Retailers and licensing agents – creating a relationship that works for everyone
Comment: Bethan Garton, Commercial Director, The Point.1888. The Point.1888 is exhibiting at Festival of Licensing, a month-long virtual celebration of the licensing industry, taking place from 6-29 October. Retailers can register and enjoy the exclusive retail content for free at www.festivaloflicensing.com. Bethan will be taking part in two ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions being held live on Tuesday 6 October & Thursday 8 October from 11-12pm.
The Covid-19 pandemic may have hit the retail industry hard, but this isn’t the first challenge the sector has had to overcome. As history has shown us, retailers are masters of resilience and agility, evolving their approaches and goals for survival as well as success. Part of this comes down to the relationships they’ve fostered with experts in supporting industries – such as brand licensing – who they can rely on for honest advice and assistance in seeking out the best opportunities.
Retail buyers have their day job to do and also the added job of working out which brands to back – it’s a minefield that we at The Point.1888 are only too happy to help them with, ensuring they don’t overbuy on certain brands. We don’t want retailers sitting on stock they cannot sell; we want product at the right stock levels which sell through and get a repeat order.
Because retailers are having to move the goalposts so often, it’s a job in itself for brand licensing agents to keep up. You have to work with them very closely to ensure your plans stay aligned with theirs. Gone are the days when you can just speak to a retailer once or twice a year to understand their strategy – you have to be in constant dialogue, whilst being careful not to waste their time.
To make it work, licensing agents need to have a dedicated resource for retail – we wouldn’t be without this. While the entire team engage and have relationships with buyers and two of our senior team are ex-buyers, that’s not enough these days. Our Head of Retail, Hannah Stevens, understands retail more than anyone else in our team and she works tirelessly to ensure retail buyers at all levels feel valued and that every stage of the product process is working as it should.
You may not be able to see the benefit of a retail head count on your P&L but for us it’s a MUST. It’s a lot of work getting around all of the retailers and multiple buyers, week after week. Having expertise within the team is key. Retailers find it hard to sign up new suppliers and we feel this is vital as new partners bring innovation and fresh perspective.
We’re not afraid to go back to basics when needed either. It’s wrong to assume everyone understands brand licensing which is why Hannah runs regular sessions with retailers to talk them through how it all works. In fact, we offer retailer buyers the opportunity at any time of the year to spend the day with us so we can bring them up to speed on all things licensing. We also take part in the Licensing International (BLE) Retail Mentor scheme.
With the current restrictions on face-to-face contact, it may seem hard to build relationships but that shouldn’t be an excuse. The last few months have actually been good for our retailer relationships as we’ve been able to talk to four or five per day rather than one previously. Instead of spending hours on the road, we’re strategising on a Google Meet or Microsoft Teams meeting, saving us and the buyers so much time. You can’t beat a face to face every now and then but until that’s possible, we’ll make this work. And you can too.
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