Good Christmas Presence for Licensing at Retail in the UK

Posted by Ian Downes on December 05, 2017

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The Christmas bells have been jingling since mid-November in the UK retail market but it remains to be seen if this early start to Christmas trade will get the tills ringing. 

Christmas is clearly a key time for retailers and as a retail facing industry licensing plays a part in it. Often it is a time that retailers turn to licensing for categories like gifting and apparel to create exclusive offers.  

Untitled design (30)Leading retailer Marks & Spencer’s have used classic character Paddington as the face of their Christmas TV commercial – there is a growing tradition in the UK for retailers to produce ‘blockbuster’ commercials which get the public talking.  Marks & Spencer’s have tied up a deal timed to coincide with the release of the second Paddington Movie and seem to have backed a winner as the film is proving very popular. They have followed this creative idea through in store with a Paddington ‘shop in shop’ concept supported by POS material including an instore ‘selfie’ opportunity coupled with a range of Paddington products many of which are retail exclusives cutting across categories such as apparel , food and gifting. One feature of the partnership are golden Paddington Bear statues used in window displays - this has been followed through with gold coloured Paddington tree decorations nearly merchandised in store in a Paddington trunk. Marks & Spencer have embraced the opportunity well and have also added a charitable element to the partnership with an exclusive book sold to benefit children’s charity NSPCC.

Other retailers have used licensed properties to create Christmas themes and designs in core areas like apparel. A good example is grocer Sainsbury’s who have bespoke Christmas designs on children’s apparel featuring popular properties like Peppa Pig and Star Wars. Enterprisingly they have also dialled up modern Christmas classics like Home Alone to create children’s T-Shirt designs. Sainsbury’s are an example of a retailer who turns over shelf space to seasonal gifting introducing gift sets in categories such as toiletries , personal care and food. They feature a broad range of characters including some from outside the mainstream like Kendra Dandy’s Bouffants and Brokenhearts. Sainsbury’s like a lot of retailers have also focussed heavily on Star Wars pulling together a range of products from a variety of licensees in dedicated space. Star Wars is featuring in a lot of retailers at the moment and it will be interesting to see how product sells through.

Asda part of the Wal-Mart group also use licensing in their Christmas offerings.  They stock a lot of big box toys featuring the likes of Disney Frozen and Trolls linking with toycos and their advertising campaigns. Marvel features heavily in Asda’s apparel offering including dress up lines, dressing gowns and onesies.  They have also tapped into the popularity of Nickelodeon’s Jo Jo Siwa with products such as pyjama sets and slippers. 

More specialist retailers such as Boots use licenses from categories such as brand and personality categories to develop gift packs containing the likes of fragrances , shower gels , accessories and washbags. Featured brands include blogger Zoella. Interestingly Boots also sell ranges based on other retailer’s brands including Fat Face , Joules and Jack Wills. All of these brands are fashion and lifestyle brands bringing gifting opportunities that reach beyond Boots’ regular consumer base. For these brands Boots is a really good retailer for them to be in at this time of year not least as it is a destination store for many gift buyers.  

Another specialist retailer Lakeland which focusses on kitchenware, food and gifts have dabbled in licensing over recent years but seemed to have pulled back a bit more recently. However, they have a sprinkling of licensed ranges on offer for Christmas particularly targetting gift givers with keenly priced products including novelty items such as DC Comics Dress Up Napkins and a more in depth range of Harry Potter products. Lakeland also use licensed brands on their food products such as Jim Beam Milk Chocolate Truffles,  Peaches infused with Curvoisier and marmalades with whisky brands such as Famous Grouse. Using brands with distinct flavours helps create a point of difference in a competitive space and appeals to gift givers looking to add a special touch to a present.

Outside of the mainstream and specialist retailers it is interesting to see that value retailers such as Wilko have also turned to licensing to supplement their value offering for example they have used classic comic brand Beano to create a gifting range consisting of signature items like yo-yos , notebooks and whoopee cushions all boxed in vintage style packaging reinforcing the brand’s classic credentials.  This is a good example of a brand, a retailer and a licensee combining to create a range that fits a market sector well. A good example of flexibility in licensing – a skill set that will need to come to the fore more often in 2018. 

Christmas presents the licensing industry with some significant opportunities to engage with retailers and examples such as Marks & Spencer’s use of Paddington Bear demonstrate the potential that licensing can bring a retailer. A well managed licensing campaign or range can really make a difference especially when deployed in a thoughtful way with the consumer at the forefront of buying , design and pricing decisions.

Ian Downes, START LICENSING
@startlicensing
www.startlicensing.co.uk