licensing By Jessica Blue

In the ever-competitive retail landscape, how do you stay relevant to consumers? How do you stay ahead of the competition?

Here are three reasons why retailers consistently turn to licensing to drive sales and revenue. Need a little more background on licensing? Click here. 

1. Open the door to revenue growth.

Global retail sales of licensed goods totaled $251.7 billion in 2015.* The U.S. is the leading country in the sale of licensed goods, accounting for $138 billion of that revenue. So it’s no surprise that top retailers like Amazon.com, Toys ‘R’ Us and Target attend Licensing Expo, the largest licensing tradeshow in the world, to capture their share of this growing industry.

While some retailers operate under direct-to-retail agreements for licensing, there are other options available, based on your needs and the level of risk each party is willing to take on. Learn about the three main types of agreements in The Basics of a Licensing Deal guide.

*Source: LIMA Global Licensing Industry Survey 2015 Report

2. Differentiate your product offerings.

Licensing agreements allow you to stock your shelves with products featuring the characters and brands that consumers love.

Capsules, collaborations, limited editions and other types of limited licensing agreements can make your products even more exclusive and in-demand. You can learn more about these types of agreements at Licensing University, more than 25 educational seminars presented by the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA) at Licensing Expo.

Licensing Expo is the only place you can meet 5,000 brands from all categories and all around the world. Exhibitors for 2017 include: Scott Living/The Scott Brothers, Coca-Cola Licensing, Bigfoot 4x4, FAO Schwarz, Sony Music Brands Group, Jack Daniel’s, Hang Ten, Amazon Studios, Nintendo of America Inc., Merch by Amazon and more. You can secure meetings with brand owners in Las Vegas by using the Licensing Expo Matchmaking Service – free to retailers attending Licensing Expo. Learn about Matchmaking Service.

3. Stay ahead of the competition.

Licensing the newest brands and characters for your products keeps shelves fresh and on trend. New properties are constantly breaking into the market, and licensing gives you fast access to get those hot properties in your stores and in consumers’ hands.

At Licensing Expo, you can see which brands and characters will be in demand in the next 18-24 months so you can start planning.

How to jumpstart your licensing program

Licensing Expo is where thousands of brand owners and retailers alike have launched and developed their licensing programs. It takes place May 23-25, 2017 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV. Register for free here

Plus, the all-new Licensing Week (May 22-25, 2017) brings together the best networking, educational and deal-making events surrounding Licensing Expo. Licensing Week includes an Orientation Breakfast for new attendees and exhibitors, more than 25 Licensing University educational seminars, and invitation-only Entertainment Showcases presented by Mattel, NBCUniversal and more. View the full schedule here

Images copyright and courtesy of Licensing Expo

RSRNew research indicates that more than a third of retailers are on track with omnichannel execution. By Peter Zaballos, senior vice president and chief marketing offer of SPS Commerce

Throughout the past decade, omnichannel retail has been top-of-mind for industry executives and those who manage supply chain ecosystems. And for the last half of that decade, SPS Commerce has worked with Retail Systems Research (RSR) to benchmark and translate omnichannel challenges and opportunities into planned technology investments for retailers, manufacturers, and distributors and logistics services providers.

In this year’s report, Retail Insights 2017: Moving Beyond Omnichannel, a big shift was evident.

The report revealed omnichannel retail has moved from a standalone “initiative” to being the center of business strategy and operations, especially for retailers. It’s now driving the entire business.

According to the report, more than 35 percent of survey participants believe their omnichannel strategies are on track, up nearly 200 percent year over year. Yet, some of those respondents are keeping a close eye on consumers’ demands to see how they affect their plans – possibly derailing some of their progress. And they’re not the only ones watching consumers’ behavior as 75 percent of respondents are increasingly concerned and cite it as the top factor driving their business over the next five years.

Retailers see fewer opportunities for growth in 2017, making them less optimistic about the future than their ecosystem peers. Contributing to retailers’ less optimistic viewpoint is increased competition: more and more manufacturers and distributors are selling direct to consumers with 60 percent of manufacturers and 58 percent of distributors running websites that do just that.

As a result, the race is on. All ecosystem participants are working hard to improve consumers’ e-commerce experience and grow e-commerce sales, which more than 60 percent of all retailers, manufacturers and distributors rank this as their number one priority for 2017.

