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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Art Licensing Editorial: Dwindling Number of Exhibitors at Art Licensing Trade Shows

With less than three months before the two 2017 United States licensing trade shows take place (SURTEX and International Licensing Expo), there is a significant decrease in the number of exhibitors than at the 2016 shows. The organizer of SURTEX, Emerald Exposition, reported in the press release "SURTEX Welcomes More Than 80 First-Time Exhibitors From Around the World to Launch New Art and Designs" that there were over 250 exhibitors at the 2016 show. However, as of 3/3/17 only 168 exhibitors have applied for a booth at the 2017 show. Previous to the 2008-2009 recession in the United States, SURTEX had a minimum of 300 exhibitors every year. The International Licensing Expo website states that the 2016 show had 489 exhibitors. But as of 3/3/17, only 299 exhibitors are listed for the 2017 show.

Unfortunately, the number of exhibitors for both shows has been decreasing each year. And of course, it is not good for their livelihood. Why is there a decrease in exhibitors and how does that impact the shows? Could it signify the eventual demise of them?

The following discuss the two licensing shows, the impact on SURTEX because of the dwindling number of licensors (artists/agents) exhibiting at the show, and what artists and agents are doing to find licensees (manufacturers) instead of exhibiting at licensing shows.

Licensing Shows
Licensors (owners of art and designs) exhibit their work at licensing trade shows so that licensees (manufacturers) can view the licensors art for consideration in licensing it for use on their products. Licensing is the process of leasing a legally protected (trademarked or copyrighted) entity – a name, likeness, logo, trademark, graphic design, slogan, signature, character, etc. The previous sentence is from the Licensing Expo website.

Even though SURTEX and Licensing Expo are both licensing shows, the emphasis on the type of categories is different. Licensing Expo exhibitors show a wide variety of categories such as Animation, Apparel/Fashion, Art & Design, Automotive, Brands & Trademarks, Characters, Entertainment, Food & Beverage, Sports/Outdoors, etc. SURTEX narrows the categories to artwork, designs, and art brands.

SURTEX will be held May 21-23, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York and in conjunction with product trade shows NSS (National Stationery Show) and ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair). Of the 168 exhibitors in the 2017 SURTEX show, 57 are in the Atelier section [1] and sell all rights to their designs. Thus, only 111 licensors of the 168 exhibitors are licensing art and design. Those include 23 first timers that are exhibiting in the Design District section [2] and 12 agencies.

The cost to exhibit at SURTEX keeps increasing each year. For the 2017 show, the Design District 5 by 10foot booth rental cost is $2700 ($54 per square foot). An 80 square feet (8 by 10 foot) booth cost $4200 ($52.50/sq. ft.) and a 100 square foot booth (10 by 10 foot) costs $5000 ($50/sq. ft.).

Show admission is free to qualified art buyers and licensees (manufacturers). Suppliers to the trade and non-exhibiting designers, design studio/agents will be charged $495 in advance and $595 onsite. In the past, SURTEX offered three days of seminars by art licensing experts on the essentials, business, strategies, and trends needed to license art. Unfortunately, no seminars will be offered during the 2017 show.

[1] The Atelier section is where textile design studios from around the world sell their surface designs to a multitude of product categories including interior textiles; craft, bedding, and fashion fabrics; wall coverings; and paper.

[2] The Design District has small less expensive booths and is available only to first time SURTEX artist exhibitors. 

• International Licensing Expo
Licensing Expo will be held May 23-25, 2017 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. After 30 years of holding the show in New York City, the annual June show moved to Las Vegas in 2009 to be able to reduce the show cost. The price of booths or rental of show space for those exhibitors that bring their own booths is not listed on Licensing Expos website but supposedly it is less than if it was held at the Javits Center in New York where SURTEX is held.

Although Licensing Expo does have a section for art licensing, its main emphasis is world wide licensing of character/entertainment, collegiate, fashion, sports, and corporate trademarks/brands. And thus, the major attendees at the show are interested in those licensors and not art licensors. Unless art licensors have brands that appeal to the majority of the attendees, it is not cost effective to exhibit at this show. Less than 25 artists and art licensing agents will be exhibiting at the 2017 show.

This year the show date was moved from June to May to better fit the timing for the global business cycle. The May 23-25 date for Licensing Expo show does conflict with SURTEX (May 21-23). But this does not seem to be the reason why there are less art licensor exhibitors at the two 2017 shows. Only a hand full of art licensors has been exhibiting at both shows.

Registration to attend the Licensing Expo is free (including artists). The show offers over 25 classes related to the licensing industry. Of those classes, only one is specially aimed at licensing art. The fee of $170 grants attendees access to every conference session.

