Brand Licensing Europe (1-3 October, ExCeL London) is the leading event in Europe for the licensing industry and, as such, is THE place to discover the hottest brands and trends with the most potential to impact the giftware market for retailers and manufacturers.

The event also nurtures entrepreneurs with new IP through its annual License This! competition. Giftware Association CEO Sarah Ward is making her debut on the judging panel this year, saying she is a firm believer in the importance of licensing to the home and gift world and that, “Supporting the competition and the industry is a matter close to my heart.”

BLE event director Anna Knight interviewed Sarah ahead of BLE to find out more about the state of the market and its valuable relationship with licensing.

Anna Knight: How strong is the giftware market currently?

Sarah Ward: Very strong and incredibly resilient, with incredible design and great opportunities. The socio-economic and political climate will always create a level of uncertainty, especially with headlines about big multinationals closing, yet more independents than ever are opening, lifestyle brands are becoming increasingly popular and retailers are doing more to create experiences instore to attract customers back to the high street. The online market is also growing in terms of spend with the sector taking advantage of ecommerce opportunities so, in a market worth £1 billion in the UK alone*, there is everything to play for.

Brand Licensing Europe – License This Competition

AK: How has this changed in recent years?

SW: There has always been an element of variation in giftware, but it’s always bounced back, and we are seeing lots of companies react and evolve into being fit for the future, whether that’s taking a more ethical stance, or diversifying into new areas. In addition to creating experiences, retailers are utilising new and emerging technologies, or joining forces, to make shopping trip easier and stress free, as well as boosting share of wallet.

AK: What’s driving the growth?

SW: Emerging markets: the popularity in garden centres, farm shops and delis becoming destination shopping arenas. As well as your average farm shop selling gifts, boutique hotels and restaurants are also getting in on the action. Also, the politic turmoil our country is currently in has led to suppliers looking at markets in Europe and further afield for new opportunities.

AK: What are the trends now and on the horizon?

SW: Definitely a move towards the ethical and socially conscious; a trend that has been bubbling away for years. Evan Lewis from Vent for Change spoke at our AGM. He has been creating stationery out of recycled single use plastic for years, and it is building up huge momentum, in part because of the ‘Attenborough Effect’ and our planet’s finite resources, but also because consumers’ values are changing: they don’t want to add more to our planet peril by buying non ethical products. In our Gift of the Year competition the ethical gift category has been the fastest growing category over the years.

Brad Licensing Europe License This winners

AW: What is awareness like among independent giftware retailers when it comes to licensed product?

SW: Very high. Independents recognise the value of household brand names and know that they will be a draw for customers. Any large brands (like Cath Kidston) will be successful in an independent as there is less risk, yet with a smaller designer – such as Sara Miller who is successful in her own right – retailers might be a bit more risk adverse. A lot of our members want to get into licensing to boost their brand and they know that it will be licensed across different brands so will have a stronger presence in the industry.

Do you know if more retailers are selling licensed gifts and which categories are most popular?

I think all categories of licensed gifts are very popular, particularly stationery, so everything from notebooks and notepads to pens and pencils. And, with the rise of the wellness trends, lifestyle gifts like water bottles are also very popular. Toys and licensing go hand in hand from big movie tie-ins to popular TV shows and children’s series and these will always be popular for retailers following media trends.

* (source: yougov survey 2018)

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