Retailers are eager to reinvigorate the store experience by bringing in more digital experiences. As a result, they are looking for manufacturers and other ecosystem partners who are willing to use data to collaborate and make quick and informed business decisions.

An area survey respondents consider an enormous challenge is inventory visibility, which hinders both omnichannel execution and profitability. Only 78 percent of retailers have full visibility into their in-store inventory and only 77 percent have full visibility into their distribution center inventory. The percentages are even worse for distributors and manufacturers: 47 percent of distributors and 45 percent of manufacturers have no visibility into their partners’ inventory. This lack of inventory visibility creates ripples far beyond omnichannel execution. Without accurate and reliable visibility, retailers often over-invest in slow moving or dying products, while starving fresh, unexpectedly hot items.

Item attributes are another area where data and the sharing of it play a crucial role. Retailers originally hoped to speed product onboarding and trim costs by getting manufacturers to create and share item attributes. Now, retailers are looking to work hand in hand with manufacturers to create item attributes that help increase product visibility in response to consumer searches and social media activity. Such item attributes also enable retailers to create more personalized opportunities to connect with consumers.

Its no wonder 43 percent of respondents across the ecosystem expect their use of item attributes to increase. And as retailers get deeper into personalized assortment and product recommendations, the need for expanded item attributes and more accurate inventory data—and the ability to share this data in real time—will continue to increase as well.

Here are some other recommendations from this year’s report:

* Retailers: Collaborate with other ecosystem players. You must focus on the future of your stores, but this doesn’t need to be an internal-only project. By including other players in both planning and execution, you’re more likely to create stores your partners—and your shoppers—will actually support.

* Manufacturers: Pay attention to retail channel health. With retailers struggling, it is critical to offer greater inventory visibility and more item attributes.

* Distributors: Add services. With retailers ramping up drop shipping and manufacturers selling direct to consumers, you could be squeezed out unless you find ways to improve or add services.

* Logistics service providers: Breed speed. Although speed for speed’s sake isn’t the answer, you can increase your value by helping your partners achieve the gold standard, which is every order shipped the same day it’s received.

Those companies that fail to make these changes will likely be in for a rough ride, while those that succeed at moving beyond omnichannel retail will become the leaders of tomorrow. Which will you be?

Peter Zaballos is senior vice president and chief marketing offer of SPS Commerce, a retail cloud services platform provider.

the bridge directThe Bridge Direct, a well-respected marketer of children’s consumer products, has entered into an agreement to merge with Toronto-based Tech 4 Kids. The company plans to use this opportunity to accelerate a roll up strategy, working closely with its merger and acquisition advisors and banking partners. The new company will target their products to a diverse group of mass market and specialty retailers around the world.

“It is no secret that industry stakeholders are looking to do more business with fewer and stronger partners. This makes it harder for smaller companies to stay relevant and competitive,” Jay Foreman, CEO of The Bridge, said in a statement. “Challenges facing the industry are compounded by the additional costs and complexities associated with meeting the increasingly high safety standards required by regulators, retailers and licensors. As a result, many industry business owners are looking for a way to scale up, reduce their risk or simply cash out.”

“It is our expectation to acquire or merge with new businesses every twelve to eighteen months. Our strategy is designed to offer these owners a convenient solution with access to global markets,” Brad Pedersen President and CEO of Tech 4 Kids said in a statement. “This move will provide a unique platform that will position us amongst the top tier of toy manufacturers in North America and provide the growth plan to reinforce our position as a key industry player.”

The new company will begin to show product lines at the Fall Toy Preview in Dallas in October. The head office will be located in Boca Raton, Fla., and offices will continue to be maintained in Toronto and Hong Kong.

TIAAdrenaline-pumping active toys and awe-inspiring robotics are among the hottest trends.

The U.S. Toy Industry Association (TIA) recently announced the top toy trends of 2017 at its 114th North American International Toy Fair. Among the hottest trends are collectibles 2.0, movie mania and up & active.  

“This year’s trending toys reflect the creative force and vitality of the North American toy industry, which is coming off an excellent year of 5 percent sales growth powered by industry ingenuity,” Adrienne Appell, a leading trend expert at TIA, said in a release. “With more room for innovation and a greater willingness to take risks, toymakers are pulling out all the stops to create highly ground-breaking products, reinvent play patterns, and refresh classic brands with cutting-edge technologies and exciting new licenses. Best of all, these toys build children’s developmental skills through collaborative, hands-on, and imaginative play.”   

