Happy New Year! After a huge 2022 we are ready to kick start 2023 with more noise making than every before. First blog of the year comes from another Retail Interview, and this week Hannah Redler,Co-Founder of Spotlight.1888, our retail agency, is joined by Mary Lewis, Licensing Manager at The Entertainer.
Hannah – To kick us off with a big question … We would love to know what your favourite brand of all time?
Mary- That’s a tough question as I don’t have a favourite brand but multiple depending on my stage of life which makes calling out just one impossible. This is a complement to the licensing industry itself as there is so much to choose from for consumers across multiple categories that we all have the luxury of finding something for all of us.
Our chosen brands form a part of lives and memories as I recall going to my local town’s toy shop investing my pocket money in my next TY beanie baby or being gifted the first Harry Potter beginning a lifelong following. This includes early visits to the bookshop to pick-up the latest edition, visiting the Warner Brothers Studios to walk the sets or taking a ride on Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure rollercoaster.
However, one licensor that works on a level that I don’t think anybody else is close to is Disney. As someone who has just returned from Walt Disney World Florida I’m still in awe of the intense experience as you walk through the entrances to the parks. From the park theming to the exhilarating rides to the outstanding shows; it truly is like walking into a whole new world.
Knowing that we were catching-up, I considered when I was at the parks what makes the Disney experience never-ending after 100 years of being in business and 50 years of Disney World in Florida – whatever age you are you can’t help but be impressed. The answer I came to was two elements; feeling represented and/or inspired by their characters and I feel like that’s what we’re all really looking for and if any brand or license can tick these boxes they’re on to a winner.
Hannah – Which licensed brands do you see as most innovative and exciting for 2023?
Mary– At The Entertainer, we’re really looking forward to the movies slated for 2023 coming from some of the most recognisable and loved brands on the planet showing you don’t have to be new to be relevant. With the release of movies from Super Mario, Barbie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Paw Patrol (and that’s only touching the surface) we’re really excited what we can activate in stores and online to celebrate these releases from the Paw Patrol characters celebrating their 10th anniversary to Barbie at over 60 years old.
Hannah- Which category of licensed product do you see the most innovation happening this year?
Mary- With what’s looking like a tough start to the year from an economical standpoint, as a business we’ll be leaning even more into the pocket money and value offering that makes us a must-stop destination for families and the categories which can demonstrate this at a circa £10 price point are where we’ll be focusing our attention. With this view and what has been presented by our supplier partners, we’re seeing innovation continuing in collectibles especially in what’s a competitive market as each seek to spark the next big trend.
Hannah- What do you feel have been your ‘big wins’ last year brand wise?
Mary- This last year has seen us celebrate being back on the high street with some key partnerships that brought us an exclusive offering to fans including the Jurassic World: Dominion movie release. In partnership with Universal, we set out at the beginning of the year to bring dinosaurs to life in our stores – literally! With exclusive content being unlocked for our customers as they went on a dinosaur hunt around our stores looking for a Spinosaurus or T-Rex or our attention-grabbing window activations; Jurassic took over this summer.
We also partnered with the team at WWE for their stadium event ‘Clash of the Castle’ in Cardiff which saw our store in the city being taken over by fans as the WWE world descended. Thanks to the WWE team, we were able to offer the fans the chance to have a photo with the Championship and pull their favourite poses as well as welcome superstar, Tom Riddle, to meet the fans.
Being able to reintroduce retail-tainment back to stores has been the most exciting part of 2022 as we’ve able to host events and costume character visits with more of the same planned for next year.
Hannah: The licensing industry is always changing and evolving at the brands being launched, and the opportunities available to present to retailers. How do you feel the industry is performing at offering retailers a point of difference?
Mary- Trends come in waves and before you know it you start being presented similar ranges all tapping into a particular trend – with some complementing what’s already in the market but the trick is knowing when there’s one too many in our stores. With the majority of the estate being busy local toy stores in high street or shopping centre locations, one of the key considerations is where we fit everything! So the more exciting the production innovation and point of difference the easier it is for our buyers to range.
Hannah- In this ‘post pandemic’ retail environment, how valuable do you think it is for retailers to be offering a true instore experience when it comes to brands, and what do you think customer expects from brands?
Mary– Brands in essence are based on experiences whether that’s something as small as the tactile and comforting feel of squeezing a Squishmallow or building Lego bricks to recreate your favourite movie scene. If brands didn’t give us that connection there wouldn’t be any fans – as a long-suffering Wycombe Wanderers supporter I can say that for every disappointing loss you return time and time again with the hope that today’s the day you’ll experience the rush of a win.
As you say, we’re now living in a post-pandemic world and we’re even more grateful of experiences and being together so if a retail environment can surprise and delight fans in their stores even better. It’s been great to relaunch our costume character programme and introduce some new faces to our stores with the likes of Baby JJ from CoComelon thanks to our partnership with yourselves and Moonbug to further engage the fanbase and bring the brand to life.
Hannah- Spotlight.1888’s company DNA is through a retail first approach. How important do you feel it is for the industry to come to buyers first, to ensure you are consulted in the process in building a licensed brand from scratch?
Mary- Really important. You and I have sat in many meetings over the last three years having this conversation and gaining insight from the buyers as they are ultimately the decision makers with the insight to recommend what will work and what won’t. As mentioned, our stores are restricted with space and we want to maintain the value offering for our customers so both of these considerations are top of mind for our buyers when discussing introducing a new brand or extending an existing range.
Hannah- And lastly…..a cheeky one from me … How have you found working with The Point.1888/ Spotlight.1888 retail team in your previous roles?
Mary- My experience with the team has been solely in my Licensing role at The Entertainer which has seen us activate some exciting campaigns as we’ve been working together on CoComelon in particular seeing it go from strength to strength.
Now with Baby JJ being part of our costume character programme, this demonstrates the commitment and flexibility from ourselves, Moonbug and The Point to continue to excite new generations of fans. The Point 1888 facilitate relationships between ourselves and brand owners to not only maintain the momentum on existing conversations but also introducing us to new licenses – the team is persistent, passionate but not pushy which makes them a great contact in a friendly, innovative and ambitious industry.