Licensing Italia Q&A Christopher Eve and David Buckley

Licensing Italia, Licensing International Representative in Italy, interviewed Christopher Eve, Managing Director of Licensing Expo Japan, Global Licensing Group, and David Buckley, Chairman, Board of Directors, Licensing International Japan and President of Copyrights Asia Ltd

L.I. Which are the most important novelties of 2019 Licensing Expo Japan?

Eve: This year’s Licensing Expo Japan sees an exciting development as it co-locates with the largest merchandising and retail show in Japan, the Tokyo International Gift Show. The move consolidates two of the key events serving the licensing industry in Japan and brings together the support of all key industry associations. Gifts and premium incentive products as well as general merchandising products are major users of licensing assets, so the co-location of the events will result in the biggest gathering of licensors and licensees ever seen in Japan. 

L.I. Which are the main goals this year?

Eve: Our objective is to create a comprehensive event for the licensing industry in Japan that for the first time will bring together all players under one roof. This comes at a time when brand awareness in Japan is at an all-time high as the nation prepares to host a string of major international events, such as the Rugby World Cup this year, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the World Expo in Osaka in 2025. The Tokyo Olympics has already generated more than $3 billion of domestic sponsorship revenue, three times more than any previous games. This is putting the spotlight on the power of licensing and branding and so we expect that Licensing Expo Japan will be super active this year.

L.I. Could you explain what are the most important features of licensing industry in Japan?

Buckley: Licensing in Japan requires a very close working relationship among the licensors, the licensees, and the retailers. For example, licensed fashion apparel is dominated by retail-exclusive arrangements. Licensors and Licensees work closely in developing a large number of designs and applying them to a wide range of potential products. However, once a retail buyer uses a particular item and design, that SKU is often not made available to other rival retailers. 

In many categories, licensed products are often expected to remain ‘on the shelf’ for just a few weeks rather than for an entire sales season. Japanese consumers expect to see new products and designs each time they enter a store. For special sales and promotional events, it is not unusual to see multiple characters or brands in the same sales venue with different licensors openly cooperating in order to make the event a success. Cooperation among licensors is not uncommon. Likewise, collaborative projects where more than one brand or character appear on the same product are common. ‘Homage’ designs (characters redrawn by artists other than the original artist) are also very popular.

L.I. Which categories are nowadays particularly active in the licensing industry in Japan?

Buckley: Fashion, food & beverage, and promotion. Anything ‘unique’ or ‘personalized’ as Japanese consumers no longer want to own or wear the same products as their friends.

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