This article was written by Ian Downes, Director at Start Licensing Limited, for The Bugg Report.
It would be difficult to deliver a view from the UK at the moment without referencing the positive impact and success of the Barbie movie. Not only has it been a box office success it has also been a regular feature in the media with stories about the film appearing on prime time news bulletins and in national newspapers. It has of course been a positive event for licensing with a broad range of products and partnerships launched into the market.
Early indications are that the popularity of the film has translated into good product sell-through. A welcome boost for the licensing industry. Also encouragingly the Barbie film has inspired some new companies to give licensing a try and also seen some novel partnerships. Companies like retailer Lush have launched Barbie ranges whilst FMCG companies like Proper popcorn have developed special edition products. I am sure that the success of Barbie has also given other IP owners food for thought in regards to film launches and building franchises.
I am sure it has encouraged Mattel to explore similar campaigns for their other brands as well. Sadly not all recent developments have been as positive as the Barbie one. At the time of writing retailer Wilko has entered administration and it looks like their shops will be closed. The multi-products retailer has been a good supporter of licensing over the years and will be a loss to a number of licensees particularly those in categories such as confectionery, toys, stationery and gifting. It will also be a loss felt by local high streets and of course Wilko’s employees.
In the context of tougher trading conditions it is interesting to see how retailers are finding ways to make their shops work harder and repurpose them. For example Primark operate a Friends themed Central Perk cafe in their Manchester store whilst HMV encourage local bands to play gigs in some of their stores.
Retailers have realised that they have new ways to use their floor space and are also looking at novel ways of engaging with the communities they serve. This mindset should open up new opportunities for licensing and partnerships.Ian Downes
Licensing can help retailers create themes and provide engaging content to them. A good example of how licensing can help create a retail event and deliver a point of difference at retail is the recent launch by FMCG company Schwartz of a range of meal kits and spices with chef and media personality Nadiya Hussain.
The range was launched in Asda with branded FSDUs, social media content and collaborative PR. The range was developed from scratch with Nadiya working closely with Schwartz. Both parties shared their knowledge and insight to create a range that delivered something new to the market but also filled a gap that was identified in the market. It is a great example of licensing adding value to a partnership but also a planned approach to product development.
Despite challenges in the market recent evidence shows that licensing has a role to play in retail and with retailers in particular ones who are looking for ways to proactively engage with consumers whilst making the most of their retail estates.