Best in show…it’s the Licensing Blog!

Published on: 26th September 2022

As a new week dawns, the licensing community is heading back to work after last week’s highly successful BLE show. Following the unforeseen events of the past few weeks, which certainly threw a curveball or three into the mix for exhibitors and attendees (not to mention the poor show organisers), the great news was that the show was back to its best.

To be fair, the fact that the organisers were able to put on any kind of show at all last year was little short of miraculous; lest we forget, BLE was the only major licensing show to be able to go ahead in 2021, after the Vegas Licensing Expo had fallen victim to the prevailing Covid situation. The 2021 event is a dim and distant memory now, but it was unavoidably more focused around UK attendees than its traditional Europe-wide audience. In hindsight, it also felt more tentative than usual, lacking a degree of the enthusiasm and vibrancy traditionally associated with the show.

However, fast forward a year and this year’s event was far more akin to the kind of show we all know and love. International visitors were back in force – not just from EMEA, but from the USA and other parts of the globe too – and most importantly, the buzz was back. The licensing community is never short of optimism and positivity, and this was much in evidence from start to finish. As the old adage goes, ‘promises were up’, but I have to say that the vast majority of the meetings we held last week felt positive and the signs for 2023 are encouraging. It feels like the licensing community has got its collective mojo back, after what was -for some- a tricky couple of years.

Thanks to all of those people who made kind comments about the relaunch of – yes, the acquisition did make a lot of sense for us, and healthy competition is generally a good thing. There is lots more to come from us as we head into 2023; last week’s conversations have given us confidence that we are back on the right track and developing into a website that is once again relevant and informative.

Back to BLE – it was a three-day show, and while the final day was inevitably quieter than the first two, it still felt busier than the final day tends to be in Vegas – the people who remained weren’t just wandering around, they had appointments and wanted to make the most of the time available. I was interested to see a post on LinkedIn from Paramount’s Simon Leslie, who summed it up quite nicely: “Thursday is an underrated day. It’s a shame so many people disappear, as with a bit more time and space we can have better quality conversations – and I did.” That has always been our experience – the final day is a little less frantic, and arguably less likely to be derailed by meetings getting cancelled or curtailed because a major licensee / retailer has just turned up unexpectedly, or late for a meeting.

There were a few notable absentees over the course of the week, particularly from the toy community, with the LA Toy Fair (even though I don’t like referring to it like that, as it isn’t really a ‘Fair’ in the traditional sense of the word) still in full swing. Some retailers chose to divide and conquer – well done to the Entertainer team – but inevitably a few others had a hard choice to make. Although I did hear that some supermarket buying teams were offering to take notes and pass them on to their absent toy colleagues, so that was a nice touch.

Clashes with other major global shows weren’t the only hurdle for attendees: a few companies had stands and samples stuck in customs – on behalf of the UK, my heartfelt apologies to our European brethren for the epic fiasco that is Brexit – while guests at the nearby Novotel had the novel experience of being awoken at 4.30 on the opening morning of the show by a fire alarm and full evacuation of the premises. There was also a flood in the hall for the organisers to deal with (it was all sounding a bit biblical at one point), and a sprinkling of rail chaos on Tuesday; the video of Paddington Bear arriving at the show shared by the organisers was charming, but if he had been faced with the journey I had that morning, I suspect the famous hard stare would have been deployed on more than one occasion. I did, however, get very positive reports from those who travelled on the new Elizabeth Line, so that is going to be a big help to all shows taking place at ExCeL moving forward.

Despite all of this, just about everyone I spoke to was delighted with the week’s proceedings, and I am sure the licensing community will already be diving into the mountain of follow up which comes from a successful show. Well done to Anna Knight and the team for whipping adversity’s butt on more than one occasion last week: I imagine they will be hoping for a really boring year next year, with no major complications to address – much like the rest of us.

For those people who like to be hyper-organised, next year’s BLE dates are 4th – 6th October; a slightly different configuration (Wednesday-Friday rather than Tuesday-Thursday), to help avoid a direct clash with the (new) New York Toy Fair dates, as that show will be moving from its traditional February timeslot to the end of September for the first time next year.