High Street Smarts

Why working smarter, and harder, with retail has never been so important.
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It could be that we're coming to the end of what has no doubt been a challenging year - not just in licensing, but for many industries - and signs of improvement have been spied on the horizon of 2011.

Or it could just be that they're all looking forward to a rest over Christmas. Whatever, there's definitely more optimism from execs in the business than there was this time last year.

While there have certainly been some tricky moments in 2010, there have been several individual success stories, too. To mention just a few, the introduction of Ben 10: Ultimate Alien went down so well, that Turner CN Enterprises had to fly in additional toy stock to meet demand; BBC Worldwide has taken its brands into several new product categories, including pocket money toys, collectables and creative play, while also watching Doctor Who and In the Night Garden notch up further success (with a new Doctor and a US debut respectively); and Warner's careful management of the Harry Potter property is going to start reaping the rewards now that the first part of The Deathly Hallows has hit cinemas.

Retail remains challenging however, and it has been interesting to discover that some execs believed they underestimated the loss that Woolworths would have on ranging opportunities. And the closure of the biggest retailer of licensed products still hasn't been absorbed almost two years on.

It's clear though from speaking to various execs that only the most successful brands are maintaining space at retail for 2011. Retailers are increasingly looking for more promotional activity and events to support them, while all want some element of exclusivity.

It may seem a flippant comment, but working smarter, and harder, with retail has never been so important. Some new properties may never stand a chance in an environment which is accustomed to instant results, while ongoing brands need constant attention to ensure they don't begin to feel stale, pointed out one exec.

From the other side, though, consumers are also constantly looking for innovation and the 'next big thing', but if retailers aren't prepared to take a risk on anything new, the public is soon going to get bored with the High Street.

There are opportunities out there - and not just via DTRs either - and, as WBCP's Paul Bufton says, if we can service the consumer need for interesting products at the right price, the demand will follow.

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