The domestic fashion-related licensing industry has grown aggressively over the past years to reach nearly $ 300 million (nearly Rs 1800 crore) in annual sales and that’s largely due to strong demand from the kids-related segment, along with well established brands like Adidas, Puma, Lilliput and Zara expanding their activities in this segment. It’s no surprise that senior managers at popular character-based icons ranging from Chhota Bheem to Ben10 are constantly trying to expand the scope of their licensing activities, given the dominance of entertainment and related themes in this sector. Striking a similar note, Rajiv Chilaka, CEO, Green Gold TV, creator of Chhota Bheem, said, “If a child likes Chhota Bheem, he will not think twice before buying a product related to this theme and we can easily expand the range of merchandise that licensees can offer.”
No kidding Around The children’s licensing market has been largely dominated by western icons like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Doraemon, Powerpuff Girls and Garfield, amongst others, and it’s no surprise that kid’s apparel, accessories and even birthday parties are dominated by these characters. The key factor, senior marketing managers highlight, is to transform the emotional connect that a popular character enjoys with its target audience to its merchandising strategy. Retailers like Pantaloons,Lifestyle, Hypercity, Landmark and Marks & Spenser have successfully leveraged this trend with a wide range of licensed merchandise and allied products. Roshini Bakshi, MD, Disney Consumer Products, highlighted that their popular characters Disney and Marvel appeal to a several segments, and they have recently introduced apparel and accessories for adults. Disney also retails Marvel merchandise created with Bioworld Merchandising, targeted at both kids and adults, via online stores like Jabong, Myntra and Flipkart, as well as traditional brick and mortar outlets. They are not alone and Warner Bros Consumer Products launched Kids’ WB, its first exclusive store at Coimbatore, in partnership with Suncorp Exim earlier this year, and it offers back to school products, personal care, publishing and stationery related to characters like Batman and Looney Tunes. In addition, Viacom 18 recently acquired the rights for Charles Schulz’s popular Peanuts characters in India as its master licensee, and will soon launch apparel and accessories inspired by Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the gang.
Marketing strategy Analysts tracking the sector highlight that licensing is ideal when there is not much difference between brands in a particular category, and it helps to create a ‘desired’ image amongst the target audience. For instance, in a category like socks, with scores of brands available at retail outlets, character-based licensing helps to differentiate one brand from another. Striking a similar view, R K Jain, MD, Bonjour Socks, said, “We became the exclusive licensees for Doraemon socks and the response from consumers has been overwhelming.” Similarly, Wiesner Worldwide Kreations, makes kids-related footwear based on the popular character - Garfield. Bhavna Jha, Vice President-South East Asia, Wiesner Worldwide Kreations, said, “Characters-based products help to attract the attention of children.” Licensees for other brands also pointed out to the success of this strategy. B D Nathani, CEO, Guys & Dolls Trade Zone, an exclusive footwear licensee for Disney for several years, said, “We have achieved considerable success with this licensing strategy and enabled us to expand our distribution network to leading multi-brand outlets, as well as e-commerce sites.” To further leverage the growth opportunities in this segment, Nathani had also recently acquired Chhota Bheem’s footwear license, too. And, even in high-end segments like jewellery retailing, this strategy has been successfully utilised. Voylla.com recently launched Disney-themed silver jewellery like pendants and earrings for children, and has grown quickly in a rather short span.
Sports licensing Adult-related licensing is largely dominated by popular sportsmen and ‘winning’ teams. For instance, Adidas offers T-shirts of leading European football clubs like Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, as the official Messi jersey, while Reebok is the official apparel sponsor for Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore. Rachna Agarwal, CEO, Indus League Clothing, licensee of Manchester United Football Club in India, said, “Sports fans love to ‘flaunt’ their colours by wearing their favourite team’s merchandise.” Apart from exclusive stores, Manchester United has shop-in-shop stores at Pantaloons outlets, and aggressively expanded its presence in the country in a short time. Summing up, Chitra Johri, VP, Bradford License India, a licensing agency for NBA and Liverpool Football Club, said, “Licensing including sports licensing is a growing category in India, and reflects the maturing of consumers and the broader retail sector.”