As we observe and deal with the changing face of the global licensing industry, we are able to celebrate the lasting successes of a number of Australian companies. These companies specialise in licensed brands in their chosen product categories and they do an extremely good job at what they do.
Along with the re-energising of the games, puzzles and stationery categories around the world, MJM Australia are a stand out success when it comes to realising innovation in these specialised formats. MJM Australia as a collective, celebrated 50 years in the toy business not long ago. This is quite an achievement for a family owned business that has grown from hard work and rock solid relationships in the industry.
The business was originally founded by Maurice and Vivienne Levy and was known as Marianne Trading. From the early days of representing Arrow Puzzles out of the United Kingdom, to the more recent times, where they have marketed their own brand Crown Products, MJM Australia have managed to stay in the game for a long period of time.
The Bugg Report was able to sit down with Jacques and Marcel Levy leading into Brand Licensing Europe to discuss some of the more important milestones in their business and how they see the future unfolding for licensed merchandise in their categories.
We began by asking them where they see the underlying strengths of MJM Australia and once they had given this some thought, they realised that the two most important assets that they possess are honesty and integrity. They also concluded that their ability to get the job done at all costs has also been a strong contributor to their longevity.
The categories that they play in are very competitive and they are also challenging, however their ability to sign the right licenses and then develop innovative bespoke formats for their key customers has provided them with a competitive edge.
“I believe that our in-house design studio also has provided us with the ability to take a brief and turn it around quickly. This gives us the ability to get back to our customers and turn an idea into a business proposition, says Jacques.”
We also asked them to sight some of the highlights along the way and Jacques immediately felt that entering the licensing business way back in 1993 was definitely a highlight for a small company. He went on to say that being able to manage the Disney licenses in their business for over 15 years has certainly been a major highlight. They have enjoyed great success with key brands such as Frozen, Star Wars, Toy Story and Spiderman, just to name a few.
We moved on to talk a little about what they felt MJM Australia stood for in this business. They both concluded that the fact that they are a family business, which is founded on respect and caring for one another, is good enough for them. They are conservative in their needs and protect what they have by making smart decisions.
The current market conditions in the licensing business are something that affect us all and it is a constant point of contention. Jacques believes that the market is definitely in a state of transition, probably due somewhat to Kmart’s decision some years ago to move their model to lowest prices everyday. This indicator is further compounded by the immanent entry into the market of Amazon and Alibaba, which will surely cause changes.
Jacques notes with interest the recent deal Myer have concluded with Amazon in Australia and Spin Master’s deal with Alibaba in Asia. All of these deals will serve to alter the market in the immediate future.
Everybody is talking about Amazon and it’s no secret that Australia has lagged behind the rest of the world when it comes to online shopping. There is no doubt that the Amazon platform will fast track this trend.
When consumers can take delivery of goods the same day, it will be a game changer. Incidentally, I did read that last year leading into Christmas in North America close to 47% of toy sales were transacted online!1
“One of the things that we have spent a great deal of time on is developing and maintaining strong relationships with our retail partners, brand owners and licensing agents. It’s not always about an order; we try and understand from the other side what is important to them and how can we be part of it. Today we enjoy long-standing partnerships with our key customers and are fortunate to work with Disney, Mattel, Hasbro, eOne, WBCP, Haven, Merchantwise ad WP Brands, just to name a few. This has enabled us to make solid plans well into the future, says Jacques.”
We next spoke about the international market and its challenges. Jacques believes that outside of the mature United States market and the disruption in the United Kingdom (Brexit) and European markets, that Asia and especially China are obvious destinations for growth and innovative business models. China is currently the second largest economy in the world and therefore the investment in gaining an understanding as to how to navigate it is well worthwhile.
Jacques and Marcel have been business partners for well over 15 years now and when asked, Jacques sites that with Marcel overseeing operations and himself running sales and marketing, thier partnership has worked to their advantage.
“We are able to bounce things off each other and generally we come up with a commercially viable solution. We are very different, however having said that it probably plays as one of our strengths, says Jacques.”
I concluded by asking Jacques what had he learnt over the past 25 years and he suggested to take nothing for granted and that you must reinvent yourself more often than not to remain viable. It’s great to see that MJM Australia is continuing to grow and evolve with the best licenses in the market. As the games, puzzles and stationery categories continue to grow, you are in a great place to take advantage of this trend.