First Impressions of Licensing Expo

Posted by Marty Brochstein on June 11, 2009

Some initial observations having arrived home from “Licensing Camp” — the first Las Vegas-staged Licensing International Expo:

1. I call it Licensing Camp because, for better or worse, that’s what the week often seemed like. The Mandalay Bay complex, stretching from the Luxor through the Convention Center, was the literal center of the licensing universe. Both good and bad behavior was on constant display at all hours of the day and night..

Step on or off an elevator, and you were probably face to face with someone else in the business. Walk into one of the bars or restaurants on site, and the same thing held true. Anyone who went out to the pool on Sunday or Monday probably saw another side of the business on display (in some cases one that they would rather have remained hidden).

Some saw that as a great thing, others wanted an escape. Now that everyone’s had their first experience, they can choose their housing strategy for next year.

One other note in that vein… Executives from a few New York-based companies discovered something that those from elsewhere might have realized years ago when they traveled to Javits: This is the only time that virtually their entire licensing team was in a single place together 24 hours a day, and the show became a bonding experience of sorts for their staffs.

2. This was the first Licensing Show that nobody was able to work on autopilot. Gone was the security blanket for longtime show attendees of knowing where certain companies were situated, and understanding how long it would take to get from Point A to Point B. We heard lots of justifiable complaints about confusing and incomplete aisle signage, and I’m sure that will be improved. But I think everyone will benefit in 2010 from having had a year of Las Vegas under our belts.

3. Though traffic was undoubtedly down (I haven’t seen the numbers yet), the general consensus I got was that meetings were plentiful and that those who did attend the show were serious about this business. Given the economy,nobody is attending trade shows casually this year, and Licensing Expo is no exception.

4. Congrats to all the award winners. It was great to see that they included properties both large and small. Congrats also to Hall of Fame inductee Greg Battersby.

5. Positives of the first LIMA Opening Night Party:

  • The awards ceremony lasted a snappy 57 minutes
  • The overall consensus was that it was a great party
  • The acting debuts of Bernie “Jake” Leifer and Charles “Elwood” Riotto were unforgettable (and no doubt immortalized by now somewhere on YouTube)
  • Attendance exceeded our optimistic expectations

6. Negatives of the first LIMA Opening Night Party:

  • The partying and conversation were so deafening that they drowned out the awards ceremony for anyone who wasn’t sitting up in the balcony. Folks, these are your awards, for your peers, in the business in which you are making your careers. The lack of respect was striking.

7. Our first LIMA Retail Tour was a rousing success. A hearty group of about 30 international and U.S. based visitors got a tour of the Fashion Show Mall on the strip, lunch and my State Of The Industry Presentation, and then walk-throughs of suburban Target and Kohl’s stores. Special thanks to Doug Karsko of Fashion Show Mall, and Evelina Bialon and Chris Farnsworth of Target for their insights and hospitality.

8. Those of you who didn’t make the lengthy trek to our first-ever Keynote Session missed a fabulous, thought-provoking presentation by Dan Stanek of Retail Forward about consumer attitudes and shopping patterns. Among the trends that Dan pointed to:

  • Bad news for malls: Consumers aren’t browsing, but rather are shopping specific stores
  • Consumers are changing behavior – Even the wealthy are shifting to less expensive alternatives. Overspending is seen as a disease of sorts – Affluenza.
  • People looking to simplify and slow down. They’re looking at buying things as  cluttering one’s life, not adding to it.
  • People  are thinking beyond “me,” and considering “what is good for the world.” In Stanek’s words, they’re moving “from the Me Generation to the Us Generation.”

9. We saw a late surge in registrations for a fantastic Licensing University seminar program, with some sessions drawing three times as many people as we’d anticipated even a couple of days before. Our thanks to all the moderators and panelists for a job well-done, and for putting up with late room configuration changes and even – in the case of Licensing 101 – setting up chairs and moving walls as the seminar was proceeding.

10. Let us know what you think, either by contacting me or anyone else at LIMA directly, or by posting comments to this blog. Thanks in advance your feedback.