Heritage Month: Historic Royal Palaces unveils its global plans for brand exposure - Licensing.biz
We caught up with licensing manager Jenny Smyth to talk about Historic Royal Palaces' successful collaborations, the growing heritage brands sector, and what key partnerships we can expect to see over the next year.
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With a licensing programme running for over 13 years, Historic Royal Palaces has worked with a wide range of companies to not only showcase its palace, gardens and collections, but to increase the global reach of its Royal brand.

With a partnership approach to licensees, HRP supports those companies from product development through to marketing and promotional, and strives to continually provide new ideas and themes to keep collections fresh.

With new exhibitions and opportunities on the horizon, Licensing.biz caught up with HRP licensing manager Jenny Smyth to talk about its successful collaborations, the growing heritage brands sector, and what key partnerships we can expect to see over the next year.

How has the licensing business been for HRP over the last year or so? Have you seen it grow and evolve over that time?

The licensing programme at Historic Royal Palaces has had a very successful year working with a number of companies across different product categories, being inspired by our palaces, gardens and collections.

Our licensing programme has been running for over 13 years and last year we renewed many key contracts, which typically run across three year terms, with some renewals in their 3rd, 4th or 5th term. It is great to see that our palaces continue to provide a wealth of inspiration for many years.

We have renewed contracts with Clogau Gold of Wales, Halcyon Days, Spey Whisky and Brink Nordic. Halcyon Days has now been a partner for over 10 years, producing high-end gifting products including, enamelled jewellery, fine bone china and silk scarves. Clogau has renewed for the eighth year, continuing to produce 2-3 jewellery collections each year. Brink Nordic has also renewed for an eighth year, producing Christmas tree decorations of hand blown glass. Spey Whisky’s Royal Choice has expanded into Taiwan and mainland China.

Historic Royal Palaces have a number of new collections in development with current licensees. We are also in talks with potential licensees covering a range of product categories including calendars, food, fashion accessories, toiletries and homewares.

We have continued our aim of maintaining our successful partnerships and have plans in place to continue producing commercial and inspired collections each year.

We now look forward to increasing our presence in the licensing world, to grow our reputation globally to reach new audiences and licensees.

What have been some of your key partnerships, and what are the key partnerships for you guys moving forward?

Historic Royal Palaces is steadily growing as an international brand and the licensing team plans to build on this progress over the next twelve months. Our current successes within international markets include GP & J Baker, which launched a range of beautiful furnishing fabrics inspired by the palaces in September 2016. GP & J Baker has become one of our most profitable licensees with distribution across key interiors retailers in the UK: John Lewis, Wesley Barrell, Tetrad as well as independent interior design partners. In 2017 the licensee achieved global success with rollout into new markets such as the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Asia and Russia.

GP & J Baker are not the only licensee who have achieved success in the US market with the Historic Royal Palace’s brand. Hobbs opened its first standalone store in Greenwich Connecticut with The Palace Collection, which had already featured in Bloomingdales.

Harney & Sons have been a licensee of Historic Royal Palaces since 2005, with 14 delicately flavoured teas. The licensed teas are available in the Harney & Sons own tea shops in NYC and Connecticut and in gifting retailers across the US. They have also performed very well in Barnes & Noble book stores. We are currently working with Harney’s on new product development ideas for 2019/20.

In terms of new licensees, we have just partnered with The Royal Mint who will be releasing their first coin collection inspired by the Tower of London in spring 2019. There will be more news on that later this year.

We have also just invested in creating the Historic Royal Palaces Licensed Art pack which taps into 2019/20 fashion and homewares trends. Over 50 bespoke patterns are ready to use for product development, taking inspiration from the five key areas across the palaces – architecture, interiors, gardens, fashion and collections. Current licensees are embracing the art pack and Turtle Mat’s new collections include designs from the Great Watching Chamber and the Chapel Royal ceiling at Hampton Court Palace. This will be a useful asset going forward in attracting new partners.

Next year will mark the 200th Anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth at Kensington Palace. Historic Royal Palaces are working in conjunction with Yale University Press on an exhibition. Queen Victoria’s magnificent reign has already enthused Hobbs SS 2019 collection. We are looking for new partners to work with to celebrate this iconic Queen.

This summer, the Great Pagoda re-opens in Kew Gardens. The architecture of this grand structure and the 80 magnificent iridescent dragons that adorn it, provide a playful and oriental twist to HRP collections. Hobbs and Clogau are already on-board having launched product this spring, the Pagoda and our Chinese porcelain collection will be a key feature of our licensing programme over coming years.

