The apparel industry is set for another very tough year as cotton prices continue to soar. The licensed market will be no exception. Some retailers are saying they will absorb the cost further and continue to keep prices similar to those that customers have been used to last year.
Despite these challenges clothing continues to be an important category for BBC Worldwide and, for many of our properties, comes a close second in revenue terms behind toys. From a list of 40 plus licensees, Aykroyds and TDP’s In the Night Garden range was the second best performing licence behind Hasbro’s plush range last year. Clothing is a core source of revenue for brands as diverse as Top Gear and Charlie & Lola – our licensees Cooneen and Silverknit both demonstrated especially strong sales in 2010 with their nightwear and outerwear Charlie & Lola ranges.
Doctor Who presents a great opportunity to grow our clothing ranges to meet increasing demand from consumers. Apparel will, therefore, be a key part of our licensing strategy for this brand. In the past BBC Worldwide has focused on the core 5-12 year-old boys market. The new Doctor Who clothing art which ties in with the new series is particularly strong and offers some great opportunities to grow appeal for Doctor Who branded clothing for an older age group.
To ensure that BBC Worldwide remains competitive, it has been important to keep an eye on key trends in the wider clothing market. Floral and repeat prints associated with Cath Kidston, Emma Bridgewater and Orla Keily have seen a real increase in the last few years. Similar repeat fabrics and designs used in the Charlie & Lola books and television series have translated really well into textile product and have helped sales increase year on year. Marks & Spencer have recently renewed their Charlie & Lola clothing direct to retail and they are already working on a new range for Spring/Summer 2012, incorporating elements from Lauren Childs’ book illustrations with her familiar spotted prints and butterfly designs. Sainsburys’ TU are also performing well with this brand and are planning a second gondola end this May in their top performing stores.
Retro styling is another trend that continues to grow. I think nostalgia for brands will always have a place in the licensed character market as we look back fondly on characters from our favourite television shows from the past. The 80’s is still a very popular era for us. We launched a range of EastEnders t-shirts using some of the original cast last year and they continue to perform well in Topman stores and online. Global Licensing and Somerbond have had huge success with their range of Only Fools and Horses t-shirts and nightwear and demand for these remains strong. The Trotters celebrate their 30th anniversary this year and to celebrate, a new style guide has launched. This focuses on the prints and fabrics from the ‘salubrious’ Nelson Mandela House, made famous in the television series. Likewise Doctor Who can’t escape demand from fans for products from the classic series of the past. There is still huge desire for designs from the Peter Davidson and Tom Baker eras of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Bravado’s t-shirts do especially well online and at music retailers where the apparel offering has increased in recent years.
The adult market also appears to be on the increase. Sales to adults make up 80 per cent of the market and we are definitely seeing this area grow. Cesar are developing a range of adult styles around the fourth and fifth Doctors together with their loyal companions Tegan and Leela. We have also had interest from a number of parties to extend our Only Fools and Horses offering.
Looking ahead we are clearly going to face challenges, but we have exciting ranges coming through which will help us stay strong in a tough market. A new pop art style is in the pipeline for ZingZillas clothing licensees, and Wibbly Pig continues to grow at retail following an exclusive clothing launch for newborn children in Sainsburys at the end of 2010. In the Night Garden continues to deliver year on year for retailers and consumers alike. Using consumer and licensee feedback as a starting point, further new creative is in development, including more clothing based around characters and themed/seasonal artwork. These will be rolled out during the year on a number of apparel lines.