Our industry likes to believe we are “retail focused” and “love working directly with retailers” but in reality we are terrible at understanding the gate keeper to our success.  Retail buyers are incredibly busy and their performance is incredibly visible – every day the whole company can see how they are performing against budget and last year.  Not performing?  You won’t last long.  The level of stress and workload the buyers undertake is way beyond what the licensing industry understands. Business is about people and customers are ten times more likely to buy from you if they like, trust and respect you.  In general buyers will detest most of their suppliers so these are my top tips to get buyers to like you.  Most of this is not pretty but it’s effective.

1.       Be nice

Sounds obvious but buyers have incredibly stressful jobs and unless you have a friendly tone you will be ignored.  Never get angry / short / abusive with a buyer – it will never work regardless of how much they have over promised and under delivered.  Never expect them to be nice in return.

2.       Be creative

Buyers get a huge number of suppliers contacting them with the next big thing, over 100 new approaches a week in most cases.  To stand out think of something original.  One of the best approaches I had at John Lewis was the Caterpillar luggage catalogue that was always sent with a KitKat and a tea bag with the message – take a break and review our catalogue.  I never bought the range but at least they got a response each season!

3.       Be responsive

If a buyer asks a question, any question, answer it immediately.  Always keep on top of emails and have their numbers stored in your phone.  They will only call when they need something urgently.

4.       Don’t be afraid of exclusives

Amazon sell everything and undercut everyone.  Retail is a bloodbath and has been for many years.  Exclusivity is incredibly important for retailers to maintain their stupidly low net margins.  Timed exclusives allow your product to get a great launch partner and work out which products will be the best sellers for when you roll out market wide.

5.       Don’t Bullshit

Never say you can deliver something unless you can 100% deliver it.  You have one chance to get your product listed.  Once a buyer wants something they will want it immediately.

6.       Don’t nag / hound / hassle / chase

Not an easy one – your product will make them millions!  However, constant hassling is the easiest way of getting junk mailed.  Try to vary your approach – start with an engaging email, follow up with a call, try targeting the Assistant Buyer.  Your aim is purely to get 5 minutes of their time to review the opportunity.  If you get the review you are in the top 5% of approaches.

7.       Accept rejection

If you are lucky enough to get a not interested from a buyer then you are one of the lucky failures.  Most ‘no’s’ are delivered with silence.  If you get a no then just bide your time.  Buyers move very frequently, in most cases far too frequently.  When a new buyer is in place, try again.

8.       Be the buyers bitch

The best way of securing any listing of any product at any retailer?  Always do exactly what the buyer wants, in the format they want it, and on the timescales they want it.  Simple.

The Point.1888 team were warmly welcomed and well fed when we visited Thomas Buxton Primary School on 15th July to see Magic Breakfast in action. Magic breakfast is an amazing, life-changing charity that has taken on the task of ensuring that children don’t go to school hungry.

“Over half a million children in the UK arrive at school each day too hungry or malnourished to learn.”

Thomas Buxton is a primary school based in White Chapel, Tower Hamlets.  Will Stewart (Managing Director), George Birtchnell (Brand Manager) and Jack Allen (Brand Executive) met with the staff including head teacher Lorraine Flanagan. After learning about the history of the school and the impact that Magic Breakfast has had, we headed into the breakfast area.

The sense of fun and enjoyment among the children and staff is the first thing you notice as you walk in. Even though it’s early in the day the pupils seem to have a great level of energy and engagement; perhaps even more than us at that time! It’s clear to see that the main ingredient for these positive attributes is the fact that the children are supplied with a hearty breakfast. The kitchen staff supply them with a choice of bagel or cereal while the teaching staff set up games and activities.

The Magic Breakfast then sets the pupils up to have a productive day of learning on a full stomach. This is a charity we’re very fond of at The Point.1888 and feel extremely lucky to be able to support the wonderful team at Magic Breakfast going forward.

Not to forget, a massive thank you to the staff and pupils at Thomas Buxton Primary School for being such great and welcoming hosts.

