Start Licensing's Ian Downes on the universal appeal of the Rachael Hale brand

Robert Hutchins

By Robert Hutchins

March 15th 2016 at 10:57AM
UPDATED March 16th 2016 at 10:42AM
Start Licensing's Ian Downes on the universal appeal of the Rachael Hale brand

With a collection of over 2,000 images, the Rachael hale brand has gone from strength to strength. Here, Start Licensing’s MD Ian Downes reveals his expectations for the property and why the girls’ market is such a relevant area.

Can you tell me a brief history of the brand? 

The brand is twenty years old and is based on a collection of beautiful photographs by renowned photographer Rachael Hale. The photographs feature the world's most lovable animals and are recognised as unique in their presentation style. The photography has a real charm to it and has a signature style.

The photos combine charming images of animals coupled with imaginative settings, poses and props to create truly unique photographs. It manages to capture animals such as cats and dogs in a unique way creating a photographic library that is cute, contemporary and captivating.

One of the great strengths of the brand is its universal appeal. The images delight and connect with all ages regardless of language and culture. The collection has over 2,000 unique images in it. These are added to regularly and enhanced by new product design work to highlight how the collection can be used by licensees. It has enjoyed enormous success internationally and in the UK. It is regarded as a groundbreaking brand – there are over 130 licensees in over 50 countries. It is a brand and style that is instantly recognised and has proved its commercial value in the licensing market.

 Start Licensing were recently appointed to represent the brand on behalf of Dissero Brands in the UK taking over representation from the recently retired Richard Horton. 

What are your plans for the brand throughout 2016? 

We are hoping to build on the great legacy that Richard has left in the UK for the property. It is a well-regarded license, one that can be described as a contemporary classic. Our early meetings with licensees have made it clear that the brand is trusted and commercially successful. Brands that have a track record of success are well placed at the moment – licensees and retailers seem to be looking for properties that they can trust and that have substance behind them.

Dissero's business is focused on licensing so they fully understand how the market works and operates which makes them an easy company to work with.

There are a number of long-term licensees in the UK already including Danilo for Calendars, WPL for Greeting Cards, Pyramid for Posters, Igloo for Books and Second Wonder for greeting cards. There are also some newer licensees such as TaylorHE for bags and accessories plus Noveltex for bedding. There are also a number of licensees in other territories who are showcasing the brand in some diverse categories – a good example is a range of wheeled suitcases currently selling very well in Wal-Mart in the US.

We are looking forward to building a partnership with the existing licensees and are in the process of meeting them all. We will follow this up with discussions with retail buyers. We are keen to find a number of anchor points for the brand in retail – some of these will be established retailers of licensed products but we are also looking at some new channels such as pet care. We also think online selling is a good area for the brand– not least because of the digital recognition the brand enjoys.

How many licenses does it have so far

There are around 10 active licensees in the UK and 130 on a global basis. Some of the existing licensees have substantial ranges of product. These include Igloo Books who have an extensive range of books including activity, sticker and storybooks, while WPL have a great range of greeting cards. The international footprint of the brand means it is visible at international trade fairs and in a range of territories, which helps build consumer awareness and confidence.

Are there any new categories you’ll be tapping into in the licensing space this year?

Hopefully so – we are looking to develop the brand in the apparel market. Whilst this is a very competitive sector we believe Rachael Hale offers apparel companies a cost effective, contemporary design solution – a license would give apparel companies access to a range of animal images that they could use to create lots of design options for them in their work with retailers.

I think this is an on trend area and Rachael Hale has the scope to make a great impression in this sector thinking of products like leisurewear, nightwear, hosiery and accessories. We also think that personalised products are a good area for us to develop.

Other areas we are looking to develop are wall art, pet accessories, charity partnerships and gifting such as food gifts.

Given the extent of the collection we are also going to look at the potential for an exhibition. We are also keen to work with a magazine publisher, for example animal and pet magazines are popular.

Finally, we see part of our role as adding value to existing licensees – one aspect of this is contributing ideas. Start Licensing is an innovative agency and we hope to work with core licensees such as Igloo Books to create new product ideas and formats.

What are your expectations for the brand? 

The brand is well proven, trusted and successful, which fits into the company philosophy at Start Licensing. We hope to build on a great legacy and to open up some new categories. Rachael Hale is a brand that I have been familiar with for some time and it is one I have admired.

We are looking forward to working on the brand, even though there will be challenges ahead, but in my view quality always wins out and this is a quality brand built on solid foundations. I think that some licensees will overlook it as many licensees are keen to work on new properties, but I also expect some licensees to respond well to the opportunity to work with an established brand. I also think retailers will respond well to the opportunity. We will also be keen to talk to new licensing companies, as we are good at nurturing new business and Rachael Hale is a great brand for a company looking to get a start in licensing.

How big do you think the brand will be in the girls’ space? 

Whilst I have said the brand has universal appeal we believe a strong and relevant area for us to focus on is the girls’ market, and within that girls aged from eight to 14 and young adults, we think both of these demographics will respond well to the photographs and historically have been core consumers for the brand.

We believe the brand has the potential to grow but it should be remembered that it has 20 years of sales success behind it, and we think we can help grow the brand further but also contribute to it remaining a consistent performer in the market.