ironically given the last two years more dynamic developments in the ‘live licensing’ arena. A significant challenge is the current position of the UK retail market particularly in regards to the high street, department stores and shopping centres. These sectors are under huge pressure financially. One example of this is that well known convenience store group McColl’s, which has 1,100 stores on the high street, went into administration recently. Encouragingly at the time of writing it seems supermarket chain Morrison’s is going to buy McColl’s out of administration. This should see McColl’s carry on trading but probably with changes. What we are seeing is a re-shaping of the traditional retail landscape. Licensing can play a part in this but will also have to think about what part it can play and how to play that part.

Against this backdrop it is encouraging to see licensing being used in imaginative and effective ways. The BELLAs showcase examples of licensing from the Brand and Lifestyle sectors. These are two categories of licensing that seem to be in growth. Some of the products nominated are a great indicator of how licensing is moving in new directions. The winner in the Health & Beauty category was a Van Gogh Museum Sunflowers fragrance range from Floral Street Fragrances. A really good example of how a heritage license can make a difference in a competitive sector. One of the features of this product was really good in store displays. This is a great example of how licensing can make a positive impact at retail. Another interesting winner at the awards was that Iceland the retailer picked up the award for Best Supermarket for Licensed Brands and also a product award for a range of TGI Friday’s frozen appetisers. It is interesting to see a retailer that is predominately a food retailer winning the supermarket award but this is a measure of how important licensing has become to Iceland.

They have recognised that tapping into brand licensing can give them a competitive advantage and use the pulling power of brands in their shops to engage with consumers. In many ways Iceland is a good role model to share with other retailers to show what licensing can do for them. In competitive and challenging times licensed products can offer a point of difference to retailers and help them connect with their consumers.

Ian Downes

As noted earlier eCommerce is becoming an increasingly important part of the licensing mix. It was good to see Blu Goblin launch their eCommerce platform. Blu Goblin are part of the Louis Kennedy Group and have developed a platform to sell special edition and limited edition products. Products are developed with brand owners and a nominated charity so there is a cause related element to the business. Their first launch was a range of Limited Edition Japanese Art Prints developed with The Ashmolean Museum. Further evidence that heritage brands have licensing firmly on their radar these days. It is good to see Blu Goblin launch, not least as they have recognised that there is a gap for bespoke products developed with fans in mind. The fan market is definitely one that licensing can serve well. As eCommerce companies like Truffleshuffle have shown if you understand licensing, eCommerce and fan culture there is good business to be developed.

We are in changing times but in my view licensing can change with the times. I think there will be good opportunities for licensing but they will be ones that will best delivered in a strategic, creative and responsible way. Licensing post-Lockdown will be increasingly about developing, preserving and nurturing partnerships.

www.twitter.com/startlicensing


This article originally appeared in The Bugg Report Magazine Edition 41

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