On day one of BLE 2019, Toy World publisher John Baulch chaired a panel discussion entitled ‘How can toy licensing recover its sparkle?’ which explored all areas of licensing, from brand to product to retail.
Following on from the licensing survey which Toy World conducted in partnership with Informa, the organiser of BLE, the panel debated some of the survey’s findings and explored ways in which sales of licensed merchandise could be boosted after four consecutive years of decline. Looking at ways in which toy licensees and retailers can collaborate with licensors to reinvigorate the licensed toy category, the lively and informative discussion provided food for thought for the licensors, licensees and retailers in attendance.
A stellar line up of expert panellists from across the licensing industry included Hannah Mungo, director of Consumer Products, UK and Ireland at NBCUniversal; Mark Kingston, SVP international consumer products, Viacom International Media Networks; Andrew Barrett, director of product development, VTech Electronics Europe; Lucy Wynne-Jones, head of licensing, Europe, Moose Toys UK and Stuart Grant, buying director, The Entertainer
Stuart Grant talked about the rapid growth in content available to children and how consumer buying behaviour is changing as a result. He noted that, “gone are the days when children are fanatical about one property, when they’re presented with so much content across an ever-growing range of media platforms.” Stuart went on to highlight how it is becoming increasingly more difficult for brands to make a connection with consumers and how retailers need to adapt, as buying behaviour continues to shift as a result.
Mark Kingston agreed that this is a major challenge facing the licensing industry: “To get time with kids at the moment, when they have so many different touchpoints, comes down to emotional connection. If properties have that real emotional connection with audiences and with the kids, it then translates into consumer products.” He noted, however, the challenges presented by SVOD platforms which often release a whole series at once, meaning that the consumer then has to wait six months or a year for the next season. He thinks it likely that appointment-to-view may return to popularity, which would allow viewers time to build a connection, in turn translating into demand for character licensed product.
Hannah Mungo forecast that YouTube will increasingly be utilised as an initial touchpoint for content: “I think we’re going to see a YouTube first approach more and more, because so many kids are tuning in, and it has the biggest number of eyes. Moving forward, I think YouTube is going to be a platform that CP can hang off the back of.”
Hannah also noted that NPD analysis viewed by Universal had revealed that the number of new properties on the market this year had risen from 40 in 2018 to 47 this year. She added: “If you take out one major licensor from the equation, the actual share is pretty much the same as it was in 2016,” a point re-iterated by Mark Kingston.
Adding a licensee’s perspective, Moose Toys’ Lucy Wynn-Jones was keen to focus on the positive impact of particularly strong properties among the many available in today’s market. “Even though the overall share might be down, there are still some real winners out there, such as L.O.L. Surprise! and Paw Patrol, that are enormous. People tend to forget those when they are talking about the decline of licensing.”
Andrew Barrett discussed how licensed goods can still command a premium, as consumers remain willing to pay more for them. “If the IP is strong enough, it can command a premium. How much will depend on what the product is.” He went on to explain how VTech considers it vitally important to look for product innovation with licensed IP. “If you can combine product innovation with a licensed character, you can probably go up to a premium of 30%.”
The panel discussion was one of 25 sessions that took place in BLE’s License Global Theatre. Other highlighted topics include sustainability, publishing, animation, gaming, eSports, food and beverage, heritage, fashion, influencers, digitalisation, retail and Brexit.
Toy World would like to thank all the panellists who took part and everyone who came along to listen.