LICENSING.BIZ PEOPLE AWARDS 2016: Retail Buying Team of the Year

Ahead of the much anticipated People Awards 2016, we have launched a week of round-ups, taking a closer look at the big names running for a People Award on Friday, March 11th.

Today, we profile all the finalists running for Retail Buying Team of the Year across both the Major/Multiple and Indie/SMB categories.

In the Major/Multiple category, we have:


Having delivered some of the biggest ‘retail’ events of 2015 with Minions and Star Wars, as well as a whole host of cross category initiatives and Character Events supporting a number of licensees across the year, Tesco has been described as ‘the only truly centralized retail licensed team of the past year.’

2015 was a big year for some outlandish licensing and saw the Tesco team project The Avengers on to the side of milk cartons, Minions on to giftcards, Frozen onto bags for life and give away a free Star Wars toy to every child for five weeks.

The team has even delivered free cinema ticket offerings via own label cereal for Snoopy and has been championed for delivering the ‘first ever truly personalised licensed proposition within mass retail’ via Star Wars and

Said one client: “The Tesco licensing team has gone from strength to strength throughout 2015.”

Shop Direct

With more than £1.8bn in annual sales, Shop direct is the UK’s second largest online pureplay retailer, and with over one million visitors to its site a day, it’s not difficult to see why.

Recent years have seen Shop Direct become a major player on the retail scene as well as within the licensing industry and whether it’s through its toys or extensive clothing line, it takes some of the industry’s biggest brands such as Star Wars and Frozen to the homes of the consumer.

But despite the recognition its already enjoys within the industry, this retailer remains humble and focused on its long term goal, after all and according to the firm itself, ‘becoming a world class digital retailer, offering the best shopping experience around, is what gets its team out of bed in the morning.’


‘None of the multiple retailers are as well-structured as the Entertainment Council at Asda,’ said one of this firm’s nominators.

‘One meeting with the council enables brand owners and representatives to pitch a full activation programme across senior buyers in every category.’

With such a plaudit, Asda’s place among a shortlist of strong finalists is well and truly earned. In particular, the firm has been championed for its recent Minions promotion that saw the franchise supported across multiple categories.

“We do a huge amount of work with the Asda team and they are always receptive to new ways of working and keen to embrace new brand opportunities that fit their customer,” said a client.

“They are supporters of a wide range of licenses from very large to innovative and new, supporting their ranges with co-ordinated cross-category promotions.”


Poundland really only needs a two-word profile: Tommy Walsh.

For interest of balance, however this can be stretched out because the retailer has long offered branded products across its 500 stores, but over the past year or so, it has won plaudits for its exclusive ranges with the DIY expert and cookery queen Jane Asher.

Last year, the retailer debuted its Tommy Walsh DIY:time range, with the 200-strong line-up hitting shelves back in April 2015.

The move followed a similar deal with Jane Asher who launched a range of baking equipment covering over 50 lines that has proved successful over the last year.

Smyths Toys

When it comes to master minding campaigns, Smyths Toys boasts experience and professionalism in the field, second to none.

“We can’t find enough superlatives for Smyths as over the years we have executed multiple campaigns with them, each with great success and undoubtedly thanks to the approachable and collaborative way in which Smyths operates,” said one client.

With TV support, online operations, social media presence, competitions and in store space, Smyths’ multi-faceted offering has helped licensors reach new audiences and boost sales.

“Thanks to Smyths’ ability to work across teams so quickly and efficiently, we are always able to execute some incredible campaigns with them,” said a nominating party.

Its ability to merge promotions in-store and via its website as well as through social media channels has been championed as the ‘reason we and others keep going back to them at every opportunity.’

The Entertainer

As the UK’s fastest growing multi-channel retailer with over 100 stores across the country, The Entertainer’s presence in the licensing industry is well-established and championed across the board.

“As a highly principled team, dedicated to providing kids with a broad range of innovative products, its unique ability to react to customer trends and deliver effective marketing campaigns across all its channels makes it a well deserved winner of this award,” read one nomination profile.

The team has been applauded for its pro-active attitude with its fingers right on the pulse of what is really happening within the licensing world.

“The team really commits to drive a programme just as much as they request you to be a part of it,” concluded another nominating party.

And in the Indie/SMB category, we profile:

Insert Coin

All inspired by the world of videogames, Insert Coin offers stylish, official and limited edition clothing and accessories for gamers and fashion followers alike.

What began life as a company with just one licence and line of t-shirts in 2010, Insert Coin has gone on to add a collection of hoodies, sweaters, jackets, leggings, dresses and more, all covering 40 franchises in the video game space.

The team works closely with developers and communities and has recently partnered with big name video game producers such as Capcom, Activision and EA to name a few.

‘As a small team of five, we have enjoyed continued growth and worldwide success – with increasing sales year on year,’ said the company.

Founded in 2004, is the brainchild of two self-confessed ‘proud children of the 80s.’ Billed as the ultimate destination for all things cool, cult and retro, the thriving e-tailer boasts a range of over 3,000 products covering everything from T-Shirts and clothing to gifts, accessories and homewares from the likes of premium licensed brands Chunk, Disney Couture Amplified, Fabric Flavours, Eleven Paris and Worn By to name but a few.

The firm boasts over 30 DTR licences, working on the likes of Labyrinth, Top Gun, Harry Potter, Care Bears, Sesame Street and Roald Dahl.

Gathering fan feedback and reaching out to customers via various social media channels, the design team works to create unique and exclusive designs that you can’t find anywhere else.

Wild Bangarang

With the likes of Blizzard and Star Wars on the books, Wild Bangarang prides itself upon its ability to ‘license the right way,’ a tagline it believes alludes to its ability to make connections with the brands it truly wants to work with.

“From here we start the process of concepts, designs, samples and then to shop,” states a busy team to whom licensing is a way of life.

“There are so many brands and licences we want to work with and crate awesome designs with but will only do so by following this process.”

With a pride in what it does, Wild Bangarang has brought numerous ranges spanning leggings, dresses, skirts, tops and hats to the consumer, most recently having acquired the World of Warcraft licence.

Firebox scours the world for the latest gadgets, toys, games and other cool stuff. Searching high and low for gifts with a twist, its product range is inspirational, quirky, bizarre and downright fun.

One category that consistently resonates with Firebox customers is the ‘pop-culture junkies’ section, consisting of many licensed products bursting with clever, subtle, or niche references from everyone’s favourite films and TV shows.

Consumers can delight in a myriad of licensed merchandise from films and shows including Blade Runner, Star Wars, Back to the Future, Anchorman, Ghostbusters, Castaway, Better Call Saul, Star Trek, The Wire, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead. Over 50 products on the site are licensed, which equates to 20% of Firebox’s overall product offering. Only the very best merchandise is featured to provide a truly curated selection.

The buying team work with suppliers from as early as product conception, signing-off on designs or suggesting improvements until they’re happy with the quality. They work hard to ensure the likeness of the product is accurate, so that customers will be satisfied by the level of detail.

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