SURTEX: Reasons for dwindling number of exhibitors
For years SURTEX has been a successful way for artists and agents to meet licensees, show them art, and license it. With the increase of artists entering the art licensing industry the competition is great and getting licensing deals is more difficult. Also the retail industry has changed, with products having a short shelf life resulting in less revenue for each deal. Thus, licensors have a lower budget to put towards marketing their work and exhibiting at SURTEX.  Note: It is different for the design studios in the Atelier section of the show that sell their designs outright because they earn revenue from their designs up front. Not all the following discussion applies to them.

• Cost
The main reason that many art licensors are no longer exhibiting at SURTEX is because it is no longer cost effective. For most artists and some agencies the increase in cost for a booth, travel and a hotel room besides other incidental costs such as banners of art and decorations for the booth now exceeds the potential revenue that they MAY earn by exhibiting at the show.

• Licensee Budgets
Many companies have reduced their travel budgets. Before the 2007-2008 recession, several people (art directors, owners, head of product lines, etc.) from each company would walk all three days of the show. Now only one person may attend for one or two days. That means licensees rush through the show and probably miss licensors art that they would have normally viewed and possibly licensed if they had more time.

• First Time Exhibitors
To entice licensors to exhibit, SURTEX offers a first time exhibiting artist a smaller booth at a lower price in the Design District section of the show. If those artists exhibiting in the Design District wish to exhibit at future shows, they will be required to pay the price for a larger booth. However, many of those artists probably will not be able to afford to pay the price for a full booth and will not return.

• Agencies
There are over 50 art licensing agencies in the United States and the majority are not exhibiting at SURTEX. Only 12 will be at 2017 show. In the past there were many more agencies exhibiting at SURTEX but the number has steadily declined. For those agencies that have been exhibiting at SURTEX for years, they are looking for new licensees that have not previously attended SURTEX. Agencies are already connected with those licensees that attend year after year and they submit new art to them via the Internet. Even though it is good to meet in person, it can be a waste of time unless the agency has new art to show the licensee. Not enough new companies are attending SURTEX so some agencies have stopped exhibiting because there is not a good enough reason to pay the cost to exhibit.

• Catch-22
Sadly, SURTEX seems to be in a no win situation. As the number of exhibitors drop because the cost to exhibit for art licensors is not cost effective, the promoter of SURTEX (Emerald Exposition) is forced to increase prices the following year to cover their expenses and make money to put on the show. And because there is less art to view, licensees will eventually stop attending since it is not worth the cost and time. And with fewer licensees attending more licensors will probably stop exhibiting. If the number of exhibitors continues to decline, and it probably will, Emerald Exposition will ultimately discontinue the SURTEX show.

Alternative Ways Licensors Find Licensees
Instead of exhibiting at licensing shows, the following are some of what artists and agents are doing to find manufacturers that license art to put on their products.

• Research, Research, Research
Looking for manufacturers that license art can be very time consuming but is necessary in the art licensing business. Below are a few ideas on finding licensees.

– Search the Internet for licensees. Searching by product type can yield lots of companies that can then be researched to see if they use art on their products and do not have in-house designers. If they do not use in-house designers, it is a good possibility that they license art.

Viewing the websites of retail chain e-stores is another way to find licensors. is also a good source.

– Constantly survey chain and specialty stores to find the names of manufacturers using art on their products. The gift industry licenses a lot of art so checking out gift stores is an excellent way to find manufactures that license art.

– Look at advertisements and the sections on "what's new" in gift trade magazines aimed at retailers. Those magazines often show products of manufacturers that license art. Either subscribe to the magazines (some are free) or pick them up at no cost when attending trade shows. The magazine Gifts & Dec is very informative. Other useful magazines can be found on the Internet by searching with the words "retailer gift trade magazines".

– Search the Internet for articles that mention manufacturers that license art. For example, read the article "Art Licensing: List of Manufacturers that License Art".

• Join Art Licensing (ALSC)
Another way to find and connect with licensees is to join ALSC. It is a protected art portfolio hosting website for artists/agents to privately show art to licensees. Licensees can join at no cost. All ALSC members can see examples of art by hundreds of artists but only licensees are allowed to ask portfolio members (artists/agents) for permission to view their portfolios. ALSC portfolio artist and agent members can also connect with the licensee members and share their art portfolios with them. Note: All artists and agents are allowed to join ALSC at no cost but unless they join as a portfolio member they will not be able to share their work with licensees. Learn more about ALSC by going to their website

• Attend Product Wholesale Trade Shows
Walking product wholesale trade shows is a great way to find manufacturers that license art. Manufacturers or distributors that they hire exhibit products at these types of trade shows for retailers to purchase. Often art directors attend the larger shows and many times licensors can make appointments with them to show art for licensing consideration. Note: Retailers/buyers can attend trade shows at no cost but it may be difficult for artists/agents to attend these show unless they have retailer credentials.

