Indie Uncovered | UK artist Meg Hawkins strikes staycation success in SDL Imports gifting partnership

The UK artist and talent behind her self-titled design brand, Meg Hawkins has secured her latest licensing partnership in the gifts and lifestyle sector, teaming with SDL Imports to launch a selection of wooden homeware items.

The deal sees a collection of some of Hawkins’ most popular artworks feature across a portfolio of SDL wooden items, spanning coat hooks, boxes, and key boxes, joining a line up of already established footstools and further household and lifestyle items.

The SDL Imports Natural World by Meg Hawkins collection has been the focus of a long process of product development and a partnership that originally kicked off in January 2020, when the SDL Imports team first discovered Meg Hawkins’ art brand at Exeter’s Giving & Living Trade Show. 

While partnerships were quickly formed and contracts swiftly signed, the pandemic – and knock-on effects from the Suez Canal blockage and subsequent issues around shipping – hampered plans to launch product to consumers until only recently. However, the team have since been encouraged by a strong positive reception from customers and the public alike, with repeat orders across the range already being placed.

“We are absolutely delighted with our new Natural World by Meg Hawkins range. Meg’s designs look wonderful on our products,” said Diana Leadbetter of SDL Imports. 

“We have had a very positive response to this new range. We only received the stock three weeks ago and one line is already 50 per cent sold and many others over 25 per cent sold. Given that our customers have largely been unable to see and touch the products before buying them, that is very encouraging.”

SDL Importants has been supplying the tourist industry with giftware since the 1950s. Its partnership with Meg Hawkins focuses on the artist’s UK wildlife and animals collection, tapping into UK tourist attractions with a range that has proved particularly popular with buyers and retailers based in seaside towns and UK coastal holiday destinations.

The SDL Imports team has found that, while the pandemic hampered plans for the range initially, the resultant influx of holiday makers staying within the UK this year, and heading to coastal holiday hotspots, has helped boost sales.

“The increase in staycations has resulted in an extension to the normal UK coastal holidays into late autumn,” continued Leadbetter. “Last year, it was all going well until the November lockdown was announced. This year, as soon as holiday accommodation and restaurants were able to open, everywhere became busy quickly.

“The resultant influx into the traditional tourist towns of people tired of months of lockdown and not being able to visit shops has resulted in increased sales, with some of our customers advising having experienced their best weeks trading ever over the May half term.”

A brand centered around watercolour artwork and photography, the Meg Hawkins brand has been featured on a vast portfolio of products, from greetings cards to footstools, and within five years the brand has advanced form the kitchen table to being sold worldwide.

Hawkins has previously secured licensing agreements with the likes of Widdop and Bingham,, a fudge range from Gardeniers of Scotland, and 2022 notes cards with the RNLI.

“From the minute I met Diana and Mike Leadbetter at SDL Imports, we hit it off straight away,” said Hawkins. “Communication is key and we seem to be able to go with the flow. I am really pleased the collection has been selling well for them.

“We are a young company and extending our ranges through licensing enables us to gather a larger product range and most importantly, brand awareness. Our goal to be a recognised household brand is showing a glimmer of light, and hopefully all the hard work will pay off.”

Hawkins now plans to see the brand extend across other categories including stationery, as well as further homeware offerings such as bedding and soft furnishings.

“We have just launched a children’s range under Little Joe & Co which has proven really popular. We’re looking for someone to license the images for toys and baby clothes and other children’s products.”

The Breakfast Club: Richard Pink on five successful years with Kellogg’s and Kimm & Miller

It’s a partnership that has spanned the last half a decade and one that continues to move from strength to strength with each year that passes and each new range that finds more and more shelf space within some of the UK’s most popular retail destinations. Kellogg’s and Kimm & Miller have become almost as synonymous as eggs and soldiers, or Snap, Crackle, and Pop.

And there in the middle, the broker of this breakfast behemoth’s gifting gallery, is Pink Key Licensing’s Richard Pink. Together, this formidable trio has managed to push the envelope for food brands in the gifting and the classic brand with vintage appeal sector, building up a portfolio that from small beginnings now sits on shelves at some of the country’s biggest grocers.

And still, there is more to come. 2021 has been earmarked as the year that Kimm and Miller takes the Kellogg’s brand into the housewares sector, a ‘key push for the brand’ that has successfully navigated the waters of 2020 so far to have maintained its strength of position in the market, even throughout its most tumultuous moments.

Here, catches up with Pink Key Licensing’s Richard Pink, and Kimm and Miller’s Dave Kimm to talk about those future plans, the demand for the Kellogg’s brand, and the secrets to a successful licensing partnership.


