By Lisa Evans
According to Jessica Blue, industry expert and show Vice President, the upcoming 2016 Licensing Expo will debut the premiere of a powerful new business networking tool, the Licensing Expo Matchmaking Service. Buyers attending the June 21-23 show at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas will be privy to the launch of the new technology, which helps buyers maximize their time at the show. “This is a huge networking opportunity for buyers,” says Blue, “it allows our attendees to search over 16,000 different contacts in order to find new products or manufacturers and set up meetings with possible new business partners.” Available to all registered attendees, the Matchmaking Service can be accessed online via the Expo website at Licensingexpo.com or for even more personalized service, by emailing the matchmaking team.
Innovation is a common theme for the Licensing Expo, now in it’s 36th year. Having grown from a small show originally based in New York City, the Expo has seen phenomenal growth over the past years. Blue notes that retailer attendance at the Expo has doubled in the last three years alone. “We are finding that retailers are wanting to be in at the very early stages of the process, when a brand is initially brought to market. The retailers really want to know things like, What’s the distribution going to be? When is the movie coming out? When is the TV show launching? Does it have a following online already? Retailers are being much more strategic in terms of their interest in licensing. Rather than just buying the product from the manufacturer and it being just a straight buy, the retailers are much more involved in the whole process.”
Retailers are taking advantage of the substantial educational resources offered by LIMA, the Licensing Industry Merchant’s Association, the official sponsor of the Licensing Expo. “LIMA runs an intensive 5 hour Master Class the day prior to the show’s opening,” Blue offers. “You can learn everything from the absolute basics of basics, things like, What terminology is used in this industry? What’s a royalty rate? How is a minimum guarantee worked out? All of these basic things including all the legal side of things, like How do I structure a contract? What kinds of things should I include in the contract, or What should I not include?” All of these areas are covered in the Master Class, and all with goal of educating attendees to allow them to enter the world of Licensing armed with the best possible understanding to grow their business. Each day of the show additional seminars targeting more complex aspects of the business are offered to attendees, and networking opportunities abound.
Blue is enthusiastic about what retailers can expect to see at the upcoming show. “What I think is interesting about licensing is the cobranding opportunities that we see going on. The meshing we see going on between the brands. There’s a lot of cobranded products that are coming into being now, which is new and really interesting. An example of this would be the NFL Players Association doing a deal with Domo Dolls to create a doll of one of their players. Sometimes it’s surprising and different, and these items sell amazingly well at retail.” Blue adds that the Licensing Expo is working on a major sports program in tandem with the NFL Players Association, details of which will be revealed at the 2016 show. “Buyers won’t want to miss it,” Blue says, “it will be a major focus for the show.”
In fact, many retailers plan to attend the Licensing Expo not only to find new products, but also to establish new relationships with a particular brand or group of brands. “We find that retailers will sometimes have a meeting with their manufacturers right at the brand owners booth. They go as a team and they sit in front of the brand owner and talk strategically about making an exclusive for their store or a special piece for an assortment of products, and that’s where licensing can really help retailers to differentiate their products from what others are carrying,” Blue says.
“In the past, things were very different,” Blue adds, “For example, you might have seen sports brands looking to license just the sporting goods products alone, like the balls and the caps and the jerseys, but all of that has really changed. Now they can look into any line of merchandise, food and snacks, toys and collectibles, apparel, home décor. The sky is the limit with licensing.”
For more information on attending the show, visit www.licensingexpo.com.