The adorable character Garfield once held the Guinness World Record for being the most syndicated comic strip, and it currently generates merchandise-related revenues of $ 750 million - $ 1 billion annually. In addition, this comic strip has inspired the production of several animated television specials, two, animated television series and theatrical feature length live-action films, amongst others. The creator of Garfield, Jim Davis, founded Paws Inc in 1981, to support this comic strip and its licensing activities, and in ’94, purchased all the rights related to this comic from the United Feature Syndicate. And, with its loyal ‘fans’ spread across different age groups across the globe, Paws Inc has expanded the properties of Garfield and Friends which include Odie, Nermal, Arlene and Pooky, to merchandise ranging from apparel, footwear, office stationery, bags, and gifts, amongst others. In addition, there is also a digital trading card game– Garfield Collections. In India, Garfield is represented by AI licensing. Strategy for India Garfield was one of the first characters to enter the Indian market with its licensing program in the late 1990s, and its partnerships with numerous licensees has enabled wide availability of its merchandise across the country. For instance, Garfield’s licensee - Weisner Worldwide Kreations designs kid’s footwear which is en vogue. It does not end there and to help leverage opportunities in the adult segment, a tie up with Archies has enabled Garfield themed clocks, ceramic mugs and cushions, amongst others, to be retailed at this gift gallery chain. And, the encouraging response from consumers, has led this licensee to expand its product range across its more than 300 stores. Paws Inc aims to further expand its reach to young adults here, and is looking to enter the food and beverage market, shortly. Apart from that, it is also actively searching for licensees for its house wares category. “We shortly want to enter F&B segment”, says Karen K Blank, VP - International Licensing, Paws Inc A tubby cat that has become a household name and India is no exception to this trend. Karen K Blank, VP-International Licensing, Paws Inc shares their strategy to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive market. Retailer: Kindly highlight your outlook for the Indian licensing market? Karen K Blank (KKB): India is on the cusp of a licensing revolution and over the next five years we expect a large growth in the market here. And, new technologies have created opportunities for US-based brands in India. Apart from that, with the youth comprising nearly 50 per cent of the Indian population, who are increasingly brand conscious, we expect it to give a boost to the licensing industry here. Our Garfield character, too, has reported an exponential growth here over the past few years, given strong demand from organised retail chains. And, with the imminent entry of foreign players in the multi-brand sector, we do expect this trend to continue. Retailer: Please elaborate on the key trends in the licensing industry here? KKB: One is witnessing greater consistency in global licensing strategies, as well as the marketing mix, and only minor modifications for local taste. And, this is also reflected in the licensed merchandise products category. In addition, increased digital communication amongst executives in this industry, as well as target consumers, facilitates rapid sharing of information on key trends and products. Retailer: Kindly throw light on Garfield’s marketing strategy here? KKB: We entered the Indian market in the late 1990s, well before most other licensed characters. We are witnessing increased interest in our brand, especially from consumers in the 14 – 35 years segment. Apart from that, even in the kid’s segment, we have seen strong demand in the apparel and footwear segment, and our licensee Weisner has expanded our reach with key retail chains. Our local partners are also actively seeking to expand into the food and beverage segment, shortly. Retailer: How do you deal with counterfeits? KKB: We need stricter laws and stronger penalties, as well as greater international partnerships amongst customs and law enforcement agencies. Apart from that, educating the consumer would also play a key role.
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