The Bagpuss series was first aired on the BBC in 1974, and, although just 13 episodes were made, the films aired for 26 weeks a year for 13 years.
In 2010, the show was voted number one in a BBC poll of programmes which adults would most like the BBC to bring back, as well as the number three greatest kids’ TV show in a Sky survey.
On top of this, Bagpuss has also been enjoying a resurgence in licensing activity – notably, the brand generated over £35 million in UK retail sales between 2001 and 2005. There are currently 20 licensees on board.
Fran Huxley, licensing consultant, tells Licensing.biz: “Plush continues to be a real hit in the marketplace with new lines being developed to fulfil demand. At Christmas 2010, the launch of the microwaveable Bagpuss plush by Intelex saw exceptional sell-through at 2,000 retail accounts in the UK, and Bagpuss was listed as the number one retro toy property by the Daily Mail. Retro t-shirts have proved time and again to be a hit with consumers via online retailers such as Play.com.”
New products launching this year include nightwear, bags, greetings cards, more plush and gifts. Huxley also adds that new deals will be signed in toiletries and food, as well as further apparel and gift licensees.
So what’s the secret to Bagpuss’ longevity? “Bagpuss’ innocence and gentle stories endeared audiences to the character in the 1970s and 80s, and so they have always had a place for him in their hearts,” Huxley continues. “Wherever Bagpuss is available, the public’s affection for the brand is triggered and his appeal is proven by the sell-through of merchandise.
“It is also the original audience introducing Bagpuss to their own children that is contributing to the brand’s current popularity. He’s just a saggy old cloth cat, but everyone loves him.”
As is now becoming the norm, live performances are forming a key part of Coolabi’s plan with Bagpuss going forward. The brand’s debut stage show at the Soho Theatre during December 2010 and January 2011 was a sell-out, so The Birmingham Stage Company will be performing The Bagpuss Show for another season later this year. Dates have been confirmed in Edinburgh, Birmingham and, for the Christmas season, Canterbury.
In addition, a dedicated pop-up shop and exhibition is also being planned for October half-term in London. This will feature all of Smallfilms’ original puppets and merchandise, with special events taking place throughout the period.
By the end of this year, Huxley is hoping to have grown the number of licensees, skus and retailers for Bagpuss.
“We have seen great momentum and significant growth in recent years, and the new products that were developed last Christmas sold out, so our aim is to give retailers even more of what they want this year and into next.
“Further success by continuing to re-establish Bagpuss with the generation who loved it originally and by introducing it in many fresh and exciting ways to a whole new generation. Bagpuss is here to stay.”