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Articles from 2019 In November


Black Friday Trends Hint at a Season of Change for Retail

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Thanksgiving and Black Friday at a Glance

  • The U.S. spent $7.4 billion via online retail for Black Friday 2019, raising the year-on-year digital growth for the period to 43 percent.
  •  L.O.L. Suprise Dolls and "Frozen 2" toys were the top selling products of Black Friday in U.S.
  • Stores in the U.K. remain quiet on Black Friday with British consumers forecast to drive £2.3 billion in online sales.

A Digital Future for Black Friday

Between Nov. 1 – Nov. 30, Adobe Analytics reports that $98.8 billion has already been spent online during the holiday season (running Nov. 1 - Dec. 31).

This update, taken from Adobe’s link to transactions across 80 of the top U.S. retailers, is on its way to surpass the $143.8 billion online prediction for the season; up 14.1 percent over 2018’s $128 billion sales total.

Adobe Analytics forecasts that the U.S. is moving to online deals rather than in-store, with $7.4 billion being spent online during Black Friday. Cyber Monday itself (Dec. 2) is also due to be the first $9.4 billion day in ecommerce history.

Put simply, every day across Nov. and Dec. is due to significantly surpass $1 billion in online sales according to Adobe.

The consumer trends have already emerged too, with the most popular items online taking the form of "Just Dance 2020"; "Frozen 2" licensed products; L.O.L. Surprise Dolls; Samsung TVs; and Instapots. On Veterans Day (Nov. 11) the top products also included "Fortnite" toys, "Pokémon Sword & Shield", Pikmi Pops and L.O.L. Surprise! Dolls.

Big Stores Go Digital as Americans Avoid the Chaos

Best Buy, Walmart and Costco increased their online presence significantly to build on the growing trend of online Black Friday shoppers and bolster retail revenue.

“Millions of customers joined us online and in stores across the country for our Black Friday event,” says Steve Bratspies, executive vice president, chief merchandising officer, Walmart U.S. in a company statement. “Our most popular deals included our great assortment of TVs from brands like Samsung, and Philips, 'Ryan’s World' and 'Frozen' toys, and Apple Airpods.”

Finder.com stated 86% of Americans were planning to participate in pre-Christmas sales such as Black Friday. The NRF estimates 165 million people will take to stores. However, on Thanksgiving Day CNBC noted how crowds were untraditionally thin due to a longer holiday spending period and earlier sales across Nov. The statistics from Adobe report that in-store sales are up 4 percent on 2018.

The U.K. Struggles to Adopt Black Friday

In the U.K., major shopping hubs – like Oxford Circus or Manchester’s Trafford Center – were silent as consumers traded the early morning queues for the comfort of their homes, even with retailers slashing prices up to 80 percent to draw in buyers according to the Daily Mail. A trend broken by only a handful of stores, including JD Sports who welcomed thousands of buyers in London.

PwC predicts that 77 percent of British buyers are in fact saving their energy for online sales to emerge, with an expected £2.3 billion coming from digital checkouts in the U.K of a £5.6 billion total for the retail weekend.

The total U.K. spend across both retail and online is due to run to around £5.6 billion according to Finder, down significantly from 2018’s £7 billion result. Ecommerce assistance site Topcashback.com has already reported a 32 percent rise in online sales deals through its services as of 9AM GMT Nov. 29 with plenty of daylight left before Black Friday closes in the U.K.

We’ll be updating this article with more coverage of Cyber Monday, so stay up to speed on License Global.

Rainbow’s ‘44 Cats’ Littered with New Licensees in N.A.

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“44 Cats,” airing on Nickelodeon and produced by Rainbow Group, is expanding its licensing program.

The brand’s publishing program in North America will be expanded with board books, storybooks and early readers from HarperCollins Children's Books.

In addition, “44 Cats” is partnering with Zak Designs, a global leader in licensed dinnerware, drinkware and on-the-go-beverageware for licensed products.

The licensing deals were brokered by Branding Streams (Canada) and The Joester Loria Group (United States).