The gift industry uses a lot of licensed art so that attending gift trade shows is a perfect place to find licensees. The largest gift show in the United States is the Atlanta Gift & Home Furnishings Market that is held each year in January and July. For more information about the show, read "Art Licensing: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - the amazing Americas Mart campus". This article also has links to two additional articles about the show.

Great ways to find licensors is by attending trade shows for other industries besides gifts such as for apparel, sports, tabletop, crafts, stationery, and many more. A list of some of them including gift shows can be found on "Gift Trade Show Calendar" and "2017-2018 Wholesale Trade Gift Shows".

• Market Art
Let licensees find you by aggressively marketing licensable art.
– Send press releases to product magazines when art has been licensed.
– Have a blog and often post interesting and informative articles on it.
– Showcase art on social media (Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube). Some licensors have reported getting licensing deals by posting art on Instagram and belonging to LinkedIn they should not depend on only using them to connect with licensees because  few art directors have the time to search for art on social media. Also, beware that copyright infringement often occurs when art is posted on social media sites.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Art Licensing Editorial - 2017 January Atlanta Gift & Home Furnishings Market Trends / Record-Breaking Attendance

 AmericasMart Atlanta, the home of the Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishing Market, reported a VERY successful show in the article "Record-Breaking New and International Buyer Increases at Atlanta Winter Market". And, that was easy to believe that attendance was up, "WAY-UP", from the previous years because the showrooms and temporary booths were crowded with buyers and the reps were busy, "REALLY-BUSY", taking orders. Of course, it was slow going with so many people moving down the corridors, through the showrooms and booths, using the elevators (forget that) and escalators, and standing in line to purchase lunch or use the restrooms. And another drawback I found with so many buyers attending the show was that two of my appointments with art directors were cancelled. The art directors were needed to help show products and write-up sales so they did not have time to look at art. But, all of these inconveniences were worthwhile because a successful show means the likelihood of a successful art licensing year.

Note: It should not be surprising that attendance and buying at the show had increased because the consumer confidence for 2016 was the highest level since 2001 resulting in pumped up consumer spending as stated in the article "Holiday Sales and Searches Up for 2016". That meant that retailers needed to replenish their merchandize at the Atlanta Gift Show resulting in its huge attendance. Also read, "Holiday Consumer Confidence Up, But What About In 2017?

• Products
The Atlanta show is all about product and viewing it is mind-blogging as you walk down corridor-after-corridor on floor-after-floor in the three buildings. So it is not always easy to determine what type of products/art/colors are trending. But, according to the articles I read, "United we stand - made in America" label is stronger than ever. Also, pet related, coastal, words/inspirational phrases, and of course Christmas products is huge. The article "Direct from Atlanta Market: Excitement Fills the Air at Americasmart" stated that " . . . there is a growing demand for fashion and personalization, and retailers and consumers are wanting more."

A new direction in the decorative flag industry that will be seen in 2017 by several flag companies is state and even city themed flags that will increase flag sales. Because many flag manufacturers now produce their own flags in the United States, they can do print-on-demand short production runs with names of cities or states on them that is not feasible for companies that outsource their flags to China. For example, retailers will be able to order not only decorative flags with the VERY popular word welcome on it but will be able to order "Welcome to (city/state name)". In the article "Holiday Decorating Tips", Studio M said that ". . . retailers can expect to see some state-themed products from Studio M at summer markets in 2017".

• Trends
Art themes that started as a trend and have proven over time to be consistent sellers of products are considered to be evergreen (timeless). These themes are seen on all kinds of products. They include flowers, birds, butterflies, cats, seashells, lighthouses, roosters, pumpkins, fall leaves, turkeys, Santa Claus, snowmen, snowflakes, Christmas trees, pinecones, poinsettias, and reindeer.

Not surprising, last year's huge fad of adult coloring books were not prevalent this year at Atlanta. Although coloring books and other products that can be colored are still selling well for some manufacturers. Chevron and Polka-Dot designs are still popular and are not only used as standalone designs but are now incorporated into art. At Atlanta these two designs plus plaid and gingham were prevalent on kitchen products.

According to Gifts and Decorative magazine in the article "Direct from Market: Trend Spotting at Americasmart" trends include stylized geometry on jewelry and fashion accessories, bringing the outdoors-in with the coziness of Hyyge (Danish meaning "well-being"), whimsical images of ice cream, millennial pink color throughout all product categories, coastal, personalization of products, and more.

