European Licensing Fair reflects industry growth

This month sees the launch of the European Licensing Fair (ELF) in Birmingham, England....
September 1, 1996

This month sees the launch of the European Licensing Fair (ELF) in Birmingham, England.

The show, which is a joint venture between Trade Promotion Service (TPS) and A4 Publications, will run from September 8 to 10 at the National Exhibition Centre. It is expected to attract about 4,000 visitors to see 50 exhibitors drawn primarily from the U.K. and U.S.

The ELF has been timed to run alongside two other TPS events: The International Autumn Fair and Housewares International. The former-U.K.’s largest trade event for the gift industry-has sold 80,000 square meters of space and expects to attract 45,000 visitors, including 5,000 from overseas.

‘Stand-alone events can be very vulnerable,’ says TPS marketing director Stephen Jones. ‘This allows the new licensing fair to draw on our existing base of retail and manufacturing visitors.’

Jones believes the increasing importance of licensing to manufacturers and retailers means that the two events will complement each other. ‘Licensing is still at a fledgling stage in the U.K., but there is a real sense that it is growing almost daily.’

Although Jones is hoping for some leverage from the International Autumn Fair, the ELF will have its own site. ‘There will be shuttle buses from the main event. We want people to make a positive effort to get to the ELF. We don’t want to encourage too many inquisitive types.’

According to Jones, the event has attracted key licensing players such as Licensing by Design, Link Licensing and PSL. He admits that exhibitor turnout from Europe is low, but points to interest from U.S. players.

One coup for the ELF will be the presence of Turner Home Entertainment (THE), which is using the fair as part of its European launch of action-adventure series Jonny Quest. Turner will host a themed cocktail party on September 9 and have a range of Jonny Quest merchandise and audiovisual displays in its booth.

Jonny Quest is set to roll out across Europe during the next six months in what THE senior vice president and general manager of international licensing and merchandising Helen Isaacson calls ‘a role model for future projects.’

Every corner of the Turner empire has been called on to consider opportunities to exploit the series, says Isaacson, resulting in ‘our most widely distributed and broadly marketed campaign to date.’ About 90,000 European retail outlets will handle products from CD-ROMs and toys to stickers and lunch boxes.

Isaacson regards the ELF as a key opportunity to reach manufacturers and retailers. ‘When an industry player establishes this sort of show, it’s important to support it. This is a $100-billion business worldwide, and it’s important for it to be showcased.’

The show is also an important venture for ITV’s Carlton Television, which has just begun to boost its presence in the licensing and merchandising sector.

Carlton Licensing’s merchandising manager Charlie Donaldson says that third parties are handling programs such as Tots TV since his department is still quite new. ‘The programs we are working on are more recent developments.’

With such a strong presence expected from the gifts trade, Donaldson says Carlton will place a lot of emphasis on kids programs like Wolves, Witches and Giants, Potamus Park and Blazing Dragons. Potamus Park is now the subject of a sponsorship deal with Nestlé, which will support the program with a premium promotion in supermarkets.

Carlton opted to attend the ELF instead of the market-leading Worldwide Licensing Expo, held in London last March. ‘The timing didn’t suit us,’ says Donaldson, whose agenda in Birmingham is to generate the widest possible awareness of Carlton’s activities. ‘We are particularly concentrating on the U.K. and U.S. markets, where we have just sold Tots TV to PBS [in the U.S.].’

In addition to the exhibition, there will be a free two-day seminar program where professionals from Royal Doulton, Sony Signatures, Hearst-owned National Magazine Company and Euromark will discuss a range of licensing topics.

Jones says the ELF has sold the 1,000 square meters of space it set as its target, saying the involvement of A4 Publications was a boost in marketing to the trade through its title Licensing Today Worldwide. ‘Launches are notoriously difficult because everyone wants to wait and see how the first one g’es,’ says Jones.

He claims that TPS will pay close attention to the views of its visitors in deciding the future of the event. ‘We’re not wedded to anything,’ he notes. ‘Once we find a home like the NEC, we tend to stick to it. But if it d’esn’t work or there is a desire among customers for us to move, we’ll take a long hard look at it.’

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