As part of our team spotlight series, sharing more about our team’s expertise, knowledge, view on licensing and life at Fabacus; we sat down with Board Advisor and Retail & Sourcing expert, Garry Gordon.
Hi Garry, thanks for your time today, firstly can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background:
I’ve spent about 30 years in sourcing, procurement and retail.
I was most recently CEO of Li & Fung EU Apparel – restructuring and consolidating one of the biggest companies in sourcing there is. Prior to that, I was at Primark as Group Sourcing Director, setting out future strategy and then prior to that, doing the same role at Marks & Spencer.
I’m a board advisor and strategic consultant. I firstly got involved with Andrew through Nobody’s Child as there was a common interest and as I have a background in licensing and in bringing relationships with companies like Disney, Warner Bros. and Universal to Primark, enforcing the compliance and auditing capabilities.
One of the issues I had was recognising royalties. Each party’s calculations were slightly different and there was no concrete, proactive data or information, which to me seemed bizarre. Andrew, at Fabacus, was building Xelacore and there was a great synergy for me to come on board.
So, in joining Fabacus, you had direct experience in the transformation that technology can have licensing and business as a whole?
Very much so, this is a huge pain point for both parties – I have no doubt the amount of royalties being lost or miscalculated as everything is entirely retrospective; there’s nothing concrete to marry up to.
The devil is currently not in the detail – I do believe there needs to be more due diligence. I totally believe in the product and how transformational Xelacore can be to all businesses.
I can understand how it is how it is because it’s not been a priority – as long as there was a general negotiation and agreement, then great – but things are moving, data is evolving and we can evolve with it.
Speaking on evolution and things changing and moving, there’s obviously been a huge evolution due to the events of 2020. What are the major changes you’ve seen this year within licensing and retail?
Of course the most obvious, driven by Covid, is e-com and the absolute shift and acceleration to online, which was going to happen anyway, but this has been accelerated tenfold. Those who were already engaging with their consumers online are the ones suffering and having to invest in long-term pivoting.
Within licensing world, the biggest shift is probably technology and streaming. Content owners now have strategies to invest and push digital streaming within their portfolio. That means we’re seeing Licensors wanting to engage directly with their consumers – where before a license was a license, it was handed over for product and merchandise and then they’d get a return. Now it’s a whole new world – it’s about understanding what that consumer wants and then what they can spin off from that within the same franchise.
Consumer loyalty, trust and affinity has never been more important, if you can know your consumers and have them identify with your brand, it’s gold dust.
I’d say there’s a doubling down into the development of super fans, looking at IP with huge social engagement. Take Mr Bean, there are 85 million people on Facebook who are engaged with that properly. How can brands add value and service consumer needs in new avenues, new products, new ways? There is huge commercial opportunities for both Licensors and Licensees whilst also servicing audience engagement in the way they need.
So leading on from this, and in thinking about what brands could be doing – be that vertical brands or licensed – to provide more value for consumers? Especially as people are coming out of a tough financial year.
I’d say it is the focus on key products and offering a true value proposition. For example, if people are paying £70-80 for a hoodie… then give consumer access to digital assets, an experience and rewards. This not only increases the value of the product but it also strengthens consumer interaction with the brand as a whole. Just look at Xelacore Reach and how with something as simple as a unique QR code, consumers can immerse themselves in a brand world, and the IP owner also gets more than just the product sale.
Brands are becoming more and more important, even people are creating their own personal brands; GenZs want to be part of a tribe, a group, and they want brands to represent them and feel like they have an affinity, and they want to show people they belong. Brands have to give back, they have to foster that feeling of connection and loyalty and offer consumers new experiences, be that on or offline.
With brand loyalty being so intrinsic and important, if we’re thinking now just on licensed products, what damage could it do to a brand if the experience is not official? Perhaps they have unwittingly sourced an illegitimate or counterfeit product?
