Keynote: Mothercare’s Retail & Character Licensing Insight.

Posted on: Monday 18 April 2016 11:07am

Speaker: Barbara Robinson, (Head of Licensing and Character – Mothercare)

Host and event producer: John Lomas-Bullivant (Dynamite Studios)


‘When a property takes off, everyone follows’.
‘Is it on CBeebies or Milkshake?’

Event Executive Producer & CMC Editorial Director, Greg Childs introduced the third CMC Rights Exchange, the second to be held at the annual London Book Fair at Olympia. He described the use of the word ‘media’ in the context of The Children’s Media Conference as not just being television and publishing but encompassing anything that is created for children, including apps, toys, museums, theatre, film, audio and much more. He encouraged delegates to take a holistic approach to the Conference content and their subsequent meetings.

Claire Rainford, the CMC Rights Exchange Manager ran through the meetings process for the registered delegates before the Producer of the day’s events, John Lomas-Bullivant, stepped forward to introduce the Keynote speaker, stating that for anyone that is exploiting kid’s media, it’s a given that you want the commercial side to do well and that one of the major gatekeepers in this country is Barbara Robinson, Head of Licensing and Character at Mothercare.

IMG_2933Barbara outlined her experience in the industry, from Woolworths to her rise through Mothercare. She described the company as having its biggest presence in the UK, though there are over 2,000 stores worldwide – the international market is very important to them though ch area has its own characteristics.  Thy are not present in the USA.   80% of sales are in children’s clothing and Mothercare has owned The Early Learning Centre for almost a decade and Barbara described the two chains as ‘Fully Synergized’.

Her role is to liaise with any representatives of anything they could license, though in reality this is almost exclusively pre-school. Licensed product should be there to ‘extend the enjoyment that your child has with a television programme.’

In the past, Mothercare would take licensed product from suppliers who held the licences, now she sees herself as something of a matchmaker, putting licence-owners together with suppliers she trusts.

For anyone wanting to approach companies such as Mothercare, she says, ‘Do your homework first.’ Retailers are bombarded by all sorts. For Mothercare, it’s pre-school only, mainly up to three-years-old. The UK stores are not interested in properties for older children, but their international stores are. ‘Ben 10’ is  still working in many countries for them. With a new property, she would ask the following. Do children watch it? Is it on CBeebies or Milkshake? Do children engage with the product? When a property takes off, everyone follows. No one wants to be the frontrunner. Mothercare is no exception: they want to see how things work with other retailers with a wider age range of products. And o a note of caution Barbara revealed she was  suspicious of being pitched a licence as “an exclusive”, as she always wonders if this is because no one else wants it!

Barbara believes that modern parents are less sniffy about licensed product these days. New parents between 25 and 35 have been surrounded by licensing all their lives and will be attracted to the characters they were brought up with and want to share them with their own children. So established licences from ‘Peter Rabbit’ to ‘Star Wars’ are popular. Mothercare competes with everyone else, especially supermarkets –  even Waitress has some licensed product now.

On the industry, Barbara believes that it’s an inclusive one. ‘It’s very open and there are a lot of high-powered women involved.’

TV licences are dominant at Mothercare with ‘Peppa Pig’ still doing well. Book based IP has its place and perceived to be more middle-class and less mass market. The original ‘Peter Rabbit’ is back at Mothercare to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth. Film-based licensing is much more difficult for them, mainly because films are marketed for such a short period of time. However film series are more viable and Pixar films still work for them, because the the parents buy into them too.

The subject of gender-neutral product was discussed. Barbara felt that can work, but branches have separate lines for boys and girls, which are often on different sides of the store. This is because people come in with set ideas of what they want, they look for product based on gender and age.  This is a reaction to how the public appear to categories for themselves.

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