Our Head of Retail Hannah Stevens has this month worked with an industry expert with over 30 years of retail experience – Julia Redman of Buyers Eye, Buying & Sourcing Consultancy. Having also spent 10 years as Head of Buying at M&CO, Julia brings a cross category, multi dimensional view on the changing retail landscape, and a refreshing perspective on how licensing is performing for retailers in this momentous 2020 year.
Hannah – To kick us off, we’ll go with a big question … what is your favourite brand of all time?
Julia: Lego! Why? It’s a brand/product which inspires our children’s imagination and aspirations. They are masters of creative collaboration (Stranger Things, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Minecraft, Lamborghini, to name just a few). They totally embrace diversity of age, gender and cultural background. Anyone can play with Lego! They are introducing Lego bricks made from plant based plastics, although I really do think they need to develop biodegradable bricks for the future.
Hannah – Which licensed brands do you see as most innovative and exciting for 2020?
Julia – Who could fail to be excited by the prospect of “Sussex Royal” from the re-invented Duke & Duchess of Sussex – could potentially bring something entirely new to the licensing arena!
Secondly, Pantone – having spent a lifetime working with colour, and discussing pantone references, it is really interesting to see how it is developing and collaborating as a brand in its own right.
I am also excited about the re-birth of the Wombles! They could be fantastic ambassadors in an industry which is turning up the dial on sustainability. But of course, the other brand to be excited about this year is Team GB!
Hannah: Which category of licensed product do you see being most innovative this year?
Julia: For me, the most exciting developments are in experiential retailing. It is not simply about the product itself, but the customer experience it delivers. Primark is becoming a master at this with, for example its Disney Café, Friends “Central Perk” Café, Harry Potter Wizarding World and Stranger Things shop in stores.
I have always believed that if, as a retailer, you are going to do something, do it properly or don’t do it at all. I had huge success with JCB, because it supported us with great imagery, marketing material, competition prizes and in store experiences, all of which enhanced and created a buzz around a great product offer.
Hannah: The licensing industry is always changing and evolving as new brands launch, and bringing opportunities to retailers. How do you feel the industry is performing at offering retailers a point of difference?
Julia: A licensed range needs to enhance/complement a retailer’s own brand offer, and it needs to deliver increased sales and profit if it is to compete effectively for space and profile in store. And the ranges need to be equally as trend driven as the retailers own – a brand name/graphic on a t-shirt is not always enough, particularly to break into womenswear. The industry needs to get creative with fashionability. Engaging and gaining the understanding of the wider retail community is sometimes the difficulty. Many buyers entering the industry have little or no understanding of licensing as a tool to drive customer engagement, sales and profit.
Hannah: We must all be mindful of the next generation arriving instore, or online and what they are looking for. How do you feel the millennial/gen z is shopping licensed brands?
Julia: These younger customers are seriously concerned with social and environmental causes. They favour brands which are aligned with their beliefs and values, so one of the ways to attract them is to build a strategy around engaging with these causes. They are also heavily influenced by social media, shop directly from Instagram or other mobile apps , and watch most of their television online or on Netflix, so engagement through these channels is critical. They will skip through or never even be exposed to, tv advertising, and as the most expensive form of reaching out to your customer, tv ads may become more and more obsolete.
Hannah: The Point 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?
Julia: As a general rule, in most circumstances, I would say that choosing your retail partners carefully, and approaching them direct first is the best way to gain their buy in. I would say the same to any product/brand supplier – do your research on them first and consider how a particular brand will work in their environment, on their website, and alongside the rest of their product offer. The earlier in the process you get their involvement, in the development of product, and the signing of preferred suppliers, the better, in my view. An early discussion is also a good way to get a feel for how committed they are and whether your approach is going to end in success (you might need to read between the lines! Often, what they are not telling you is more important to understand).
Hannah: And lastly…..a cheeky one from me … How have you found working with The Point 1888 retail team in your previous roles?
Julia: It has always been a joy working with The Point – such a committed, talented and enthusiastic team of people. I sincerely hope that I am able to work with you again in some capacity in the future!
Huge thanks to Julia for taking part in this blog, and to find out more about Julia and Buyers Eye, please head over to her Linked In- https://www.linkedin.com/in/julia-redman-8632b89/