I absolutely think this is massive. If people pay for a premium “official” product, and it’s not, people are immediately switched off. Part of a brand promise, is that they will provide the best for consumers so it’s totally paramount that brands are able to fulfill this and not be tripped up, or consumers harmed by illegitimate or fake goods.
Regardless of how it happens, ultimately the responsibility is going to come back to the brand – that’s where we come back to the issue of data. If brands can be doing more to have clear data and a clearer idea of exactly what is out in the marketplace, we can begin to chip away at this industry-wide issue – they are not only helping themselves, they are truly working consumer-first.
That being said, how do you think technology can play a vital role in the future of licensing and retail?
People want confidence in what they buy. Not only that, but they’re more conscious about the environment, sustainability, workers’ rights, compliance – they not only want to understand it is compliant but they want to know where it was made, how it was made – and they want assurances. And they expect it. This should not just be an afterthought of a swing label, this has to be integral.
Technology can help businesses track product from raw material to concept, to delivery. It helps with compliance and gives businesses information at their fingertips – it really solidifies that brand promise.
The umbrella that technology like Xelacore gives, not only aids licensor and licensee interaction, but manufacturer to licensee as well as the brand to consumer and consumer to brand relationship – it is assisting everyone in the value chain and this gives you real breadth across a business – it is truly end-to-end.
You spoke there about the value chain and the role of technology aiding all parties, through your experience, is there one main pain point you have consistently seen occurring across businesses within the licensing industry?
Apart from recouping accurate royalties and also the counterfeit issues we have talked about, I think consistency – consistent ways of working and managing the licensing process. It is currently so sporadic. Every company works differently with different processes. There is no standardized way of working, each company has their own process, their own systems, there is no standard approach, which causes inconsistency.
I think with the opportunity 2020 has provided, it is time to bring a level of standardization, of consistency to licensing. It will only be good for businesses as it is only good for consumers.
And by standardizing, with consistent data, what would that do for businesses? How could it benefit everyone?
Well, firstly it starts to help businesses think more strategically – it is less about each team taking their own assets or products to optimize based on testing and learning. It allows them to really see the breadth and potential of content and of a brand IP, and what they could do with it globally. Currently, they don’t have the data to see the opportunity. This gives it to them, to see what else they can be doing and ways to improve their business and their sales.
It also takes business fully into the digital world. It moves them to the cloud, it sets them up for full, global digital transformation across their business – standardized from the off – technology like Xelacore stops data silos and fragmentation. It connects teams, businesses and territories giving them the visibility they need.
So we have talked about technology and the benefits and changes, you also noted the acceleration to ecommerce through Covid-19, but where do you see the industry in the next 5 years? What key changes do you think they’ll be?
If change continues at the pace it has for the last two years, I see exponential change. In the ‘big’ licensing world, the big players I think will shift to really serving consumers through IP with multiple touchpoints, so the rise of in-house streaming for example. I wonder if we will move to a place where larger, more globally recognised properties will be king and then it is how that can be dripped into smaller assets.
How we service audiences will likely change too, I think people are yearning for experiences after 2020 and 2021 too, consumers don’t just want a product, or to stream something, they want an experience to share with people. I see the industry really getting behind that, as it all links back to the end-goal of consumer interaction and brand loyalty.
I think also the industry and business will need to be more agile. There is going to be a focus and need to be proactive and strategic and in order to do that there need processes in place to react, be reactive and have digital access in place to be able to be agile to provide other services to consumers.
I’d say there is a huge value of Xelacore here, not only in aiding agility but also closing the gap of missing information, which is currently not being looked at seriously enough by business. Yes, they want to serve consumers, but to get there they need to have the right foundations – ideally they should be giving consumers what they need before they know they need it – because you have seen it in the data.
The next five years, I believe we need to look at this industry and the value chain as circular – currently it is not a circle, it is linear. We need to think how the end point affects the beginning again. That is a more strategic way to be looking at IP, product and education to consumers at retail.
Garry Gordon is a retail and sourcing expert, and advisor to Fabacus. To hear more from him or to get touch with any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org