2010: How was it for you?

We ask a selection of execs for their views on the year.
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“It has been a year of two differing halves – the first seeming to continue with the horrible hangover of 2009, with related recessionary pressures. The second half has given hope for the future with optimism climbing, a more positive retail landscape and the rebirth of a buzz following BLE.
I believe we all underestimated the demise of Woolworths and the impact it would have on ranging opportunities. 2011 may be another tough year, but now that we’ve adjusted to current consumer preferences we should see growing success, and we are optimistic about the year ahead. We’re looking to successfully launch Raa Raa the Noisy Lion and Little Charley Bear on Cbeebies in 2011.”
Andrew Haydon, Commercial & Finance Director, Chapman Entertainment

“2010 has been as expected really, challenging but with positive signs of improvement. The World Cup and good weather impacted sales in the summer, however, we remain optimistic about Christmas and have high hopes for the next two years with the launch of The Green Lantern, the Harry Potter franchise, Happy Feet, not to mention our key franchises including Looney Tunes and Scooby-Doo.
Q4 is expected to be significant for our toy business as Tomy’s Harry Potter range hits shelves, while Character is still achieving great things with Scooby-Doo.
Retail is challenging due to the consolidation of space and the government’s austerity measures and planned VAT rise is bound to impact consumer confidence – though in character licensing we’re very fortunate that if we can service consumer demand for interesting products at the right price, the demand will follow.”
Paul Bufton, General Manager, WBCP UK

“2010 has been a fantastic year for us; Turner has great momentum and a lot of exciting new projects coming for 2011. Ben 10 sales were so high we had to factor in a drop off in business for toys, which has happened, however the launch of Ben 10 Ultimate Alien has been so strong that additional stock is being flown in to meet demand. We also knew that Toy Story 3 would be very strong for the second half of the year, which would have an impact on our sales. We always work long-term and are confident that Ben 10 is here for a good many years to come.
The huge increase in the price of cotton has had an effect and will do for some time, ever increasing fuel costs makes shipping product more expensive. Consumers may not be any worse off at the moment, but the endless news about austerity measures will make people think they are worse off and mean they spend less. 2011 is likely to be a tough year ahead.”
Graham Saltmarsh, UK Licensing Director, Turner CN Enterprises

“It is not only the licensing business that has had to face quite a few challenges this year; there are still decreasing markets in some parts of the world and the economic crisis is not over yet. There are a huge number of brands fighting for the same shelf space and retailers have become even more risk averse. In the UK, the loss of Woolworths still hasn’t been absorbed, especially not in the toy sector.
But, as much as everything was about price points over last year’s holiday season, we are expecting to see consumers looking more at value for money when it comes to deciding what to buy. This will help our industry and hopefully will lead back to prices which are reasonable also for the manufacturers and suppliers.
2010 has actually been a very strong year for us. With the launch of Octonauts on Cbeebies in the UK and TF1 in France, the new Noddy in Toyland show in various territories and the repositioning of Mr Men and Little Miss, we had a lot of news to share with our partners. We are confident that the initiatives we have in store will mean a good year ahead for us.”
Bettina Koeckler, SVP Licensing EMEA, Chorion

“2010 has been extremely strong for Discovery’s licensing business with significant business growth. We have capitalised on the strength of our heritage brands, including Animal Planet which is perfectly positioned in the toy space to provide an alternative to character and movie properties, while emphasising the fact that knowledge is fun.
The licensing business has faced a consolidating retail landscape and reduction in consumer spend on non-essential items. We have diversified across the kids and men’s spaces in order to maximise appeal and traction. Alongside this, product innovation has been key.”
Jo Edwards, VP, International Consumer Products, Discovery Enterprises

“Overall 2010 has been better than predicted and it has been great to see retail support not only across evergreen properties such as Postman Pat, but also for our new properties [Tinga Tinga Tales and Guess with Jess] – for which we have secured strong listings for A/W 2010 and are hopeful of strong placement for 2011.
General feedback is that retailers are narrowing their selection of licensed properties, so it becomes increasingly important that product ranges offer quality, value and, most importantly, stand out on shelf. It will be interesting to see how the VAT rises play out.
We’ve worked really hard to identify a strong point of difference and build it through the brands from marketing to product development. The unique appeal of each of our brands has helped us cut through during a challenging period for pre-school properties at retail.”
Claire Shaw, VP, UK Consumer Products & Retail, Classic Media

