Exclusive: Letter from America – licensing for indies

Published on: 7th May 2021

This month, Rick Derr of Learning Express Toys, Lake Zurich, looks at the success of licensed ranges for indies across the US and beyond.

Rick says that two questions he often gets asked are why Learning Express Toys doesn’t stock more licensed product and whether he sees huge sales based on the latest hit YouTube, TV or movie-based property.  His answers often surprise people. “With a few notable exceptions, licensed properties don’t always necessarily work that way for indies,” he explains. “At times, when a new licence hits and we are able to get hold of the product, we see great success; CoComelon is prime example. But stocking licensed lines is an area we need to consider carefully. The economics must be worked so that we can be competitive with the mass market and online rivals, but still offer our in-store customers fair value. It is a delicate balancing act.”

Rick considers the top toy licensing brands nominated by The Toy Association for a TOTY award last year, and whether such licences really propel sales in the indie toy market, highlighting just two of the top nominated licences as having generated notable sales. He examines the reasons for this, and explores which licences new to the market in 2021 he expects to perform well or have longevity.

With a look at how the pandemic has affected the licensed category itself, and mentions for the current bright spots in the sector, Rick also discusses the need to identify trends early and work with vendor partners that can provide quality licensed toys at a fair price.

To read the full article, which concludes that both licensed and unlicensed ranges can complement each other in the indie channel, see the column in the May edition of Toy World here.




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