Gardner's world: 'London's BLE could be the biggest licensing show in the world'

In the first in a series of thought pieces from LIMA's Kelvyn Gardner, the industry stalwart discusses the international expansion of BLE and how it may soon outpace Vegas as the biggest licensing show on earth.
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The world of licensing really is growing.

We know this through not only our day-to-day intelligence, but also the recent LIMA Survey that showed that it has grown by four per cent year-on-year globally. That is a great level of growth for any business to offer, and particularly for the global licensing industry.

LIMA has responded in kind to this growth as a business and we have also grown over the last five years in answer to the industry boom, with increased events and increased people on the ground.

As the global industry has grown, so too has Brand Licensing Europe. Over the years, there has been a little bonfire among the European countries, each trying to establish themselves as the European licensing event. That has given rise to The Italian Licensing Show, the event in Germany, the show in France, BLE and even the Vegas show as the Americans have began to grow internationally.

However, as the business has expanded, BLE has finally come to its own as a real global market place in its own right. This is the 17th year of Brand Licensing Europe. For the first ten years, it was mainly British exhibitors and British brands and British firms with a sprinkling of continental European thrown in.

That has certainly changed. Now we have exhibitors from across the world. We have international zones, the Korean palladium, exhibitors from the East. And that’s not just the agents of the brands, but the brands themselves.

It is also encouraging to see that BLE is starting to mirror some of the big shows, the likes we see in America. If you look at the shows in the US, there is always something going on outside of the show itself. We are starting to see that here now; Universal, Mattel, 20th Century Fox each hosted big events.

Universal hired out the Paladium, Fox hired a huge atrium room in the Foreign Office. These are not little hole in the wall things in hotel rooms, these are big, big events and there is serious money being invested by international companies to have a presence at BLE.

What does that represent then? Aside from the global growth of the industry, it puts a real focus on London.

I will unashamedly say that London’s Brand Licensing Europe could be the biggest licensing show in the world. Given another ten years and I think we will see that. We are at the centre of the World here in London. Las Vegas isn’t. It’s a great show, but it isn’t London. It’s terrific to think that we could really do that. This show is broadening and growing and showcasing what London has to offer.

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