Vintage fare: How heritage brands are here to stay

Robert Hutchins

By Robert Hutchins

June 5th 2017 at 3:25PM
UPDATED June 6th 2017 at 11:10AM
Vintage fare: How heritage brands are here to stay

In the midst of a heritage revival, there has never been a better time than now to tap into the demand for vintage properties. Licensing.biz explores the sector...

It’s something that has been bubbling under in the pop culture scene for a number of years now, but vintage is truly in vogue.

Whether it’s Penny Farthing hipsters riding around Shoreditch to blame or a reinvigorated search for a counterculture in an entertainment sector wholly focussed on blockbusting super hero movie franchises, the demand for retro is clear-cut.

To measure its current popularity, you only need to take a look at the surge in annual sales of vinyl albums, a number that has exceeded the one million mark for the first time since the Britpop era of the 90s.

According to official chart data released by the BPI – the trade body which represents the nation’s record labels – some of the most popular artists among the climb in vinyl record sales come from the Rock n Roll era, with the likes of David Bowie and Pink Floyd among them.

While vinyl still remains a niche product, accounting for just two per cent of the UK’s recorded music market, sales of the physical format have ‘shown remarkable fivefold increase since 2009,’ made popular by annual events such as Record Store Day.

The vinyl record market is now on track to becoming a £20 million business this year.

Couple this with the growing interest in annual events such as Vintage Fairs and Mr and Mrs Vintage UK competitions across the country its popularity is certainly on the rise.

It’s no surprise then that demand for the retro has found itself filtering down into further aspects of popular culture, presenting, new and exciting opportunities within the licensing space.

“It is clear that there is a consumer appetite for vintage, just witness the increasing popularity of vintage fairs, revivals and retro events,” explains Ian Downes of Start Licensing, the licensing agency for the retro-spective property, Land of Lost Content.

“Vinyl records and record players are a good indication of the rise in popularity of retro. Land of Lost Content has a significant supply of music related imagery and material, so would be a natural fit for this product category.

“I think the licensing market is growing and as such, new types of opportunities will gain support. Some of this growth will be driven by new retailers and retail sectors responding to licensing.”

Among the companies being championed in the Heritage Brands space is Half Moon Bay, a firm that Downes believes is utilising the chance to tap into new and diverse retailers via its use of vintage design.

“Its products based on the Robert Opie packaging archive can be seen in a diverse range of retailers, including garden centres, book shops, mail order and specialty retailers.”

Unlike many of the new properties breaking into the licensing space today, heritage and vintage brands offer strength in flexibility, and with many already being established with popular culture for a number of years, remain independent of TV and film scheduling.

“People seem to be more reflective and place a value in appreciating the past and heritage plays well into this,” continues Downes.

“Other factors, such as the growth in retro and heritage events help as well, plus of course, the fact that the museum sector is more tuned into licensing and retailing opportunities.”

In the Adult Apparel sector, more and more companies are tapping into the use of retro images of character brands while the resurgence of yesteryear hasn’t escaped the attention of some of the larger mass entertainment studios.

A focal point for SEGA at this year’s Licensing Expo was its portfolio of retro videogame titles as the brand pushes ahead with plans to tap into the current demand for nostalgia among its fan base.

Plans include re-launching some of its best-loved and most classic titles onto new gaming platforms, as well as developing licensing programmes around games such as Sonic and Streets of Rage.

Of course, while vintage, retro and heritage brands are deeply rooted in the past, many brand owners recognise the importance of delivering their brands to a contemporary audience, with today’s digital platforms being a key aspect.

British Motor Heritage is one example of doing this particularly well, bringing its staple of motoring brands such as MG and Austin Healey into the world of videogames with cross-company licensing agreements, enabling it to showcase its vintage names to a new generation of consumers.

But despite the obvious demands, Start Licensing’s Downes believes that more can be made of the opportunities afforded to licensing agencies and their brands rooted in the days gone by.

“I think some licensees are missing a trick by not looking more actively at heritage based licenses, as these type of properties create opportunities to build longer term programmes and I think they could enhance a licensee’s portfolio,” he explains.

“On top of this, heritage brands offer new licensees a good stepping stone into licensing as they are relatively safe bets and have longevity. At a basic level, the consumer market who have been used to buying licensed products on a regular basis is getting older and their tastes change. Now is a great chance for heritage brands to tap in to this,” he concludes.