“2010 has been a successful year but not without its challenges. This time last year, we knew there would be difficult times ahead so we prepared for a rough ride. However, due to careful preparation, we’ve seen some fantastic results. Overall we have increased our toy category output with many new lines across our portfolio and have both created and developed partnerships with a number of new licensees.
The retail landscape continues to change and evolve and we have learnt to quickly adapt and capitalise on rising trends. The success we had with our portfolio this year has undoubtedly been driven by strong retail promotions. Discount retailers have also taken a more significant market share and this will continue into 2011, so we are ready to take advantage of this trend and have worked up appropriate strategies.
The market is saturated with properties, meaning only a small percentage get cut-through and launching new products is particularly hard. Kids want more from their toys, expecting them to be packed full of features so we strive to stay at the cutting edge with our product development.”
Trudi Hayward, VP, UK/Australia, Nickelodeon Consumer Products

“Based on our properties, business is strong and is exceeding 2009, however we recognise that there is pressure on retailers to drive prices down and achieve the same margins. Trying to balance this pressure against ensuring product isn’t devalued can be difficult.
Retail remains challenging and this is unlikely to change, particularly given the current economic climate. Only the most successful brands are maintaining space at retail for next year and retailers are expecting more promotional activity to increase their percentage share of the market.
Launching new properties requires time and patience in an environment that is accustomed to instant results. Ongoing properties such as Peppa need constant attention and updating to ensure they don’t become tired.
Key for 2011 for us is the publishing, plush and gift launch for Humf.”
Hannah Mungo, Licensing Manager, Entertainment One

“2010 has been a challenging year for the industry, but our audiences enthusiasm for our brands is very strong. We had a great response to the relaunch of Doctor Who at Easter; Charlie & Lola continues to grow steadily, particularly in clothing; we have seen a fantastic response to our Top Gear ranges; while In the Night Garden continues to be a favourite.
The retail landscape has never been more challenging and it is our belief that if you look at underlying factors (cost of living, disposable income, non food sector seeing gentle decline, rises in VAT and job security among others) then 2011 and 2012 will be just as tough.
The dramatic and unprecedented price rises in the Far East have been challenging, and the inevitable shifts in established price points that resulted have hit the industry. We have been moved into several new product areas this year; looking at areas like pocket money toys, collectibles, creative play, better board games and other areas. With the right character and some clever creativity, you can extend your brands into new genres that have strong appeal for consumers without pushing retail price points to unrealistic levels.
We have also been putting a much stronger focus on retail relationships, and offering unique and tailored solutions to retailers that allow them to highlight our brands while still offering that vital point of difference from their competitors.”
Richard Hollis, UK Head of Licensing, BBC Worldwide

"2010 has been an excellent year for Bulldog and has seen significant growth for the company, both in terms of our headcount and in terms of the market reach of our properties. Proper portfolio planning is absolutely crucial in difficult financial times and our strict acquisitions procedure has enabled us to grow a strong family of brands.
One of the biggest challenges at retail is an averse attitude towards new concepts, as 'new' is often confused with 'risky'. But the fact is that licensing is a trend-led industry and, although there will always be a handful of staple brands, adaptability is crucial to attracting new income from consumers - so the worst possible time to shy away from new ideas is during a time in which consumers are more protective of the pound in their pocket.
The biggest challenge in all markets right now is a lack of confidence for the following year's trade. It is in many ways a self fulfilling prophecy. As it takes, say, a year to bring a new property to market given the lead times for manufacturing, lack of clarity in the year ahead for licensees and retailers presents a major problem as there is less money made available to invest in new projects - but not investing in new projects makes for a tired portfolio and introduces significant risk in its own right.
Our key aims for 2011 are to continue our current growth curve in both the UK and overseas market."
Rob Corney, MD, Bulldog Licensing

"Our portfolio mix and new rights acquisition has meant that 2010 has been a good year for us, despite the tough climate. Recovery in the UK market has certainly been slower than expected and this year, for many licensees and retailers, has been more challenging than 2009.
In this climate, retailers have been especially risk averse, which has worked in favour of our classic brands and proven properties such as Peanuts, Sesame Street, WWE and Horrid Henry. Many of our licensees are battling rising manufacturing costs and, in certain cases, haven't yet recouped distribution lost by retail closures such as Woolworths and Zavvi.
Necessity being the mother of invention, there are new opportunities emerging. The businesses we work with have needed to look at diversifying their portfolio, moving into new business areas and growing share. An appetite for new rights is also evident in the fantastic reaction we've had to Power Rangers, Beyblades and British Airways.
We're planning to grow the business significantly in 2011. Our classic brands and new rights combine to make a very strong portfolio. We're also looking to build programmes for new properties such as Cookie Jar's Johnny Test."
Vickie O'Malley, MD, CPLG UK

