True to the national caricature, British retailers have been talking about the weather. The weather has had a starring role in most post-Christmas trading statements from high street retailers, grocers and online retailers alike. Next, for example, blamed snow for £22 million of lost sales and Tesco said snow cost it £50 million. I don't suppose retailers in Austria or Switzerland can blame the snow for poor figures.
Price, loyalty and discounting are also high on the agenda but no one is talking about brands. Yet two retailers that reported comparatively stellar Christmas seasons were the distinctive John Lewis and Fortnum and Mason.
John Lewis, the department store chain that is home to many brands, had what its managing director Andy Street called an "outstanding Christmas," racking up a best ever week and best ever day with total sales up nearly 9 percent for the five weeks over Christmas.
Fortnum and Mason, a quintessential British luxury brand specializing in tea, coffee and Christmas hampers, reported an overall sales rise in December of 13 percent.
Licensing lives and breathes on the premise that manufacturers and retailers choose brands to gain competitive edge, and create a point of difference. What with snow and austerity working to keep shoppers at home, could brands be working harder to prevent the retail picture looking so bleak?
Looking ahead, the news prised out of the event team, that this year's Brand Licensing Europe is looking great with eight months of building still to do. There are 153 exhibitors now confirmed for the event (that's against 119 confirmed at the same time last year) and the show is tracking up 42 percent in terms of size on the same time last year. Classic Media, Target, CPLG, Counterpoint Systems, Hallmark and Mattel are among those that have confirmed their space in the last month. Who is to say yet what the main trends and directions of this year's show will be but the speed and enthusiasm with which brand owners have secured space points to continuing confidence in the power of licensing to inspire and create growth for brand owners, manufacturers and retailers.
The 2011 show is occurring later than in previous years; it will take place October 18-20 at London's Olympia. Details about film and TV screenings, and the Licensing Academy seminars and keynote address will be released soon.
In 2011, the Licensing Academy will host the second "License This!" challenge, in which a short list of creative concepts with clear potential for licensing can be pitched to an expert panel for advice and the chance to win a stand at the Brand Licensing Europe show in 2012. Last year's winner was Animaru, a strong and simple graphic design property. Since the win the company has bolstered its team with marketing and PR support prior to announcing its first deals. You can meet them and more than 153 others at Brand Licensing Europe in October this year.