A summary of the top six trends follows:  

Collectibles 2.0

Collectibles were a top contributor to toy industry growth last year (posting 33% growth with $1.8B in sales, per The NPD Group), and they are expected to maintain their popularity in 2017. This trend includes basic and affordable collectibles, collectibles that have multiple play functions, as well as some higher-priced licensed collectibles with intricate styling details for the most avid collectors and passionate fans. Collectible toys help children develop lifelong skills, including social skills (when negotiating and trading with friends), organization skills (as they maintain their collections), and perseverance (not giving up on the “hunt”).

Up & Active

Toys that encourage kids to get up and move – both indoors and outdoors – are on the rise. The latest active toys not only motivate kids to burn off excess energy, they are also engaging for the whole family and are more seamlessly integrated into other types of play. This trend includes tech toys that weave in active components, classic outdoor ride-ons, traditional games that incorporate physical activity, and digital toys that foster face-to-face play.  

Technology Trends

Toy companies are continuing to innovate and think outside the box as they incorporate engaging tech components into their products. The good news for consumers is that technologies that were just emerging a few years ago (like 3D printing) have become a lot more affordable for manufacturers, making high tech experiences more readily available at realistic price points. This year we are seeing a surge in augmented and virtual reality toys, drones, virtual pets, robotics, and more. Most importantly, toymakers are successfully leveraging technology to enhance traditional play patterns rather than replace them.

Oh So Classic!

Along with their high-tech counterparts, low or no-tech toys with retro and classic styling and materials (like wood) will hold their own after a strong 2016 (last year, games/puzzles and dolls were among the fastest growing toy categories tracked by NPD). This trend includes retro brands that are either reinvented or reintroduced for a new generation to enjoy. These toys are appealing to parents, grandparents, and kids, and are a great way to foster intergenerational play.

Movie Mania

Licensing has been a huge boon to the toy business for the past several years (capturing about 30% of total U.S. toy sales) and 2017 will be no exception, thanks to a wave of family-friendly movies hitting theatres. From two LEGO movies (Batman and Ninjago) to Cars 3, Smurfs: The Lost Village, and Beauty and the Beast, this might be the best year for movies (and toys with movie tie-ins) in recent history. Expect to see licensed toys featuring popular characters and stories across every single category – including ride-ons, plush, action figures, and puzzles.

From STEAM to STREAM?

The trend in educational toys that teach kids important concepts like Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM), isn’t going away. In fact, it’s getting more comprehensive thanks to a slew of exciting and engaging products that ignite kids’ curiosity. In 2017, expect to see Robotics incorporated into the trend – transforming STEAM to STREAM. And we can’t forget the learning component imbued in classic toys like puzzles, memory games, building blocks, stacking toys, and other playthings that teach critical skills like problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking.

toy fair 2

Hundreds of thousands of innovative and skill-building toys and games will make their debut in New York City this weekend. 

This weekend, Feb. 18- 21, more than 25,000 people with gather in New York City for the 114th North American International Toy Fair – the largest toy, game and youth entertainment product marketplace in the western hemisphere.

Produced by the U.S. Toy Industry Association (TIA), Toy Fair will open its doors at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center Saturday, Feb. 18, showcasing hundreds of thousands of innovative and skill-building toys and games throughout the weekend.

An estimated 30,000 global play professionals – including 11,000 international buyers – will explore the massive 443,000 net square feet of exhibit space bursting with brand-new playthings from more than 1,100 toy companies.

“For more than a century, New York Toy Fair has seen the launch of countless timeless treasures – from Barbie and Mr. Potato Head, to Tickle Me Elmo and Silly Putty – and has evolved into a powerful gateway to the $87.4 billion global toy market,” Steve Pasierb, TIA president & chief executive, said in a statement. “With more than 100 countries represented at the marketplace and the U.S. toy industry coming off a very strong year, we look forward to seeing the global toy community raise the bar on creativity, ingenuity, and fun at Toy Fair 2017!”

Toy Fair will also showcase the year’s hottest trends in toys and celebrate their ability to transport kids to magical worlds through play. From skill-building creative toys to educational playthings for kids of all ages, Toy Fair will offer something for everyone.

In addition, Toy Fair will host several educational sessions that will cover toy safety, retail strategies, global market expansion, licensing, entrepreneurship and more. Toy Fair will also have special after-hours networking events throughout Toy Fair week. A full schedule of educational and networking events can be found at www.ToyFairNY.com.

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