FEATURE: Central Eastern promise

Now in its fourth year, Licensing Forum-CEE is growing year-on-year as more and more companies move into the territories. And with a potential audience of over 400 million consumers, you can see the attraction. Samantha Loveday speaks to Christine Annechino from organiser Licensing Brands International to find out more...
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With certain markets approaching saturation point for some types of licences, it’s understandable that many companies are now looking further a field to spread their brand messages. And while China and India may look attractive, issues such as sheer size, cultural differences, piracy, controls on revenue and high import tariffs could be off-putting, especially for smaller firms.

Closer to home, Licensing Brands International saw an opportunity in the Central and Eastern European marketplace four years ago for a trade show, and ran with it. Originally started as a conference, Licensing Forum-CEE has now evolved into a two-day trade fair, with exhibition space nearly doubled.

“When we first announced that we were initiating this effort, people were surprised,” says Christine Annechino from Licensing Brands International, which is based in New York. “They had not realised the potential of the CEE market. Now that we have been there for four years, they see the opportunities and want to take advantage of them.”
Annechino says that the firm’s main aim is to make LF-CEE the leading licensing event on the continent.

“We reach out to the various countries throughout the year and our exposure continually expands across the board. We have been extremely fortunate to have sponsors that have supported us throughout our four years. Companies like Plus Licens, United Media, Disney, EEMC, Kidz Entertainment, ELC, 20th Century Fox, Chorion, Copyrights, Jetix, 4Kids and so many others; they have all helped us achieve the universal goals of the licensing business. We all have the same objectives and that is to build the licensing business in CEE.”

This year’s event runs on March 10th and 11th at the Intercontinental Warsaw in Poland. There will be over 20 exhibitors – licensors and agents – representing hundreds of properties. For the first time there will also be licensees and distributors of licensed products exhibiting, too. Some 700 visitors are expected through the doors.

So what’s the appeal of the show to exhibitors and visitors in Annechino’s opinion? “As everyone knows, Europe’s major licensing and retail markets such as the UK, Germany and France are now mature markets,” she states. “With the exception of a ‘super hot’ property, the potential for sizeable revenue growth is now unrealistic. With so many UK companies competing for the same licensees, retail shelf space, FMCG companies and broadcast outlets, CEE now offers such vast potential for establishing long-term business relationships.

“Each year brings more optimism, more creative ideas, greater understanding of the licensing business and companies willing to do business. The licensing business in CEE is growing rapidly. For those licensors and agents who have invested in the region, many are experiencing 100 per cent growth each year. CEE is now one of the world’s leading growth areas for licensing and merchandising.”

With over 400 million consumers, the CEE region certainly seems large enough to support its own trade fair. Annechino says that visitors to the show come from 19 countries, a mixture of licensees, retailers, broadcasters and promotional partners. And while the thought of moving into an area like CEE may seem fraught with issues, Annechino is keen to point out this is not true.

“We believe that there are less challenges than many people think. Licensing companies wishing to do business in CEE simply need to make an investment in terms of their time and resources to promote their programming and properties to a very motivated group of CEE manufacturers and marketers. That’s why LF-CEE is the perfect forum to reach potential business partners.”

For more information on this year’s event, click here.

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