Holiday retail results paint a mixed picture for licensing in Europe.
However, there are some positive trends for licensing. Upmarket stores (Selfridges, for example) have done very well, and it is the premium ranges and luxury goods that have boosted the supermarkets' results. UK chain Marks & Spencer dared to utter the word, "recovery," after another consecutive hike in sales, this time attributed to its fashion lines.
Additional trends and lessons are emerging from the aisles of exhibition halls. Big company names boosted the Toy Fairs (LEGO for the second year in London and Nintendo in Nuremberg, for example), but it is the gift fairs that are really burgeoning, and buyers are looking further afield for differentiation. Niche fairs such as Top Drawer (London, January) are scoured for the newest, smallest, and most innovative suppliers, while an increasing number of buyers travel further afield to shows such as Maison & Objet (Paris, January) for new inspiration. For property holders, these are rich picking grounds for adding new categories, distribution, and headline-grabbing products.
Across the whole of Europe, there is optimism for the
scale film releases of 2007, but aside from the blockbusters, rights owners and licensees will tailor their efforts to specific regions and audiences. In the last month, for example, footwear licensee Leomil described plans to target the German-speaking markets, and HIT is orchestrating a major push into the Benelux territories.
The TV business must continue to battle with falling revenues and, in the UK, regulator Ofcom has proposed banning the advertising of "unhealthy" foodstuffs during children's programs, with the use of licensed characters specifically banned. The TV business in the UK fears the lack of this revenue will result in fewer quality programs being made, and licensors will need to look elsewhere to replace this healthy stream of income.
Elsewhere, though, there is optimism. And, in general, things look economically rosy. But the watchword for the European licensing business is that the retail market remains acutely competitive. As one industry insider reveals, "We're all running harder to stay in the same place."
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