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What is the strength of the Heritage sector at the moment – what sort of consumer demand are we seeing in this space and how does this influence the partnerships you embark on?

For many years character licensing has typically been the breadwinner of the licensing industry, reflecting pop-culture and global influences from publishing, films and television. The heritage brands sector is rather niche but is a growing segment, where Museums and Historic institutions work closely together with other partners from the industry sharing knowledge and expertise.

The progress of this segment can be seen by the growth of the ‘lifestyle brands’ presence at Brand Licensing Europe, dedicated award events such as the Brand & Lifestyle Awards and more exposure and interest from trade publishing partners. There is also an increase in heritage sector collaborations with high-street fashion retailers, which we have with Hobbs but also Oasis’ collaborations with V&A and Coast with the RHS.

We are now seeing recognition that manufacturers and retailers are placing on partnering with heritage institutions, it gives their customers a relief from the fast consumer industry of today. People find the historical provenance behind our products interesting and they want to now buy-into that. In addition, they are also helping to support these magnificent buildings which will continue to inform, educate and entertain generations to come.

Why is heritage such a buoyant sector and what does HRP bring to this space?

Heritage is a growing sector. The strength of our licensing programme is the variety and scope the palaces can offer, which sometimes isn’t recognised until partners actually come and talk to us, visit the palaces and see the amount/quality of assets that can be offered. This is why we’ve had licensees for a number of years.

We work as a partnership and support licensees from product development through to marketing and promotional support and are continually providing new ideas and themes to keep collections fresh. We also look at new ways to promote longstanding collections, as we have done with GP & J Bakers Tudor chimney designs, which will now receive an extra promotional boost by becoming a chinaware range with Halcyon Days, who also own Cavershall China, to launch later this year.

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How have you seen the licensing space evolve over the past year – what are the key topics and trends in this space and how does HRP maintain its position as a leader in this field?

The Heritage sector offers something very unique with each property and also the longevity of the brand. Consumers are attracted to the idea of taking home their little piece of history and supporting charitable organisations. We have an important cultural cause of helping to conserve our palaces for future generations which our partners fully support. As hot topics such as consumer demand for ethical products, sustainability, British-made and an escape from our modern world of technology arise, we have tapped into this where possible.

How big a role do growing aspects like live/experiential initiatives play in the HRP portfolio? Is this a growing space for you guys?

We license collections from themes around our exhibitions, such as Queen Victoria in 2019 and in 2020 we will be celebrating the Field of Cloth of Gold, the meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I of France, with a Tudor festival celebrating a famous 16th century painting. We look forward to bringing this event to life at Hampton Court Palace and foresee excellent opportunities to inspire product development, with a regal gold theme. Live exhibitions and experimental play is key to our cause at Historic Royal Palaces, and this enables licensees to benefit from the wider marketing and promotional support our exhibitions and events receive. We predict this will be the case with Queen Victoria’s upcoming anniversary, where licensees will benefit from wider TV and media campaigns that anniversaries and celebrations of our most popular royal figures bring about.

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The educational/informative aspect is a key element to Historic Royal Palaces among the consumer. How is this reflected in the licensing activity you roll out?

We work closely with the curatorial team at HRP to provide accurate provenance for all our products, telling the story behind the inspiration is key to our cause and all our licensees embrace this, across their packaging and promotional materials, online and via social media channels. The latter is something we’re really pushing with our licensees, it allows us to provide more information regularly and continually keep purchasers and consumers interested.

We regularly consult our Learning and Engagement Team at Historic Royal Palaces in regards to new product development, especially for children’s products. From the team, we can gage what is being taught in the national curriculum in terms of history. We can bring stories relevant to the different eras into the product development process.

Our new Learning & Engagement programme is pioneering new ways of connecting with people: creating content and experiences that are unique, ground-breaking and transformative. They put the audiences at the heart of all they do and we reflect this and are also looking for new licensees to create products that would benefit from our educational knowhow but also be exciting for children.

We are also looking to expand the Historic Royal Palaces brand globally, into new markets such as Asia and to grow our brand in the United States. We feel there is a lot of potential in these territories and we are interested in discussing this opportunity with new partners or collaborators who are interested in our brand and can reach those territories.

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With new collections on the way from Hobbs and Halcyon Days, Historic Royal Palaces is keen to join forces with even more licensees. Licensing manager, Jenny Smyth, reveals why the firm wants to raise its profile at BLE 2017 to explore further opportunities within new categories.

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