Before the BLE show next week, some of the biggest names in licensing spoke to editor Rachael Simpson-Jones for our Touching Base feature.
Toy World asked leading licensors what they consider to be the biggest challenges and opportunities for their business currently, and how they feel the pandemic has changed the licensing industry.
We caught up with Kate Schlomann – EVP Brand Management & Content Marketing, Boat Rocker; Francesca Lisle – Managing director, Lisle Licensing; Mark Kingston – Senior vice president, International Consumer Products, ViacomCBS; Pindy O’Brien – International Licensing and Market Development director, Walker Books; Rachel Wakley – General manager, Warner Bros; Will Stewart – Managing director, The Point.1888 and Marianne James – Vice president EMEA Consumer Products, Hasbro.
All are in agreement that the licensing industry has been facing turbulent times, however note that everyone has demonstrated resilience and strength. “We’re pulling together with our partners to get through 2021 while also strategising ways to navigate 2022,” commented Kate Schlomann, while Frankie Lisle said: “The pandemic has certainly changed the way we work – there are those in our industry who have embraced the opportunity for change. But, on the flip side, it has made launching new brands more challenging: there are retailers who seem to be more risk averse now.”
Mark Kingston highlighted that: “Next year, we’ll face an extremely crowded theatrical landscape. A significant number of movies with consumer products merchandise attached to them have been delayed and are now scheduled to be released throughout spring and summer 2022.”
Marianne James agrees. “We’ll need to navigate in a smart way through the highly competitive pipeline of delayed theatrical releases and tentpole events, another pandemic-related challenge,” she explained.
Rachel Wakley told us that next year is ‘brimming with fantastic opportunities’ and feels that Warner Bros has embraced many of the changes brough about by the pandemic. “The way we have all had to work is different, but the fundamentals of how we build franchises and develop product remain the same,” she told us. “There have been newfound efficiencies and it would be great for the industry to move forward accompanied by the best of our newly formed habits.”
“I think as licensors, we all became more open to where our brands could be sold,” added Pindy O’Brien. “The retail environment has become a more level playing field in consumers’ minds.”
Will Stewart believes that next year is going to be much more positive: “The collective resilience we have built up in the last 21 months will get us through this Christmas, and with the new year comes a new dawn.”
To read the full Touching Base feature, with much more from all the above experts, see the article in the November edition of Toy World here.