I went to the Licensing Awards and all I brought back was this lousy blog and a knock-off light sabre…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 13th September 2013

I was sad to hear that Dominoes was placed into administration last Friday. It transpired that the Leicester-based independent retailer had been experiencing financial difficulties for some while, and had reached the point where it could no longer afford to continue losing the sums of money it was haemorrhaging every month. Somewhat inevitably, media reports repeatedly quoted the move to online shopping as the driving factor behind its demise. Local shoppers seemed genuinely saddened at the news, and there’s no doubt that if nothing can be salvaged from the unfortunate situation, it will leave a big gap in Leicester.

On a more positive note, it was great to catch up with so many people at the Licensing Awards this week. I’d like to congratulate all the winners; a full list can be found here. If you want the short version, it was a very good night for Asda, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Peppa Pig, while Lima Managing Director Kelvyn Gardner received this year’s honorary lifetime achievement award, which proved to be a popular choice with the audience.

As usual, the award presentations went on far too long (come on, I’m only saying what all of you are thinking…), and inevitably there was the occasional winner which caused everyone to turn to their fellow guests with a look of surprise on their face and mouth the word ‘really’ (or something slightly less printable). This year’s particular curveball was the triumph of Next in the ‘best retailer of kids licensed products’ category. I appreciate that I – and many of the people I know – are bound to have a toy-skewed perspective, and there is plenty going on beyond the realm of the toy world. But I shop in Next from time to time, and all I can say is that I must be missing something if it successfully managed to fend off the challenge of Argos, Smyths and The Entertainer. But awards will always divide opinion, and I don’t think I’ve ever attended a ceremony where there wasn’t at least one shock winner, so I guess this was par for the course.

On the plus side the animated segments – featuring Matt Hatter and Sooty – were very good, and although host Ed Byrne took a few minutes to get into his stride, once the audience warmed up he seemed to go down very well.

At the end of the evening (a relatively early finish for me, due to the fact I had arranged a 10.00 meeting the next morning), I was a little surprised to find that this year’s goody bag of licensed product contained one particular item which can only be described as a ‘parallel- marketed’ light sabre, which I found mildly ironic to say the least.

The licensing awards are usually a cracking place to pick up a few choice pieces of off the record information, but hot gossip was fairly thin on the ground this year. I did find out that TK Maxx’s Beth Carey has moved away from toys to another department after nine years, and that Victoria Bushell will be leaving Hit Entertainment for pastures new at the end of the month. There was also some low-level grumbling about the number of trips people will be required to take to the Far East between now and Christmas, as many retailers seem to have chosen completely different weeks for their visits. There is even talk that a couple of very large toy retailers won’t be going out to Hong Kong in January, which could potentially put the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons. Other than that, people just seemed to be relieved that business has picked up in recent months, and hopeful that Q4 will continue the positive run.

Finally, in keeping with this week’s licensing theme, it has been revealed that Italian footballer Alberto Gilardino has a tattoo of Peppa Pig on his arm, in dedication to his three daughters. Perhaps this is something which could catch on amongst the licensing fraternity? Or maybe it already has?!

You can follow John on Twitter @Baulchtweet.