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Will Stewart on the Light at the End of the Tunnel

The Point. 1888’s founder highlights the importance of what’s to come for licensing in retail and share his very-own survival strategy.

Back in February, I wrote a piece with my predictions of what the next decade will bring, stating that retailers need to be brave, positive, and collaborate with brands to help drive traffic into shops. 

However, within weeks, nearly every shop in the U.K. was forced shut and no amount of bravery or positivity could change that. 

Despite this bump – or giant great crater – in the road that COVID-19 has created, I do believe that the 2020s will still be roaring for licensing and retail. But first, we must all pause, reset and then tackle this nightmare together if we’re going to emerge from this bigger and better than before. I say this, because this is the approach my company has taken since mid-March and wow is it working. And we started from a real low point. So low in fact that several days into lockdown, I announced on LinkedIn that my business took “five years to build; five days to break.” 

So, in the spirit of collaboration, I’ll now share with you just what we’ve done to go from hopelessness to thriving. For the retail and licensing industries to be restored, we all need to work together. 

Our recovery plan is broken down into four distinct phases and as of July, 1 2020 we joyously moved into Phase 3. 

Phase 1 – Survival.   

If we could control the cash, our business could survive.  This is all we focused on for eight weeks. 

Phase 2 – Adapt / Pivot.  

We changed and improved EVERYTHING in the business in this phase to enable us to be ready for the new world order. 

Phase 3 – Go Forth.  

We must collectively learn to live with this virus and the new environment it brings. More than ever we must be brave – brave in the face of the virus and risk it brings including the dreaded second wave. This is a very exciting but also a rather scary time for any business but if we can’t embrace each other, let’s embrace the opportunities instead. 

Our industry is in significant pain – we know that, but we want to be a voice of positivity and a driver of change to enable us all to get back on our feet. 

Phase 4 – Change the World.  

We are ready for when the new world order is in place – kindness and collaboration will rule, and true purpose will step into the limelight. If your business follows those values, it shall have a bright future again. 

When I last wrote for License Global, I said the 2020s were going to be truly roaring and for 10 weeks they certainly were for us. I ended with this: “If the teenies were the decade of division, the twenties can be the one of honest collaboration that builds and delivers true purpose.” 

I still believe this to be the truth, but it’s been one hell of a corona-coaster journey to get to this point. 

The licensing industry has always needed retail, but retail has never needed licensing more than it does today. By collaborating and building long term sustainable partnerships we can all thrive during the 2020s. 

Consumers love brands. Retailers need new brands to drive new consumers into their shops. If retailers truly collaborate with licensed brands, they can get the newness and exclusivity they need to help them create the buzz and stand out from the crowd. 

The pain experienced by retail has been brutal, but maybe this is the kick up the *”@s that retail needed. 

If you want “the people” to desire something, take it away from them for three months and then see what happens. The new brand buzz will ensure that going shopping is a true day out once again. 

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