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It's all about retailers for veteran licensing man Michael Gottlieb as he focuses on putting brands together to make compelling stories for stores What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the internation
April 6, 2018
What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the international licensing industry today?
A lot of licensors and licensees develop product that doesn't get distribution at retail, or doesn't get good enough sell-through. Our challenge is to get the right product and devise innovative licensing programs for today's increasingly difficult retail environment. We have to get to know retailers well, at a very high level and understand their needs, working with them on a day-to-day basis. Then we have to devise a program that meets those needs. They get an exclusive deal along the way that they will then promote heavily because it is theirs. Once you know your way around retailers, you can work with anyone.
What's your approach to licensing?
Relationships, enthusiasm, creativity, persistence and distribution. I keep up with people and enjoy doing so. It's not an effort, but is part of what I do. Those relationships reap dividends because much of the business I do is repeat projects. Creativity is the thing that is missed most in this business. Licensing companies tend to want salespeople to negotiate ever-better deals. My deals are not always obvious at first—they are more creative, but as a result can take more time to pull off. And you have to have distribution. I do this by creating tie-ups with retailers.
What's your view of direct-to-retail deals?
I like them. A lot of licensees don't like other people talking to "their" clients. But if we are talking to retailers, we are creating distribution. The retailer effectively becomes the commissioner and pulls through programs, rather than licensees pushing them. My recent Mothercare deal put our client Sony/ATV on the licensing map, as well as yielding dividends in the form of credibility and visibility. And we got royalties as well. I came up with the idea for Rock and Roll Baby, but it has become Mothercare's brand. We are already working on our next direct-to-retail deal. You do have to bend over backward for retailers, but you can have a lot of fun and get terrific results. Rock and Roll Baby is achieving sell-throughs of 70 percent to 80 percent and is being extended for autumn 2009.
What are the latest developments on the agenda for CCL?
We're working on expansion in the music arena and a very hot innovative deal in publishing. Our new representation includes Channel 4's adult comedy show "Modern Toss," which was nominated for a Golden Rose Comedy Award, and "ToddWorld," a preschool series on CBBC, which has been nominated three years in a row for an Emmy as Outstanding Animated Children's Program.
What are the hot brands for licensing in your field?
Here's my answer with a twist. 'Within the lyrics of the world's most famous songs lives a story that had not been told'—until now. A hot product that has caught my attention is the 'epok' system from Wearable Technologies, which incorporates high-quality sound into clothing. Certainly the music arena has room for explosive growth.
Have you ever worked outside licensing?
From 1999 to 2004 I left London to give my children the experience of growing up in the country. I was called head of steam at the Gorse Blossom Miniature Railway on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon. When I arrived it attracted fewer than 100 visitors a day. My plan brought in character appearances including Bob the Builder, Noddy and Paddington. They transformed the business, with visitor figures jumping to over 500 children a day. It made me think about licensing again. And as the Eagles stated in "Hotel California:" "You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave."
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