The “44 Cats” television series debuted in the U.S. on June 10 on the Nickelodeon and also airs on Nick Jr. and Nicktoons. Daily Canadian broadcasting was launched in September on Treehouse, airing weekdays, and on YTV during weekends (in English) and  on Yoopa (in French). A second season is currently in production.

Signare Tapestry Releases Frida Kahlo Bags and Accessories

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British company Signare Tapestry has inked a deal with Barcelona-based Art Ask Agency for a new line of Frida Kahlo bags.
The tapestry and bag collection is expressed in two ranges, each with 10 pieces covering every day, evening and travel. Distribution will be available worldwide.

“I really love these special products, and Frida is in great company at Signare as they also do licensed ranges of Jane Austen and the V&A,” says Maria Strid, owner, Art Ask Agency.
The Frida Kahlo licensing program continues to grow and now includes items such as Christmas baubles, jewelry, a Barbie doll, hand-embroidered denim jackets, flower pots and wine.

Signare Tapestry is the newest addition to the licensing list, with its line launching in 2020 at SpringFair, NEC, Birmingham.

LEGO Acquires BrickLink

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The LEGO Group has announced the acquisition of NXMH’s BrickLink, the world’s largest online LEGO fan community and marketplace.

The BrickLink platform has more than one million members and comprises an online marketplace of more than 10,000 stores from 70 countries. It also includes a digital building software where builders can design and showcase their creations and an online community where fans share ideas and builds.
“Our adult fans are extremely important to us,” says Niels B Christiansen, chief executive officer, LEGO Group. “They are passionate, committed and endlessly creative. We have worked closely with the community for many years and look forward to deepening our collaboration. We plan to continue to support BrickLink’s active marketplace and evolve BrickLink’s digital studio, which allows our talented fans to take their creativity to the next level.”
The platform, now headquartered in Irvine, Calif., was founded in 2000 by Dan Jezek as a way to connect like-minded adult LEGO fans from around the world. It was acquired in 2013 by NXMH, owned by Korean entrepreneur Jung-Ju “Jay” Kim.

“BrickLink provides the LEGO Group with a unique opportunity to connect with adult fans through new channels and exciting experiences,” says Julia Goldin, chief marketing officer, LEGO Group. “We’ve recently collaborated with BrickLink on a range of crowd-sourced sets to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the brick. We learned a lot and are keen to explore more ways of working together to create value. We look forward to collaborating further with our adult fans, while retaining and nurturing the independent spirit of the digital platform.”
The acquisition also includes Sohobricks, which makes small batches of building elements.
Financial terms of the acquisition, set to close by the year’s end, were not disclosed.

“I am confident the platform will be in good hands with the LEGO Group,” says Jung-Ju “Jay” Kim, owner, NXMH. “As a fan myself, I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

Hey, Alexa! Partner with Gruffalo on New Experience

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Magic Light Pictures, the BAFTA-winning and Oscar nominated production company, has teamed up with Amazon U.K. to launch the world’s first Gruffalo Alexa voice experience.
“Gruffalo Move” is an immersive and interactive audio game, available in the U.K. and the U.S., which allows users to meet characters from the world of The Gruffalo and explore sound and music inspired from Magic Light’s animated special, based on the picture book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

Developed with digital product specialist agency Hi Mum Said Dad, “Gruffalo Move” – created for 3- to 6-year-old fans of the book and film – encourages children to get up and get active.

The Gruffalo has already dipped its toes into the digital world with the “Gruffalo Spotter App,” a collaboration between Magic Light and Forestry England, which brings to life the characters from the book in their natural forest setting. A No. 1 in the kids’ chart on the app store with more than 400,00 downloads when it launched in 2017, the app received a BAFTA-nomination.

 The “Gruffalo Move” Alexa Skill is yet another first in a year that has seen a number of celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the publication of the children’s book. February saw The Gruffalo’s first appearance on a coin, when the Royal Mint released a special commemorative 50p piece, and Royal Mail plc released a set of 10 commemorative Special Stamps, including four with specially commissioned new illustrations of the book’s characters from Axel Scheffler in October. Other activity across the year has included the Global Gruffalo campaign, special anniversary Forestry England picnic parties, bespoke summer celebrations at Chessington World of Adventures resort, open-air cinema mini festivals with Luna Cinema and a pop-up shop in Covent Garden.

