Here is an excerpt from our chat with Merchantwise Licensing GM Kerryn McCormack ahead of our August-September-October Licensing Special Edition. Here she discusses COVID-19's impact on the market, as well as what the opportunities are in licensing.

How has COVID-19 specifically impacted the licensing industry? How has it impacted your business?

Like all businesses, the licensing industry has been affected by COVID-19.

Location based entertainment such as character appearances, shows, and theme parks is perhaps the worst affected segment.

Film properties are challenging, with shifting release dates delaying or cancelling slated retail programs which had been lined up for those cinema releases.

The other critical impact it has had on the licensing industry – both here in Australia and across the world is the challenge of getting toys into market. With many products manufactured in China, there have been inevitable delays with the manufacturing process but also of course, with the products being delivered into warehouses and ultimately into retailers.

What are some other key changes that have occurred in the licensing industry in the last three years? 

As the landscape in the licensing industry changes – not just from COVID-19 but the increased appetite for licensed product, we will continue to explore greater opportunities for eCommerce retail partnerships to further expand the reach of our brands as well as seek out even more direct to retail possibilities for our much-treasured and loved brands.

A busy and competitive licensing landscape also requires a greater level of ‘out of the box’ thinking for brand opportunities – something we as a brand licensing agent thrive on!

What are the opportunities in the licensing industry?

Local and global opportunities greatly exist for iconic and nostalgic brands like May Gibbs and Blinky Bill – brands that Australians have grown up with and are excited to share with their next generations.

These brands have great licensing power locally and due to their celebrated Australiana significance, have very real opportunities in the global market across multiple retail categories.

There is also huge demand for digital and gaming brands.

Gaming is now the largest overall segment in entertainment, exceeding film and TV.

We are seeing great success with contemporary digital and gaming brands such as Minecraft, Xbox, Sonic and emoji, as well as nostalgic arcade classics like Pac-man and Space Invaders.

How have advancements in technology impacted the licensing space?

The growth and advancement of digital marketing has had a strong positive impact on the licensing sector.

It has provided us with many exceptional new ways to reach the end consumer and enable us to maximise exposure utilising both their digital and social platforms.

The other major technology trend is the explosive growth of eCommerce, particularly during COVID.

Retailers such as Amazon are dominating, which obviously puts pressure on traditional local retailers to lift their game.

What are some long-term goals Merchantwise wants to achieve in the next five years?

We want to continue to strengthen our retail partnerships to deliver greater in-store and online campaigns for our brand owners as well as grow our brand license range to incorporate both local and international brands.

We also want to ensure our agency continues to be at the forefront in licensing through ecommerce and other digital marketing solutions. 

How do you perceive the future of the licensing industry?

Licensing is a very flexible industry, with the ability to change with the times.

Ultimately, we are intellectual property managers.

Our challenge is to figure out consumer needs and trends and then ensure that our brands help to meet those trends.

While some traditional parts of the industry may gradually decline, other strong new segments will emerge.

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