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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Art Licensing Editorial: Retail is King!

If you have been licensing your art for a while, most likely you have heard the phrase "Retail is King." In otherwords, retail stores rule what products make it into stores, if they are placed in strategic locations OR not, and how long they stay on the shelves before they are moved to the discount table. Product is expected to moved fast and a three month period on store shelves (especially chain stores) is now considered a long time. Seasonal products of course stay in stores the shortest time. Retailers no longer wait until the day after Christmas to reduce prices. This year, I saw Christmas d├ęcor prices in some stores reduced 30-60% weeks before Christmas.

To illustrate the power of retailers and how fast products can be put on the "chopping block," one agent during a panel discussion at a Licensing International Show seminar described a manufacturers horror story. A product was scheduled to be introduced to the public on a Monday but as often happens it made it onto the store shelves the previous Friday. On Saturday, two days before the scheduled date, the product was deemed "dead" by the retail chain and move to the discount table. The agent did not say why the retailer decided to immediately sell the product at a discount but you can imagine how that impacted the future of the product. Not only would there be no reorders from that retailer but the word mostly likely spread to other retailers that so-and-so could not sell the product. The product was indeed dead! And if the product had licensed art on it, think what that would do to the reputation of the artist.

Knowing your customer is important in any business. Of course, the ultimate customer is the consumer and retail is the major way* that customers purchase products. How products get into retail and the pitfalls the occur along the path from art to consumer is important knowledge for artists licensing their work. Read art agent Jim Marcotte article "Tap dancing for retail" to learn more about retail, the terms used, and what could happen if a manufacturer does not get the product to the retailer in time.

* In 2010 retail stores is still the major way that consumers purchase products but e-commerce is a strong competitor. It may evidentially take over the number one spot in consumer buying.

Retailers make it their business to stock products that consumers want because the success of their company depends upon it. So a good source in finding out what is popular with consumers is to find sources of information that is aimed at retailers and query manufacturers who have direct links to retailers. Below are some suggestions on how to do it.

• Purchase trend reports & studies about consumer spending habits such as from EPM Communications, Inc. Unfortunate the reports are very pricey and out of reach for most artists. However, the site does have some interesting information worth looking at.

• Searching for articles on the internet about retail trends can be time consuming but one source that has many articles related to retail is the National Retail Federation (NRF) organization. Joining the organization is pricey but the site does have some articles for the public to view. NRF also has a blog with lots of articles such as "Top ten holiday trends for 2010."

• Querying your manufacturer partners is a good source in finding out what art themes are popular. When showing your art to art/licensing directors at trade shows, make sure that you ask about their take on current and future trends.

• Participate in call for submissions (also called art call-out or "cattle-calls") to discover what art themes the manufacturers are looking for. If they are looking for a particular theme, you can be sure that it is what retailers are looking for and thus popular with consumers. For more about cattle-calls, read "Thoughts on Doing CattleCalls - Should You?"

The above list sounds like it would be a lot of work to implement and IT IS. But to be competitive in the art licensing industry and create art that sells at retail, you must be willing to spend the time in finding out what art themes and products consumers purchase.

I welcome any comments or information that you are willing to share. Please write them in the comment section below.

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