BLE 2011: The verdict

We ask exhibitors and visitors for their views on the Olympia showcase.
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“The show exceeded our expectations this year; it was our third showing and easily our best yet. The show seemed buzzier than usual, particularly day two, and I think this was cleared helped by the general contraction of the show floor area and narrower aisles. I was very pleased with the amount of retailers. There was a noticeable increase this year and a broader range of retail sectors seem to be engaging the licensing world. Very encouraging and we’re delighted a growing number of retailers are appreciating our brand story and point of difference.”
Sam Johnson, Senior Licensing Manager, JCB Consumer Products

“Overall it was a very busy and positive show for us. It seemed to me that attendance was up quite a lot from last year, so it must have been one of the best shows to date in terms of visitor numbers. We did have some terrific meetings with retailers and they all seemed keen to look at business opportunities for the coming year.”
Sissel Henno, Head of Brand Licensing (Europe), Sega

“This year’s show seemed to be much busier than last year. We definitely saw an increase in international visitors attending our stand; I would estimate that some 50 per cent of the visitors to the Mattel stand were international. We saw a fantastic amount of walk up traffic and the third day proved very worthwhile. It would be great to see a more uniform approach in the building of the stand.”
Jo Broadfield, Mattel Brands Consumer Products

“I believe attendance was slightly down on last year but we were rushed off our feet on days one and two. Although the third day was quieter in the aisles, we still had meetings back-to-back throughout the day. The UK retail teams were out in force which was encouraging. There’s no better way to see what a brand has to offer than when all the products are displayed together. It’s very impactful and helps demonstrate what can be achieved in-store.”
Melanie Beer, Group Licensing Director, Hallmark Cards

“We thought on the whole that the show was positive – we had a good flow of meetings and personally I was always busy. The quality of meetings seemed to be good with the majority focused on ‘doing business’. I thought the general atmosphere was good, the show looked good and exhibitors were working hard on presenting good quality stands. I think we could open for another hour on both the first two days. It would be good to have a better way of quickly identifying retailers – I know this is a sensitive subject but maybe a different colour badge? In the fog of BLE you can miss the subtle branding.”
Ian Downes, MD, Start Licensing

"BLE was our debut outing for Everything's Rosie and we had a very positive response. We met with licensing partners from all across Europe and the ROW and the number of stop-bys from potential new licensees around the world seemed to prove that international attendance was buoyant. We were delighted with the number of retailers we met. As competition on the High Street is rife, retailers and licensees are keen to fill the gap in the market with a new girls pre-school property and have recognised Everything's Rosie has established itself with the target age group and has an ever increasing following."
Vickie Corner, V&S Entertainment

"It was a busy show for Zodiak Rights. It was the usual struggle to keep slots open to meet new potential partners and retailers, but we seemed to manage a good balance. We saw a lot of European partners, Latin Americans, Asian licensees - it feels like the continued presence of Licensing International in Las Vegas is bringing a more international flavour to the London show, which we welcome. However, the aisles outside the main one feel cramped. The usual complaint about the lack of lunchtime facilities on site - people sitting on stairs isn't a great sight. Why not make part of the upstairs gallery a seating area so people can have a break and place to eat their expensive lunch?"
Jennifer Lawlor, SVP, Consumer Products, Zodiak Rights

“I think the first two days seemed as busy as last year, however the flow of traffic on day three was less. I think licensees and retailers are being more cautious as to the level of business they are prepared to commit to given the economic climate. We really wanted to have the same booth next year, however given the new layout this is not possible. We have opted for a similar space (slightly larger) which will mean tweaking the design of our booth.”
Richard Woolf, International Licensing Director, Withit

“Attendance wise it felt about the same as last year, but as we were at the back of the hall we didn’t get as much passing interest as we would have hoped for. There was still talk of how the economic situation was still squeezing licensees and I guess that’s why both they and the retailers are tending to stick to classic brands. But at some point kids need something new. We saw very few people from other territories and we only saw two retailers.”
Helen Howells, Joint MD, Hoho Entertainment

“Overall it was a brilliant week for us. The buzz and energy on Tuesday and Wednesday was catching. Attendance definitely felt up, not just from the UK but from all over Europe. Everyone we met was very upbeat and willing to talk business. We were delighted with the number of retailers we spoke to and who dropped by our stand.”
Angeles Blanco, Director Licensing, DHX Media

“The show was great for Coolabi and in particular Poppy Cat and Purple Ronnie. There was a constant flow of licensees and retailers to the stand. I felt there was a greater presence of international companies exhibiting which in turn led to a greater attendance of international licensees. The third day is still definitely worthwhile; it was a quieter day but most companies are still at the show and we were busy until the end of the day.”
Natasha Dyson, Head of Licensing, Coolabi

