The power of licensing in the modern retail environment and what it means for future collaborations...

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Julia Redman

13th June 2022 -  BEHIND THE TILL - an Insight into Brand Retail Buying

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My first introduction to licensing was as a buyer at Woolworths, where Barbie, Disney, S Club 7 and all manner of licensed dress-up were the lynchpins of our children's clothing business.

Woolworths may have disappeared from our high streets, and is reportedly the UK’s most missed store, but the power of licensing as a driver of sales and profit continues to gather pace across the ever changing retail environment. 

From a fashion buyers’ point of view, the success of any licensed range or collaboration is dependent upon several key factors: partnership, product, price, positioning, timing and marketing. It is true that the “product is king”, and if you get the product right, success should follow, but is so much more complex than that.  

Understanding the “right fit” between a brand or retailer, and a license is the first hurdle. 

Will it appeal to their target customer, meet their needs, wants and desires? Does it offer the right balance of quality, design and price? Fundamentally, will it generate more profit from that floorspace, than a retailers’ own brand ranges would? 

Timing is critical, in line with a film or tv series launch, personal appearances, as is the positioning of the product, regardless of whether it is in the online environment or within a physical store. Is the brand or retailer going to support a launch with window displays, focal points and display spaces in store, with promotional banners & imagery online and the right mix of product to generate interest and excitement?.

I have always found that creating a cohesive range of clothing & accessories works really well, but makes so much more impact when supported by toys, books and giftable items. This approach has worked well for me on many occasions, when launching licensed ranges with JCB, Dinosaur Roar and Peter Rabbit, for example.


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However, in today’s fast moving and volatile retail environment, it is the use of technology to support a launch which is becoming increasingly important. As I took a trip along Oxford Street, it was Berschka, and their 50th Birthday Smiley range that caught this “Buyers Eye”.

A fun, bright, cohesive range, clearly targeting a young, adventurous customer, looks fantastic in the windows and was proving to be a real draw, even on a relatively quiet Monday morning. 

But it is online that this range really makes its’ impact. This collaboration has harnessed the power of augmented reality. Its’ clothing has been designed “phygitally”, in conjunction with 3D design house DRESSX, meaning that it is available to buy, both physically and digitally. Customers can buy into digital garments & accessories, in the form of NFT’s (non-fungible tokens), to create a virtual closet of clothing, which can be used in Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok, gaming, etc, anywhere, in fact, that the customer interacts online.

This can of course be used to create interactive marketing, but in this instance, it is the implications for user generated content to enhance a marketing campaign that really carries weight. It is the modern equivalent of “word of mouth” promotion amongst Gen Z and Millenials.


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“Bershka teams up with Smiley to bring out the fun and positivity of both brands! We celebrate Smiley 50th birthday, sharing the power of happiness.” (Berschka, 2022).


For more on what makes a great licensed retail collaboration, join us for the buyers panel on Day 1 of the Brands and Retail UK summer conference on the 6th July.

Julia Redman.

Julia has over 30 years experience of buying Licensed merchandise across all categories, having worked for Arcadia, Marks & Spencer, BHS, Woolworths, Debenhams and M&Co


Now the owner of Buyers Eye a Retail focused consultancy, Julia also lectures Fashion Buying and Sourcing at the University of Arts and the Fashion Retail academy in London.

You can read her Retail focused articles every Wednesday by signing up to the Brands & Retail UK mailing list.

If you wish to speak to Julia about Retail consultancy you can contact her by visiting

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