This week has been dominated by the Brand Licensing show. I have all the traditional post-show symptoms – I’m exhausted, my voice is shot to pieces and I think I’ve got a cold coming on – and I’m half a day late writing this blog, but it was all worth it.
I know that there is a tendency to come out of exhibitions on a high which can colour your judgement, but there’s no doubt this was a successful event. There’s no need to trot out the ‘it’s quality not quantity which counts’ argument about attendance; it was absolutely humming from the start of day one, and in stark contrast to Vegas, even the last day seemed busy. There seemed to be a greater percentage of international visitors than previously, and importantly, pretty much everyone I spoke to seemed to be in a positive frame of mind. Last year, many of my meetings seemed to be characterised by a degree of prevarication (lots of “let’s see how things pan out over the next few months” comments), but this year plenty of people wanted to discuss what we could do together, in some cases even up to a year ahead!
I won’t go into depth about specific new properties (lack of space and I don’t want to miss people out), but I don’t necessarily think that’s the point of the show anyway. If I didn’t know about something before I went then either the licensors weren’t doing their job or I wasn’t doing mine. But you certainly get a sense of which licensing companies and properties are building momentum and which ones are treading water or even going backwards (definitely no names on that score, at least not in public). There was plenty of opportunity to talk to licensees about which new launches they’re excited by; of course, many of the most-anticipated blockbuster movies are not due to arrive until 2015, but in the interim there’s no shortage of interesting options across all categories for next year.
One major toy company owner did suggest to me that with the October Hong Kong trip growing in importance, the timing of the show presents a few challenges to his team, but BLE seems to be on a roll, so I would imagine the organisers would be reluctant to change a winning formula, especially with broadcast show Mipcom taking place the week before.
BLE is also a good place to catch up on gossip. I hear that Jonathan Rose has left Cartamundi and has joined PR company MiPR as commercial director; Mookie Toys has a new head of marketing in the shape of Stuart Picton and Alex Phillips has left his role heading up the toy team at Tesco, although he remains within the company. I also gather there are strong rumours that Tesco will shortly be opening its own eBay store, which will certainly be an interesting move if it proves to be true.
There was also a lot of talk about the launch of all the Christmas gift catalogues this week, including the fact that the Toys R Us catalogue includes a price-match promise: ‘We won’t be beaten on price’ it boldly states on the cover and throughout the book – a brave move some might say.
My favourite new phrase of the week was ‘Co-exclusive rights’. Even by licensing industry standards, that’s a stroke of genius.
I promised to give a quick plug to the Hong Kong Football match, which is making a welcome return next year. Tuesday 7th January is the date to put in your diaries. The UK toy trade’s finest – and Jon Diver – will once again be pitting themselves against a formidable Hong Kong team, with all proceeds in aid of the Fence Club. Tickets are a snip at £85, especially as all food and drink for the night is included (yes folks, ‘drink and save’ is back! The more you drink, the better value the ticket is…). There are also lots of sponsorship opportunities, and if you are reading this and are a handy footballer, you might even be able to force your way into the squad (email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details). I have finally hung up my boots, but I will certainly be there supporting the lads.
Finally, I combed the aisles in vain at BLE to find anyone offering this marvellous new property for sale. Dreamed up by Japanese freezer manufacturer Fukishima Industries, the idea is that character was born inside a fridge in Fukishima, site of last year’s nuclear meltdown. So what did they decide to call him? What else….
You can follow John on Twitter @Baulchtweet.