Thanks in part to branded e-tail shops, the internet is coming into its own as a viable alternative retail channel in the U.K. According to London-based industry researcher The Internet Media Retail Group, e-tail sales exceeded US$3.5 billion for the first time in November ’05, skyrocketing 50% from the previous year. And if you’re looking to boost your property’s cyber presence to capitalize on this boom, it might be worth checking out Weybridge, England’s Creative Catalogues Online, a specialist in the setup and operation of branded e-shops.
Licensors and licensees typically sell their goods via a straightforward on-line retail model by using either in-house resources to build an exclusive outlet or spending upwards of US$20,000 to contract a web firm. But CCO breaks the mold, licensing the right to sell the goods and set up a cyber boutique. The company then pays royalty fees based on sales volume, and the e-tailing site is linked to the licensor’s website.
It’s the brainchild of the company’s managing director Sally Dickson, who spent years honing her on-line skills licensing and marketing characters such as Spot and Peter Rabbit at publisher Penguin UK. Today, she applies her knowledge as an internet manager of licensed brands to design and build a client’s e-shop while also fulfilling incoming orders and managing inventory from CCO’s Newbury, England-based warehouse.
Unlike the third-party web companies she dealt with while at Penguin, Dickson says CCO pays attention to maintaining brand consistency on the site. ‘You never have to explain to me about style guides or how things need to be signed off,’ she notes.
The company also works closely with licensors and other licensees when it comes time to market, merchandise and stock product. The Fairly OddParents U.K. licensor Nelvana, for example, promotes the property’s e-shop in its own trade and consumer marketing campaigns, while CCO creates newsletters for site shoppers, holds on-line promo contests and advertises fairlyoddparentsshop.co.uk on third-party websites. As for stock, fellow licensees such as THQ and Palisades Toys proffer advice on hot sellers and CCO develops its sales strategies accordingly.
And the approach is working: Nelvana’s The Fairly OddParents shop turned a profit during its first month of full operation last November. Dickson’s eager to grow the business and says she’s looking to sign on 20 more properties by Q4 2006. She’ll also be casting her net beyond Great Britain since recently lining up an international network of warehouses to support the acquisition of licenses for global brands.
For Dickson, the key to on-line retail success lies in taking on established properties, like the recently picked up Tintin from Moulinsart. Potential partners must have an existing website and more than ten licensees on-board to be considered. ‘If you have a profitable brand, you’ll have a profitable shop,’ says Dickson. ‘When you think of Simon & Schuster or Fisher-Price making an investment in a brand, we’re exactly the same.’