This column by Kelvyn Gardner, Managing Director of LIMA in the UK, will be a new addition to our feature articles and we look forward to working with Kelvyn regularly to bring you new and exciting articles from his perspective out of the UK. In this first edition, Kelvyn gives us his wrap up of Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) in London this past October.
Greetings from LIMA UK. It’s been a great couple of months for business and pleasure over here. If you’re fortunate enough to be in the UK right now, you will be enjoying the 14th Rugby League World Cup. If you were here last month then no doubt you were visiting BLE in London. If you did so, you were in good company. Figures released today by organisers Advanstar show that visitor numbers were up yet again, to a new record total of 9,537. That represents a staggering 29% growth in two years. If you’re doing licensing business in the UK, it should come as no surprise.
The UK retail scene has been badly depressed in the years following 2008’s financial crash, and all sections of the business are having to fight hard for shelf space. However, the business is full of optimism. In a UK survey we ran in September, more than two-thirds of companies who responded reported a better 2013 than 2012, with the mean increase around 7%. What’s more, 75% of respondents expected their export business to increase in 2014 over 2013. So if the good times are not entirely here yet, then the UK licensing industry clearly believes that they are on the way.
The numbers at BLE, both visitors and exhibitors, backed that up. With BLE now staking a genuine case for itself as a truly international licensing show, how will that affect Australian businesses looking to gain insight into the licensing world outside their shores? I imagine that the US Licensing Expo, previously held in New York but now established in Las Vegas, has been the number one overseas licensing trade event to attend for Aussie licensing businesses. Licensing Expo is itself growing, and with the USA likely to remain the number one producer of entertainment properties from film and TV in the world, there’s no reason why it should not continue to do so. However, when it comes to brands, Europe can give the USA a run for its money. In the fashion sector alone names like Gucci and Armani, Burberry and Hugo Boss, Givenchy and Vuitton, are clearly powerhouses.
The new brands section at BLE 2013 was the first time that a dedicated area had been offered to brands. This was an important move because, despite brands being a very large slice of licensing overall, some of them had been reluctant to set out their stall at what they have seen as an entertainment-based event. The new Brands Zone was busy from day one – we saw it for ourselves as we moved the LIMA stand into the new zone – and I hear from Advanstar that demand from those who did not take the plunge this year is high to be included next time around.
Can BLE London attract Aussies in numbers to match Licensing Expo in Vegas? The brands may well be the key, though there are opportunities aplenty in the other more traditional BLE areas of excellence, many of them from outside the UK. Over one third of visitors this year were non-Brits, so the world is travelling here already. It’s a sure sign of the long-term prospects for licensing if two major international licensing trade fairs can now populate the international calendar with equal appeal.
Hope to see you all in London next October. Meanwhile, it’s back to the footy for me while England, New Zealand and the rest have a go at toppling the super Kangaroos.