To try the Alexa experience yourself, just say “Alexa, open Gruffalo Move.”

Kakao Friends Pop-Up Store Opens at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

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Kakao Friends has opened its first official pop-up store in Europe at London’s Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. The Korean lifestyle brand features eight characters derived from a series of emoticons on Korea’s leading messenger app “Kakao Talk.” 
The store will be located within Hyde Park Winter Wonderland’s Santa Land for six weeks, highlighting a range of 80 products from the new winter collection, as well as exclusive Christmas products. These include toys, plush, body pillows, gloves, earmuffs, socks and slippers as well as diverse lifestyle products such as humidifiers and mood lights. 

The pop-up was announced just after Kakao chose IMG as its agency in Europe. The exclusive deal was announced in September. The initial focus for Kakao Friends in Europe was apparel and accessories, fashion accessories and homewares.
Kakao Friends includes eight characters derived from a series of emoticons on the “Kakao Talk” platform, a Korean messenger platform with more than 200 million users. Characters Apeach, Ryan, Muzi, Con, Tube, Neo, Frodo and Jay-G have already been featured in various collaborations in the past.

At the store, Kakao Friends character Ryan is dressed as Santa on the porch to welcome Londoners and tourists into the Alpine hut-styled pop-up store. The store will be lit with turbo lights all around.

Managed and produced by IMG, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is the U.K.’s leading Christmas-themed destination, featuring attractions including the world’s largest transportable wheel, the U.K.’s biggest outdoor Ice Rink, the Magical Ice Kingdom, Paddington on Ice, Bar Ice, Zippos Circus, Cirque Berserk and multiple restaurants and bars.

The Kakao Friends pop-up is the latest addition to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and aims to provide holiday gifts to Kakao fans in the U.K.

‘SpongeBob,’ Mr. Kiasu Make a Splash in Coffee Table Book

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Nickelodeon and Johnny Lau, the creator of Mr. Kiasu, have teamed up to create a coffee table book for the 20th anniversary of “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

The When Mr. Kiasu Meets SpongeBob SquarePants coffee table book is a 64-page full-color edition published by Shogakukan Asia. The book and licensed merchandise will launch exclusively at the Shogakukan Asia booth and SpongeBob x Mr Kiasu booth, respectively, at the Singapore Comic Con on Dec. 7-8.

“As a pop culture enthusiast and a longtime fan of ‘SpongeBob,’ I couldn’t be happier to re-imagine him with Mr. Kiasu and create a unique take on ‘SpongeBob’ in Asia,” says Johnny Lau.

Conceptualized by Nickelodeon and Lau, the book features the unique illustrative style of Lau who blends the two characters into each other’s world. Bikini Bottom will meet Singapore in this clash of worlds, when SpongeBob runs into Mr. Kiasu and both embark on an adventure.
“To continue to commemorate ‘SpongeBob’s’ 20th anniversary, we wanted to partner an artist to highlight ‘SpongeBob’s’ influence on pop culture through a distinctively Asian lens,” says Dennis Tan, vice president, brand and retail marketing Asia Pacific, Viacom Nickelodeon Consumer Products. This partnership with Mr. Kiasu is all that and more. It juxtaposes ‘SpongeBob’ with the truly local Mr. Kiasu but also shows what they have in common – imagination, humor and a whole lot of heart – that makes this combination compelling for fans.”
Fans can also get their books autographed by Lau, who will conduct fan-signing on both days of Singapore Comic Con. Thereafter, the coffee table book will be available at leading bookstores beginning Dec. 9.

‘Star Wars,’ Columbia Join Forces on Allegiance Jackets

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Columbia Sportswear and Disney have once again partnered for a new line of jackets, this time inspired by the “Star Wars” franchise.

