Retailers, Brands Must Collaborate for Success

Panelists at Licensing Expo Virtual’s “Ask Me Anything” session reveal a new playbook in retail.
License Global

August 24, 2021

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Day One of Licensing Expo Virtual’s “Ask Me Anything” panel session addressed all things retail and brand licensing, including brick-and-mortar trends, how and what makes an effective partnership, how to reach consumers and more. 

Amanda Cioletti, content director, License Global moderated the session. Panelists included Andy Cohan, co-founder and co-chief executive officer, ACI Licensing; Gaye Dean, vice president, retail, Pocket.watch and Steven Heller, president, The Brand Liaison. 

When it comes to a productive brand and retailer partnership, Heller likened it to a three-legged stool.

 “It’s the right brand, the right product and the right channel,” says Heller. 

Timing and transparency are also crucial for the right partnerships, according to the panel.

“Have shared goals and envision what you want out of the partnership,” says Dean. “Sometimes – as we all know – an email can be misinterpreted. Getting on the phone and talking is good … you’re going to learn something new.” 

For the panel,

there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for picking categories that will thrive at retail. 

“You have to evaluate the brands,” says Dean. “Some brands are wonderful in toys. Others are wonderful in apparel. How do you bring innovation to the brand? What’s trending? Take a look at every brand.”

“Your only limitation is your creativity,” says Cohan.

“‘Retail’ is such a broad term,” says Heller. “I like to look at the specialty channels and think, how do you find the less obvious channels of distribution?” 

The panel talked about the current challenges for licensees, licensors and retailers, particularly the current supply chain and how customers turn to smartphone apps to place orders from apparel to coffee.

“From a timing standpoint, people will have to make decisions much more quickly and defined,” says Cohan. “No one will be in a queue anymore.” 

“An empty shop is not a good look,” Dean. “We have to rejigger our plans. We’re losing out right now because products aren’t going to make it in stores.”

Once a threat to retailers, the panel agreed that omnichannel retail is embraced in 2021. 

“‘Omni-channel is now momentum,” says Heller. “It drives a brand higher and higher.” 

“It opens a number of options regarding how to make a purchase,” says Cohan. “It changes your expectation to customer experience.” 

The panel pointed out how retailers are now using social media and digital to enhance and mobilize audiences.

“Pocket.watch are utilizing YouTube stars and developing franchises out of them,” says Dean. “Everywhere kids are, we are.” 

“Social media is today’s advertising,” says Heller. 

Still, do social media metrics leave a more analog metric like gut instinct in the rearview mirror?

“If you don’t have the gut instinct, you’re not going to get the data,” says Cohan. 

Cohan mentions how a new category of retail resellers like ThreadUp and Poshmark is another option for purchasing, which meets customers' needs. 

“The purpose of the marketplace is to keep you inside of the ecosystem,” says Cohan. “How well you execute it is another story.” 

Newer approaches to retail, like direct-to-consumer, can be a benefit for a brand, says the panel.

“Direct-to-consumer is a great opportunity for a brand to test things,” says Dean. 

However, Heller called a direct-to-retail deal for some brands, “a double-edged sword.”

“You have a DTR with a retailer and have great marketing, but you have all your eggs in one basket,” says Heller.  

 

To watch the AMA on-demand, go to LicensingExpo.com.

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