Holiday Product Perspective

Although summer is still in full swing, holiday showcases remind the industry that successes in entertainment or popular culture are not always successes on the retail shelf.

As if it wasn't bad enough that the U.K. is experiencing unseasonably rainy summer weather, a great number of trade events have been staged reminding us that the holidays will soon be here.

At its recent Christmas event, Disney Consumer Products displayed its products by gift recipient categories: gifts for boys, gifts for mothers, my first Christmas, stocking filler items and six other categories with no product repeated. It serves the consumer press editors that are writing holiday gift guides very well, and from a licensing perspective, it was an impressive exhibition of just how far and wide a demographic and price point licensed products–like those from Disney–can penetrate.

From Swarovski Tinkerbell wings and Spider-Man iPad cases, to Tigger teething rings and traditional red Mickey romper suits, there was truly something for everyone.

There were character products from the newly launched Brave program and a new video game featuring the rarely seen Oswald the Rabbit, an original Walt Disney character. There were products for general retail distribution mixed with those made exclusively for The Disney Store, and items such as luggage that were previously only available at Disneyland Paris.

"Disney is embracing villains," says the guide as editors looked at the £50 collector edition dolls of wicked step-mothers and witches.

"Jake and the Never Land Pirates" had fewer products on display however, suggesting anecdotally that this popular preschool TV series may have sparked a demand for product not yet satisfied.

On the other side of that coin is the pickle Team GB found itself in last month as it faced a £2 million shortfall (as of press time), partly because it had failed to sell the number of supporters scarves and commemorative coins that it had anticipated to sell ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Team GB had hoped a last minute surge in sales might help rectify the situation, but in the meantime it appealed to various sources for additional funding to bridge the gap. The U.K.'s Guardian newspaper reported that Team GB hoped the high street retailer Next would sell 1 million of its supporters scarves. The Guardian also reported that sales of medals of famous Olympians, for sale at BP petrol stations, were below expectations.

Both "Jake and the Never Land Pirates" and Team GB are examples of how you can't take revenue from licensed products for granted. Demand for the Jake property is a delightful and possibly unexpected surprise, while Team GB's reliance on licensed product may be a problem that needs solving.

As Brand Licensing Europe approaches, the licensing industry must calculate those risks as it thinks about what types of brands to back: the "next big thing," the tried-and-tested classic, a niche brand for an inspired product pairing, something to fill a market gap or something else entirely.

Someone I know went to buy a suit recently but purchased an iPad instead. He's smitten with the iPad, but still can't quite say what it's for. The very best products have a little something you can't quite put your finger on.