"2010 has been a challenging year, although we do seem to be ending it with a number of highs. We've had a wonderful response to Poppy Cat and Purple Ronnie continues to maintain its position as the leading social expression brand. These provide us with a firm foundation to build on over 2011, as does the continuing success of Scarlett & Crimson.
The retailer landscape is changing but, to be honest, that has always been the case. We like to try and blame them! They do have limited shelf space, but I think as brand owners we have to provide them with strong enough propositions and support that ensures our product is what their customers want.
Everyone is nervous about investing at the moment, which you can understand; there is still a lot of uncertainty around. However, we know we will eventually come out the other side. It is important to remain focused and work with partners to create and maximise opportunities."
Anna Hewitt, Head of Licensing, Coolabi

"We've had a very good year. A particular highlight has been the Hornby Hobbies brands, especially Scalextric and Airfix.
Retailers are looking for brands that have strong USPs and real resonance. Perhaps because of the economic climate, consumers are favouring brands that they have an affinity with or even feel nostalgic about. That's why Airfix and Scalextric are working so well, but even a new brand like Emma Thompson's Princess Pearl has a similar appeal because it projects such a classic feel.
The gap felt by Woolworths disappearing has to a certain extent been taken up by grocery and online. But having a balanced portfolio has become much more important.
Most licensing companies are working harder to get the same number of deals or cover the same amount of ground that they might have had the year before. But the business is there. It also helps if, like us, you're flexible and fast moving."
Rob Wijeratna, Joint MD, Rocket Licensing

"This year has seen improvement in Europe more than the UK. Latin America has also helped to keep things on track and will again flourish in 2011.
Retailers are only going for what they consider 'safe' brands or evergreens, which really leaves the consumer with less choice. More generic characters are often seen as being able to fulfill demand at a lower price, but consumers do realise when they are being sold something that is not a brand and often expect to pay less for it anyway, meaning the retailer doesn't really gain.
Getting retailers to support a brand is never easy and unless you have big backing these challenges will always be there."
Bradley Caines, Creative Director, Withit

"2010 has opened up new and interesting opportunities for Bright - by remaining focused on our core offering of publishing we have been able to develop some interesting brands. With the publishing licences, it has been about developing ranges of titles across each opportunity so that there is a story to be told at retail. We would say that this has made the year a lot better than expected - we have identified a need and supplied a solution.
The retail landscape does remain challenging. In publishing, the High Street has only one dedicated retailer in Waterstones, with the grocery chains taking limited book product on the floor (but able to move volume in the market). Obviously the right products are always going to sell and people will purchase."
Vicki Willden-Lebrecht, MD, Bright Group

"We have experienced double digit growth as we see our investments paying off, particularly in Eastern Europe and Russia. We are also benefitting from the strength of our portfolio in general, led by Lego, Fox, MGA and Hit.
Retail does present a challenge - retailers have limited shelf space and monitor sales constantly, so you have to deliver sales that match their expectations.... if not you are out. However, the sector remains strong for the right property, as we have proved by enjoying excellent results with some of our brands in the Nordics, Russia and Poland."
Morten Geschwendtner, CEO, Kidz Entertainment/EEMC

"The second half of 2010 is looking much stronger than the first, so we hope this trend continues into the New Year.
The landscape is still challenging and safer bets mean licensees have tended to lean towards established brands. We benefitted to some extent, as our licensing launch of Monty Python has been heavily supported. It feels like people are starting to broaden their acquisition strategies however, as since BLE we have been negotiating plenty of deals on new property, The Hive.
We've also focused a lot of time and energy in building relationships and doing deals with some of the smart new online licensing partners. Customers are prepared to invest their time and money in virtual experiences and purchases, both through social networks/games and applications. Some of our biggest deals this year have been in this space."
Steve O'Pray, MD, Space Enterprises

"We represent brands that are selling extremely well at retail, both here and across the world.
It is challenging in that retailers are still playing it safe and tending to stick with larger, more well-known brands. However, our experience with Pip & Co has shown that retailers are prepared to showcase new brands if they offer something a bit different and have potential."
Kirsty Guthrie, MD, KJG

"To get a product to market is extremely difficult. I suppose one of the biggest challenges if you are a new entrant is getting yourself in front of major retailers and to be heard.
The obvious issue is that companies are still recovering from the economic downturn and so I believe companies are trying to be more prudent and cautious over negotiating licensing deals and a lot more selective in terms of which properties to partner with for a licence.
Our main ambition for 2011 is to make Match Stars a commercially successful toy range and to build the brand up to a level where it can enjoy long-term success."
Mayur Pattni, MD, Pattni Imaginations


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