Paper Island began life as a greeting card and gift supplier, but soon opened a licensing arm to cover its IP.
The firm has offices across the world including the UK, Estonia, Shaghai and Shenzen. In 1992, gift company History and Heraldry bought the business to created a home for some of its brands, enabling it to create more of a High Street offering.
In the years that followed, Paper Island flourished and in 2005, it became a standalone company with a range of brands. As these properties continued to grow, the firm realised it was not in a position to cover the IP, so the licensing arm was founded.
Jacquie Russo, communications and marketing manager, continues: “Through this our already popular brands, including Born to Shop and Fizzy Moon reached areas not previously ventured, with some great licensee partnerships, including WWRD (previously Wedgewood) for ceramics, Portico for dated products, Docrafts for crafting products, Big Badge Company for cause related licensing…the list goes on.”
The key brand for Paper Island from the first day, was Fizzy Moon – the bear with the pink button. The character started life as a range of 12 greeting cards and progressed from there.
Russo comments: “It wasn’t long before he was making real retail impact and we’re proud to say that due to the phenomenal sales success, this cute bear brand now features on over 850 new products a year – that’s 3.5 new products every day – and is one of Birthdays’ lead brands.”
The brand is now represented in over 20 countries and is making his presence known in licensing, with key licensees on board, including Amscan for balloons and party goods and Jarrold for dated product.
The key to his success, says Russo, is: “Paper Island’s commitment to ensure that the brand is always fresh with considerable design input alongside the choice of just the right sentiment.”
The firm has also seen success with Dinomates. The initial range was a collection of personalised money jars, which incorporate names with well-known dinosaur breeds. The range has been successful at retail and is due to grow further.
Perhaps one of the most recognisable brands in Paper Island’s portfolio is Born to Shop. The designs began as a small range of items in gift company, History & Heraldry’s offering, and licensing has allowed the property to grow.
Russo tells Licensing.biz: “Our goal from the start was to create a perennial lifestyle brand, that with the help of some outstanding licensees, including Wedgwood, Creative Tops, Portico, to name but a few, would gather a strong fanbase always on the look-out for the next Born to Shop products.”
The design brand doesn’t have any TV or film to raise awareness, so Paper Island has had to work hard at keeping the design fresh and making the website work for them to keep Born to Shop in demand.
Off the back of Born to Shop, came Bloke. The new brand extension features the same iconic design, with a male-oriented colour pallet and is aimed at what the firm saw as a gap in the market – the hard-to-please male.
New to Paper Island is The Good Life – a fell good brand, which taps into everything desirable about living life by the sea on in the country. Early licensing deals signed for the brand include Portico and Churchill China.
Finally, dPals is the latest addition to the stable, a virtual world aimed at teens and tweens, based around an urban theme, where kids can personalise their own dPal, style their dPartment, make friends, play games and win rewards and badges. The brand is doing well so far and a licensing deal has already been struck with Simon Gain of Tiny idols.
One of the reasons Paper Island’s brands are successful in the licensing arena is that they are established as greetings cards and gifts before any deals are struck. Russo explains: “This makes for the perfect formula to take them [the brands] forward into other strong category areas – it’s always nice to know that a brand you are buying into has already shown its worth and has often gathered a good following of fans before it even touches the licensing arena. “As we only concentrate on a small selection of brands, we put everything into these and so there is not as much chance for failure – so far.”
Birthdays was one of Paper Island’s key accounts, so the firm was hit hard by the retailer’s administration last year, but the firm has managed to hold its own and Fizzy Moon even saw a growth in sales of 33 per cent this year.
Also key to this success is audience research. Russo offers: “The website [Born to Shop] has shown what the fans want to buy into which makes for an easier job of ensuring we have all the right areas covered. “We also listen to our licensees and when we heard that gifts for men was an area crying out for a humorous sentiment-based lifestyle brand so was born Bloke, which is already proving popular.”