“The show is building momentum and with Vegas being far/expensive, more international partners are attending. Everyone made a good effort and we felt very busy, with a lot of ad hoc requests for meetings from retailers and licensees. The space did feel very tight and we recognise there is work to be done to the building.”
James Walker, VP Brand Licensing & Publishing EMEA, Hasbro

“It was a great show for us, very positive with a lot of good meetings. We got quite a bit of walk up traffic; having the dogs on the stand on Tuesday helped as well. We’re looking forward to the opening of the hall to the back and thus giving it more room again. We will stay on the main aisle which is great.”
Sandra Vauthier-Cellier, MD, 4Kids Entertainment

“Our booth was busy from the start to the close of the show. It had a fantastic energy and buzz. Representation was strong from retailers all over the globe, with buyers across multiple categories. We did more retail meetings than at any prior BLE.”
Nicole Blake, EVP, Global Marketing & Consumer Products, Classic Media

“From our point of view the show was busier than ever and our sales teams’ diaries were filled with meetings from first thing in the morning until the last available slot. We had a really significant amount of traffic at the stand this year and hope to forge many new relationships from our meetings, as well as reinforce existing partnerships. The major suggestion I would put forward would be a larger venue for the keynote on Tuesday, but BLE is a real highlight for us so we’ll definitely be returning in 2012.”
Michael Connolly, Head of Consumer Products, VIMN

"Attendance seemed up on last year, especially day one, with a lot more strength of numbers from the major retailers. It is nice to see retailers getting buyers from all departments to attend the show. The third day is definitely worthwhile; it gave us plenty of time to chat with stands that had been busy on the first two days."
Martin Lowe, Roy Lowe & Sons

"This was a really great first show for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home - we had a lot of pre-booked appointments and some very valuable and interesting meetings. However, we were right at the back of the show and I don't think many retailers actually got beyond the art and design section to us. The last day gave us and others the chance to walk round the show and catch up with colleagues and further walk on opportunities."
Lucy McCredie, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

“We seem to have higher quality leads, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It seems people want to do deals as they need immediate opportunities to satisfy retail interest. We had a lot of walk up traffic and on the whole it was good quality. We did not see any need for a third day, however.”
Simon Kay, AT New Media

"It was hard to gauge the attendance of the show as it seemed busy at certain times and less so at others. Generally, however, I felt it was a strong turnout and it was great to see key retailers attending across multiple categories. In regards to international distributors and/or licensees particularly for publishing, it wasn't clear how well these were represented."
Matthew Reynolds, Pedigree

"I think attendance was about the same as last year and retailers and licensees are still very scared to try anything new. Our strong stand location and great graphics did entice a good amount of walk ons, but I do not think the third day is necessary."
Lindsay Pearl, Director of Licensing & Children's Acquisitions, Target Entertainment

"The show went very well for us. We believe the attendance was up when looking at people from our markets, which is positive. Compared to Vegas, where we mainly meet licensors, here we meet licensors and licensees together and get deals done, or at least into the pipeline. I think the timing has to move back to September or move into November to get away from MIP, Frankfurt Book Fair and Hong Kong shows - October is too crowded and means some people won't come."
Morten Geschwendtner, Ink

"We had a fantastic show with the very best of visitors - both licensees and retailers. The state of the current economic market was discussed with many, but there doesn't seem to be the doom and gloom outlook that there was over a year ago. I think the art and design section should be in the mix of everyone. It really ought to be all mixed up a bit more."
Kirsty Guthrie, KJG

"JELC had an incredibly busy show, with strong interest in all our properties. The show was very well attended and it certainly felt as though it was busier than last year. The atmosphere was buoyant and there wasn't a lot of talk of doom and gloom. We definitely think international attendance increased, especially from Eastern Europe and Latin America."
Janet Woodward & Jane Evans, JELC

"I would say that attendance was on a par with last year or even possibly up. There were far less retailers than last year. From what I understand this is because BLE clashed with the Gift Show in HK. Of the few retailers that I met with, they were all assistant buyers, rather than with the buying power."
Gemma Woodward, Natural History Museum

"BLE was all positive - busier than last year, except on the Thursday which was a bit dead. We saw loads of retailers and had lots of good quality walk up traffic."
Richard Pink, Pink Key Consulting

"It felt as if there were more visitors and we were positioned in the same place, so a fair comparison year on year. There were disappointingly few retailers - I understand all the gift buyers were in Hong Kong for the Mega Show, as it's the key trade show for them to attend. As the early morning, particularly on day two and three, are relatively dead and many meetings needed to continue after 5pm, it would make sense to change the hours to start at 9.30 or 10am."
Lauren Sizeland, V&A Enterprises