On the left an official character mug from BB designs sold in December 2015 On the right an official character mug from Applause Inc. sold in December 1995 I love them both for many reasons (not to drink out of) but I don't believe there are many brands that can literally sell exactly the same product over a 20 year period.  This is what truly defines an evergreen brand. Star Wars has just passed the $2bn figure at the global box office and has achieved this in less than half the time of Avatar.  As expected this has been the biggest news in licensing since Walt Disney first imagined transferring his Mortimer Mouse drawing onto a T shirt. It's no wonder why Jurassic Park has been rebooted, a different Spiderman defeats a different green goblin every three years and we are soon to see Jared Leto attempt the most difficult character handover in history.  All entertainment properties make their real money through the merchandise rather than cinema tickets and it's the licensing industry that makes this possible.  The opportunity to sell is unfortunately tied to release dates (cinema, DVD, etc) and therefore to hit tight deadlines a lot of the merchandise can end up in the low end 'brand slapping' category. Star Wars however, is different as there are a huge number of brand building higher end products available alongside the traditional merchandise.  How many other entertainment properties could honestly license a range of quality cooking knives!  

On the left an official character mug from BB designs sold in December 2015

On the right an official character mug from Applause Inc. sold in December 1995

I love them both for many reasons (not to drink out of) but I don't believe there are many brands that can literally sell exactly the same product over a 20 year period.  This is what truly defines an evergreen brand.

Star Wars has just passed the $2bn figure at the global box office and has achieved this in less than half the time of Avatar.  As expected this has been the biggest news in licensing since Walt Disney first imagined transferring his Mortimer Mouse drawing onto a T shirt.

It's no wonder why Jurassic Park has been rebooted, a different Spiderman defeats a different green goblin every three years and we are soon to see Jared Leto attempt the most difficult character handover in history. 

All entertainment properties make their real money through the merchandise rather than cinema tickets and it's the licensing industry that makes this possible.  The opportunity to sell is unfortunately tied to release dates (cinema, DVD, etc) and therefore to hit tight deadlines a lot of the merchandise can end up in the low end 'brand slapping' category.

Star Wars however, is different as there are a huge number of brand building higher end products available alongside the traditional merchandise.  How many other entertainment properties could honestly license a range of quality cooking knives!

 

As with all successful licensed products - the fans will decide if something can sell concurrently for over 20 years.  I wonder if the X wing knife block will be on sale in 2033!

As with all successful licensed products - the fans will decide if something can sell concurrently for over 20 years.  I wonder if the X wing knife block will be on sale in 2033!

Right on queue my favourite former employer posts another buoyant Christmas trading result as reported by the FT

Nothing on profit but +6.9% turnover versus last year for Department stores and a whopping +4.9% LFL for the 6 weeks leading up to Christmas which as we all know is the only time retailers make profit.  Next have already used the weather get out clause and M&S are likely to do the same on Thursday.  So how do they do it year after year?

John Lewis is a Partnership which means that their profits are distributed to all 91,000 partners (employees) via the annual bonus.  As a former partner, bonus announcement day is what I miss the most (more than the discount!) as it was such a visceral statement of a better way of doing business.  The higher the number the happier EVERYONE was.  A fairly simple concept.

Retail is an incredibly low profit business model with huge risks and very visible results - getting it right is incredibly hard work.  Congratulations to an incredibly talented group of motivated people who genuinely deserve their special day in early March. 

John Lewis makes it look easy.  I know from experience it's not.

Maybe this partnership model will catch on.

We were recently described as a "Partnerships agency" by Global License which whilst we've never used this specific description ourselves, I do actually quite like it.  The Point 1888 creates partnerships between brands, retailers, charities and manufacturers and our first major launch hit the shelves of Oliver Bonas last month.

We have brought the pioneer of modern branding together with the amazing people at Oliver Bonas, to create a collection of stylish bobble hats for AW15.  We believe that through creating beautiful products, we can build awareness and generate revenue for the right causes. And have some fun at the same time. 

We love innocent and their Big Knit campaign is a true 12 year marvel within the brand charity partnership world. Our team are extremely proud to have brought this idea to market, with some great coverage in licensing.biz, licensemag and had some great celebrities helping tell the story. 

Each winter, one older person in THIS COUNTRY dies needlessly every eight minutes because of the cold.

The idea of true Partnership within business is difficult to define, and almost impossible to deliver, but ultimately if everyone is open and honest about their goals and vision from the start, magical things can happen.  The John Lewis Partnership has spent nearly 100 years getting this right and we target the same quality, value, service proposition at The Point 1888.  This collaboration happened due to a group of creative individuals sharing a bold vision and the drive to deliver.