The deal follows a previous collaboration earlier this year, in which Disney and Columbia joined forces for the release of “Frozen 2” merchandise.
The “Star Wars” collection features two reversible jackets. The allegiance jackets feature two opposing color schemes, one for the light side and one for the dark side of the force.
The light side jacket features a light gray color scheme with a symbol for the rebel alliance, while the dark side jacket boasts a black and red color scheme with an imperial patch on the front.
The jackets are inscribed with "May the Force be with you" and "You underestimate the power of the Dark Side,” respectively.
Both jackets will sell for $200 each and go on sale at 12:01 a.m. ET on Dec. 6. Earlier collabs between “Star Wars “and Columbia included $400 parkas, styled to resemble the parkas worn by Han Solo and Luke Skywalker.
Fans interested in taking this experience to the next level can purchase one of 25 jackets signed by Mark Hamill, who portrays Luke Skywalker, available for $900 with all proceeds going to college access programs and scholarships selected by Hamill. The signed jackets will be sold only at Columbia-branded retail locations in New York City; Buena Vista, Florida; downtown Portland flagship; Oregon; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Seattle, Wash.

Pandora Casts a Spell with Harry Potter Collection

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In partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, Pandora has introduced a capsule collection of 12 hand-finished products, including charms, pendants and a bracelet inspired by characters and symbols from the “Harry Potter” films.

Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley are brought to life as sterling silver charms, along with recognizable symbols from the books and movies, like the Hogwarts Castle and a limited-edition Golden Snitch pendant in Pandora Shine.

"Through our ‘Harry Potter’-inspired jewelry, Pandora and ‘Harry Potter’ fans can express their love for magic, fantasy, bravery and the power of friendship,” says Stephen Fairchild, chief creative and brand officer, Pandora. “Pandora fans have asked for this collection for years, and we are really excited that it is here."

In addition to Harry, Hermione and Ron, Dobby also makes an appearance as a charm, along with a Hogwarts express charm and a charm representing each Hogwarts house.
All four Hogwarts house charms are represented in sterling silver double dangles with craftsmanship details that will excite super fans, like a front disc detailed with the house crest surrounded by man-made stones in house colors. On the back disc, the edges are detailed with crenellations, in reference to the battlements of Hogwarts Castle and a bail shaped like the Hogwarts crest.

The collection also includes a Golden Snitch bangle, which is an update of the classic Pandora Moments bangle featuring the Quidditch symbol at the clasp.
The Harry Potter x Pandora collection will be in Pandora stores worldwide and on Pandora.net starting Nov. 28.

Don’t Call It a Comeback: Toys ‘R’ Us Opens First New Store

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Toys ‘R’ Us is back. With the Nov. 27 opening of its first new U.S. retail store at the Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, the brand will curate and showcase the latest toys in highly experiential smaller-format spaces.

A grand opening celebration was held on Nov. 30 at the Garden State Plaza store with character appearances, giveaways and more. The second Toys ‘R’ Us store will open at The Galleria mall in Houston, Texas on Dec. 7.

"Toys ‘R’ Us is built into the fabric of childhood, and for more than 70 years has been the most trusted source for toys and play," says Richard Barry, chief executive officer, Tru Kids, the parent brand of Toys ‘R’ Us. "With the return of Toys ‘R’ Us stores in the U.S., we are bringing a highly engaging, experience-driven retail destination that celebrates play and deepens the connection between the world's best toy, play and entertainment brands and customers."  

At the heart of the new stores are exclusive playscapes. Upon entering the stores, guests will be greeted by a giant plush Geoffrey the Giraffe. The store’s interior features steps with the lyrics "I don't wanna grow up, I'm a Toys ‘R’ Us kid" displayed on them, which lead into Geoffrey's Tree House. Kids can also head to Geoffrey's Magical Mirror playpod, where a 3D virtual Geoffrey comes to life and mimics visitors’ every movement. Other interactive experiences from partner brands such as Hasbro, The LEGO Group, MGA Entertainment and Nintendo will also be available.

If a product isn’t available in-store, customers can order through Toys ‘R’ Us’ digital service, powered by Target. Interactive touchscreens will be available in-store to aid in this process.

For more information about the relaunch and more in-store events, visit ToysRUs.com