"We enjoyed Brand Licensing this year. We had fewer walk ups but those we had were of much higher quality than last year and included retailers. We did find that some licensees weren't attending this year because they felt the event was a little late for them, which meant we had a busier than expected period prior to the show. The mid October timing leaves it quite late to sign properties ahead of Toy Fair and Spring Fair."
Claire Potter, MD, Metrostar Media

"I only attended as a day visitor last year, so I can't compare year on year but this year we were exceptionally busy on the stand, and there appeared to be good attendance on the first two days. The aisles were very busy and potential licensees seemed prepared to commit financially, and far less cautious about retailer buy-in than I was expecting. We were anxious before the show that we wouldn't recoup the cost of exhibiting. But we were delighted to be overwhelmed with enquiries and new potential licensees, so are confident all costs (and more) will be covered."
Cathy Snow, RSPCA

"This was the first time that American Greetings Properties was present at the show and we found it to be an incredibly valuable venue for us to meet with existing partners and speak with potential licensees, retailers and marketing/strategic partners. The quality of walk up traffic was excellent. We were able to make new contacts within the market that we never would have been able to contact without attending the show."
Gabrielle Oliff, VP Brand and Marketing, AGP

"2011 was a great show given the smaller floor space and economic background. Ignition was busy pretty much all the way through the show, with both pre-arranged meetings and stop-bys. The footfall seemed good on all three days, but it was hard to guestimate numbers. Generally speaking people were upbeat and getting on with life. I think the show always generates good interest anyway - the issue is more about whether that interest translates into deals."
Maggy Harris, Ignition Licensing

"This year's BLE was a superb show. Perhaps the pre-show expectations were lower than normal given the bigger picture in the economy, but it seemed like the most positive show for years, with both licensees and retailers actively seeking out new opportunities to bring excellent brands and innovative product to market. We met with a massive number of international companies - it was definitely the strongest show to date for us in terms of international reach and exposure to retail. There seem to have been fewer walk ons this year than in previous years, though there were still a very high number of them. The biggest difference we've seen is that the quality of the walk ons was much higher than previous years."
Rob Corney, MD, Bulldog Licensing

"I was really impressed by the level of traffic at BLE. I couldn't have been busier with appointments and drop ins. My first meeting began at 9.30am on Tuesday, and my last meeting ended at 4.30pm on Thursday as people began to dismantle their stands."
Richard Scrivener, MD, Creative Rights Agency

"The show was very good, with many interesting enquiries and good solid leads. It seemed busier but as the show was smaller it might have just been a space effect. Despite the difficult economic times, we did not have one person come on the stand in a pessimistic mood - all seemed upbeat and excited."
Anne Buky, Licensing Consultant, Imperial War Museum

"In terms of attendance at the show we were delighted with the walk in traffic by gardening and lifestyle companies, and retailers who were attracted to the brand and Alan's new position with his gardening show at ITV."
Kate Walker, Head of Marketing, Consumer Products, ITV Studios

"I thought show traffic was a little bit quieter this year - but we moved the position of our stand so can't compare like with like. I was pleased with the amount of retailers, and a lesson for us to do more to engage at a wider level with all buyers."
Tim Collins, DC Thomson

"It was our first time as an exhibitor at the show, so it was a very exciting time for us. We thought the atmosphere was definitely buzzing this year - the aisles seemed packed, our stand was consistently busy and we didn't pick up any negatives with regards to the economy. We saw mainly licensees. It would have been good to see more retail buyers and give them a good understanding of our brand. Maybe there could be a dedicated morning or afternoon of the show for this? We'll definitely be back as an exhibitor next year."
Maxine Stinton, Luma Creative

"I think the attendance was up. I was very happy to see the market was optimistic and positive in spite of the European economic situation. For us the third day was worthwhile. It gave us the opportunity to schedule at least 20 per cent more meetings."
Julian Barbier, Head of Licensing, Imira Entertainment

"We had a fantastic first two days - much busier than last year - and day three provided a steady stream of enquiries. As a smaller player at the show, and a public sector company, the additional costs for day three are still a worry. So for us it's crucial to meet the right mix of new contacts, both licensees and retailers, to make sure we get the maximum exposure for our brands and best return on our investment. Obviously we won't know yet if day three has made a difference to this, but overall we had a great turnout compared to last year."
Brenda Conway, Senior Creative Manager, NMSI Enterprises

"As an American agency at BLE, we were very please to see licensees and agents we wanted to meet not just from Western Europe but also Central Europe, Eastern Europe, India and even Australia at the show. We'd like to see more promotion of the show around the world. As our participation shows, BLE is not just for Europeans so we believe there's still room to attract lots more people. However, the new layout is an enormous concern for us. We loved our exhibitor space this year, but we've already been told that we won't be able to have the same space next year so that's very disappointing and frustrating for us."
Carole Postal, President, CopCorp


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