Richard Pink of Pink Key Licensing

Richard, it’s been a while. Thanks for chatting with us and to kick us off can you talk us through the strength of the Kellogg’s brand? 

Kellogg’s is a hugely important brand in our portfolio. Firstly, it has terrific awareness across  every territory that we manage in Europe which allows not only local activity but also  activity that goes cross-border and even global. Secondly, it’s a very adaptable brand and  works on many levels because it has a contemporary aspect as well as a rich heritage. It appeals right across a very large consumer demographic. 

What does the brand bring to the gifting and vintage/classic brand sector? 

Obviously, there is the food element which works so well for the Kimm and Miller gifting  sets, but there is also the amazing artwork which allows it to work almost like an art license as well. 

Your partnership with Kimm and Miller has been one stretching over the last five years. What success have you had with the Kellogg’s range over that time? 

The range started quite small but has expanded each year based on the success that we  have had. Initially, it was only available in Debenhams and it grew there to become the  largest Christmas gifting range. Since then, Kimm and Miller have developed additional products which have been listed by other retailers such as Tesco and Morrisons that still use the same characters but are distinct from the large range that remains in Debenhams.

Every  year the range has grown and become more successful for us. 

How have you seen the collection develop over that time? 

At this point I think I’ll turn this question over to Dave Kimm who has developed and managed the range…

Dave Kimm, commercial director, Kimm & Miller: Working with the UK’s favourite cereal brand has been and continues to be a great experience. In conjunction with Pink Key we launched our first Vintage Kellogg’s gift range in 2015 with seven SKUs and, in a clear sign of the affection the consumer holds for the  brand, that SKU count has grown fourfold since then, helped on with a move into the  housewares category.

It’s absolutely essential to continually update and refresh the winning  core lines with the wonderful assets available to us whilst also introducing new product  uniqueness into the range on an annual basis.  

What makes Kimm and Miller the ideal partner for this sector and for this brand? 

Richard Pink, Pink Key: Kimm and Miller have enormous experience in understanding brands and which kind of  products will work. They understand the core elements of what appeals to consumers and are able to translate that into products the consumers want to buy, either for themselves or as gifts for others.

They also have first class processes to ensure that the quality of the  product is maintained which is always so important for food and to the brand.

What’s the secret to a successful and long-standing relationship like yours with Kimm &  Miller? And how has that helped in the success of the range and brand at retail? 

The key word here is partnership: We always work together to understand each other’s  needs and we instinctively know when we need to push things a little with the brand to create innovative product.

Kimm and Miller has fantastic retail relationships; they include us in their discussions when necessary so that we can have a direct understanding of what their customers want. And, because of the huge amount of art we have available, we are then able to give retailers things that they want to build on; past successes or respond to emerging trends. 

Can you talk us through any new developments, launches or plans for the Kimm and Miller  partnership? 

My view is that every year we develop the core range, keeping the bits that work and adding  to it so that it always has a certain amount of innovation as well as the core products that we know work so well.

It’s probably a bit early to say how we are going to develop things for next Christmas, however, now that we are working with Kimm and Miller on a broader housewares range, we are able to access new retailers with an all year round  offering.

Dave might also have a view on this…

Dave Kimm: I couldn’t agree more with Richard – the expansion of the housewares range is key to us for 2021 and we are at the beginning of that process as we speak. Even in these extremely testing times for us all, this year our retail channels for Kellogg’s have grown both online and  with the bricks and mortar retailers. I believe that in itself is proof of the affection and  fondness Tony, Cornelius, Coco et al are held in and we need to ensure both our housewares  range and Vintage gift sets continue to reflect that popularity.

How strong will the range be this Q4 and as we move into the new year? 

Richard Pink: I’m glad you asked me that! Every year the range just seems to get stronger. Even in a  difficult year like this we have been able to maintain the sales of our range. It makes me  believe that, as (hopefully) retail begins to open up next year our range will be stronger than  ever.

Thank you both, is there anything you’d like to add? 

I’d like to leave the final words to Alex the designer at Kimm and Miller for the Kellogg range whose input is absolutely invaluable: 

‘Working with a brand like Kellogg’s is a total privilege – the archive is really well-managed  and it’s always enjoyable to come up with new ideas that work with the classic characters. 

‘Kellogg’s and the Pink Key team give us a lot of trust and flexibility, which we have built on  over the years. I always get a real buzz when I see the finished range come together – it’s so vibrant and bright and I hope it makes people happy when they receive one of our gifts for  Christmas.’