According to NPD research, between June 2005 and June 2006 Woolworths was the top destination for licensed product. This is a position it is confident it can hang on to, especially as direct to retail deals grow in importance for the sector. Samantha Loveday speaks to licensing manager Sonya Little...
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Firstly, can you tell us what your role involves?
I set the licensing strategy and prioritise the licensed properties. I create events for licensed products around movie releases or key brand activity, co-ordinate across all key buying groups to maximise cross category opportunities and support and drive the performance of total licensed business across Woolworths.

How does licensed product fit in with the rest of Woolies’ line-up?
Licensing is a significant category for us. Our core customer shops for her kids and licensing is core to deliver the right products to her at the right time. Woolworths’ strategy is also to be famous for events, and this delivers on this proposition.

How do you decide which licensed products go in-store? How important is exclusivity and is marketing support a key factor in your decision?
The licensing team provides direction on properties to support in priority order, which ones to watch and which ones to exit. The decision to support properties is based on a variety of contributing factors such as broad customer appeal, TV scheduling, market value, stage of product lifecycle, current performance, key categories and licensor support.
Exclusivity is exceptionally important and key to any event or product launch. Marketing support is also a key factor in our decision making process; it is important to drive the licensed event and critical to the success of the property.

What sort of extra attention does licensed product need?
It usually takes the form of planning and prioritising properties, in-store promotions both in category and on cross category space, advertising, space management, POS development and online feature emails.
Woolworths is a very broad business with a large number of buying categories, so to maximise licensed opportunities we need to ensure the business is moving in the same direction.

What kind of relationship do you have with licensors/licensees? How does it work?
Woolworths has strong and open working relationships with all the major licensors. We try to work as closely as possible with the licensors to support and grow properties throughout the year. Each of the categories has relevant relationships with the licensees.

Do you think the traditional licensing model is changing – and if so, in what way?
I think the licensing model is always changing; it’s evolving as the market and different properties develop. More so as the communications market segments, there have become increased ways to communicate with the target customer.
Licensors, licensees and retailers must keep abreast of this changing landscape to ensure they not only make the most out of their brands, but continue to talk to the right customers in the right way and produce the right products to grow not only their market share, but their market also.

Which licensed products have been key for you this year?
It’s been a good year all round, the market is up and Woolworths’ performance on licensing is up. Key theatrical releases have been Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers. New entries in the pre-school market have seen some great successes with Lazytown and more recently In the Night Garden.

Woolworths is currently the top destination for licensed product – how will you maintain this?
With dedicated resources and a desire to remain number one.

What’s your main complaint about licensing?
There are too many properties to choose from.

What would be your message to licensors – how can they work better with retail?
More forward planning and open relationships with retailers. Realistic expectations of a property’s potential and ensure that key timelines are managed with retail in mind. Further support for retail to drive customers to the store.


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