A walk through the cluttered corridors of a trade show, such as the recent Licensing 96, drives home the stark reality of just how competitive the consumer marketplace has become.
It is sobering enough to consider the trouble that manufacturers roaming those same halls must have in selecting a winning vehicle from among the huge assortment of clever and compelling properties on display. It brings one further down to earth to think that this trade market is but a single link in the chain. Many more links must be put in place, each with its own set of numerous and complex options, before an idea makes its way from conception to the ultimate testing ground: the retail outlet.
And, if anything, the heightened sense of competition is intensifying even further within the retail environment where store operators-faced with ever-proliferating choices-are becoming more careful about what they order and more demanding about the kind of branding and merchandising support they get from their suppliers.
Several statistics from Licensing 96, held this year in an expanded venue at New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, are significant: exhibitors rose 23 percent from 265 companies last year to 325 in 1996, preregistered attendees went up 45 percent to 10,482, and the fastest-growing contingent was retailers, whose presence rose by 51 percent even before the final figures are counted. There were 729 retailers at the 1995 show, and this year, 1,103 retailers had preregistered.
The retail consciousness could be felt throughout the show, whether in individual product presentations that now routinely include detailed outlines of retail support programs, or in the awareness among almost everyone in the product development chain of the importance of what takes place on the store shelves.
KidScreen provides a glimpse of that dynamic in a report on retail that opens on page 31 of this issue. The report represents the beginning of expanded coverage of retailing issues, which we will introduce in the coming months.
Our report takes the form of a spotcheck involving a variety of retail outlets-discount, specialty and department store-in New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles and Tucson. Our writers were asked to look at how the stores are merchandising children’s entertainment software.
Their findings reflect much of what underlies the concerns of many business people today, especially those dealing in a market as sensitive as children’s products. And that is: for all of the money, energy and creative effort that g’es into production and marketing-and no matter how good your product may be-if it is poorly presented at the point of sale, it is doomed.
As one marketing executive of a software publishing company remarked over coffee at the licensing show: ‘You can drive people into the stores, but if your product is being merchandised poorly, you haven’t got a chance.’