Below are pictures and discussions on 2017 Pantone Color of the year and the widespread trends of words/phrases, coastal, and Christmas art that I saw at Atlanta. 

– Pantone Color of the Year
At Atlanta I attended Laurie Pressman's (vice president of the PANTONE Color Institute) presentation “Home 2017: At a Crossroads for Color + Design”. She stated in her presentation that color influences 50 - 85% of product purchasing decision. Product purchases also depend upon experiences and yearning for familiar comfort. The way consumers purchase products has change because of technology and type of expected service. The speed in processing so much information has made consumers want to pare back the clutter (less is more) resulting in the popularity of minimal color (white on white, dusty pinks); versatile, tranquil, stable, chic and sophisticated grays; warm browns; and luxurious reds. And, the importance in well-being has lead to nature and the desire to rejuvenate and revitalize resulting in Pantone's 2017 color of the year "Greenery", a zesty yellow-green shade of green. Note: Pantone 2017 color of the year "Greenry" has been trending for years on paper products, tabletop, gifts, home accents, and whimsical Christmas decorations. And now it is also trending on fashion and home furnishings products.

– Words & Phrases
Inspirational, religious, and humorous tongue-in-cheek phrases are still going strong. Most products are brightly colored or black and white wall art and greeting cards. More prevalent this year are words and phrases on kitchen décor and accessories.

Brownlow Gifts showroom at Atlanta usually showcases very colorful products but this year they were black and white. When I questioned the Brownlow rep about it, he said that these B&W products with inspirational words and phrases are huge sellers. They make great gifts because the consumer does not have to worry that the color will not fit the home décor of the recipient. B&W kitchen products were also in other manufacturer showrooms.

– Coastal
Coastal and beach themes were very strong last year at Atlanta and it was even more so this year. Gift and Dec publication article "Direct from Market: Trending Spotting at Americasmart" stated that "According to our Gift Book consumer survey for 2017, 8 percent of consumers describe their home decorating style as coastal, up 2 percent from the previous year. If Atlanta is any indication, this number will only continue to rise."

The majority of showrooms at Atlanta had a coastal line no matter what kind of products they sell. Last year mermaids were the outstanding icon and they were even more so this year. Mermaids were on stationery, pillows, flags, rugs, jewelry, totes, tabletop, home décor, plush and even zip-up throw blankets with mermaid tails. Whale images are also very popular and the popularity of flamingos seem to be increasing. Seashells, seahorses, starfish, crabs, lobsters, octopus, and sea turtles are still a stable in the coastal line although they seem to be going neck-and-neck in popularity with ships/boats and their accessories such as ship wheels, anchors, and lifesaver rings. Ships/boats and accessory products and images tend to use red, white and ultramarine blue colors. While, the background color or portions of the art in other coastal art often use turquoise OR ultramarine blue on white/ivory colored background.

– Christmas
As usual, Santa Claus, snowmen, angels, reindeer, polar bears snowflakes, pinecones/pine-nettles, poinsettias were prevalent in the Atlanta holiday & floral/home décor (H&FHD) showrooms plus the many gift showrooms that have Christmas lines. Not so prevalent were amaryllis flowers, nutcrackers, penguins, and woodland animals.

At the Atlanta show during the last two years there has been an inkling that elves might start to trend because some of the H&FHD showrooms had elf figurine lines. But it was not until this show that whimsical elf figurines and art went viral and appeared in most H&FHD and gift showrooms that have Christmas lines. Note: The popularity of elves may be due to the recurrence of the popular "The Elf on the Shelf" children's picture book(s) that was originally published in 2004.

As seen in previous years, traditional Christmas art and décor use deep red and deep green colors. Fun whimsical art use bright red and chartreuse green ("Greenery" Pantone 2017 color of the year). And, elegant designs use silver and gold. Red and black plaid designs and burlap textures are becoming more popular in Christmas art and décor.

According to Studio M in the article "Holiday Decorating Tips" 2016 holiday décor had lots of black, white and red color schemes with burlap, muslin, and buffalo check. Natural elements such as birch, pinecones and antlers continue the trend of Nordic, woodland and forest themes. Studio M predicts that 2017 will be a derivative of 2016 with lots of white-on-white and green-and-white color schemes while textural elements and more woodland animal elements like antlers and snowy owls will continue. Note: The predicted 2017 trend depends upon the type of products. For example, white-on-white art may work for tabletop and paper products but not for decorative flags.

• Related Articles
Art Licensing Editorial - 2016 January Atlanta Market Trends

Art Licensing Editorial: 2015 January Atlanta Gift Show

Art Licensing: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - the amazing AmericasMart campus

Art Licensing Editorial: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - insights on walking the show

Art Licensing Editorial: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - trends

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