Spotlight On: Ryan Beaird

This week, we head to the wonderful world of events within the licensing sector, as we sat down with Event Director and Founder of Brands and Retail UK, Ryan Beaird, sharing his background, thoughts and knowledge in our continued Industry Spotlight series:

Thanks so much for speaking with us Ryan. Let’s start with a bit about yourself and your background, how did you step into world of events within the Licensing space?

My background originally was in the City of London. Although I realise, I have now worked in Trade Associations and Event Management longer than my time in Banking!

Right out of college and up until my late twenties I worked in the City of London in roles covering Corporate Trading right through to Risk Management and Corporate Client Services. As much as it wasn’t a route I perused past that time, it was an incredible foundation to learn and have a strong understanding of how the global finance and banking system works, which has definitely set me up and helped propel me in my career to date.

Back in 2013, I attended Licensing Expo in Las Vegas and had a chance encounter with Mary Verdegaal of The Licensing Industry Merchandisers Association US. We connected, stayed in touch and she told me they had a role in their UK office. The role in question was to put on the events, assist the UK membership and be the first point of call for the industry.

Fast forward, and I did that role for just under eight years which was a great time, meeting some wonderful people, learning lots and really understanding what different people within the industry needed and were looking for. 

I then setup my new venture – Brands Retail UK Conferences – which Fabacus kindly supported and sponsored in its launch back in February, of which I am incredibly grateful.

It’s been a pleasure working with you on the conference in both Winter and Summer this year, it’s been amazing to see so many people back in person and the industry flourishing again. Given the restrictions of the past couple of years, how important do you think face to face networking is given the myriad of stakeholders within the licensing sector?

I’d say it’s vital. It’s evident that the industry still wants to continue in getting together in a post-Covid world. Looking at how many retailers attended Brands Retail conferences this year I can see they want to get out on the road and meet their stakeholders as well.

Given that, I could see a need for the event in all honesty. I’ve always looked for opportunities in markets, probably my years in Trading roles in the City of London is where I get that from, focusing on new business development!

Time, I believe, is businesses greatest challenge and when I pitched the event to the major retailers such as Sainsburys, Tesco, ADSA, Boots, Primark etc and said that in one day they could watch 18 brands present new IP’s or present updates on existing IP’s and they would be able to sit in comfortable seats, be given lunch and drinks – it was an easy sell.

From a brand point of view, it has given them a more cost-effective way of getting their message out and in a very direct way. They know who is in the audience beforehand and can tweak their message to suit who will be watching. The event gives brands that are possibly new and brands that are established a platform to get their key messages out in 15-minute presentations – their 15 minutes of fame I suppose – thank you Andy Warhol!

You clearly are passionate about facilitating collaboration within the industry – a trait we share! What is it you love most about what you do?

For me, it’s just that – the collaboration, the people element. I’ve always loved connecting people.

Seeing a brand present their IP’s and then seeing them after exchanging business cards with potential partners and retailers really makes me smile.

I wanted to create Brands Retail UK as something the industry would be proud of, and I think I am proving it is something they needed given the buzz around them and the support it is receiving from some of the biggest names in Brands, Manufacturers and Retailers.

My ethos is if you are a Manufacturer and a Retailer and attend Brands Retail Conferences you will be a treated like a VIP, that’s another element I truly love, seeing people come, enjoy the day and it all coming to life. The brands trust me to make their partners or potential new clients enjoy the day and as I have run a trade association for years, I have been trained to be impartial and uphold their confidentiality.

Without any specifics, given full impartiality… something we always ask is; what do you feel is the biggest evolution, or change you’ve seen play out during your time within brand licensing and retail? And, where do you see the industry in the next five years?

For the first, product development for sure.

Product design has become more than just a sub-category which is so great to see being a focus. Although one thing I know all UK Manufacturers and Agents would like to see changed is the speed at which sign-offs happen. I think this is where technology can play a huge role – increasing efficiency and evolving the industry further.

Take yourselves. When I saw what Fabacus’ technology could do, it really is change in action, using tech to facilitate deeper connectivity and visibility across the value-chain – which is ultimately what I’m trying to do in event form – a perfect match and alignment of visions – enabling stronger partnerships and collaboration.

In terms of the next five years, I see technology having a bigger impact and truly supporting the industry going forward. The questions we had about the lifecycle chain of a product are now being answered, which will be game-changing for the industry. Here’s hoping gone are the days of having everything on an excel spreadsheet and ledger as we look towards full digital transformation.

Finally, I do hear a lot about NFT’s and Influencers – it is hard to say if this is a passing trend or where we will solidly be in two, three, four, or five years from now. I can see why Manufacturers have a ‘wait and see’ approach, it is a huge investment from them if they sign a new Brand and they need to see if it does have longevity.

For sure, it’s an interesting time to see the next wave of ‘web’ take shape and develop. Bringing it back to people and the industry currently – earlier you mentioned your chance encounter with Mary Verdegaal as the route which brought you into the industry. Is there anyone in the industry you look to as a role model, mentor or thought leader?

Ooo so many! I’d say my good friend Graham Saltmarsh is someone I greatly admire. Those reading this within the industry in the UK will all know Graham, and I’m lucky enough to have known him for years and he is always a joy to work with. He always brightens my mood when I give him a call to catch up and gives invaluable advice and insight.

No man’s an island, and coming back to what we started, I feel the industry coming back to face-to-face networking events this past year has been so important to reconnect and inspire people. We need to collaborate as partners, support our peers and get people working towards a shared vision to innovate the industry and keep it as engaging and exciting as ever!

Within that growth and innovation, tell us, what’s next for you?

I’m very excited for 2023 – we have Brands Retail UK Winter ‘23 already announced and on sale for January and on sale (40% sold) and there will be ‘Meet the Buyers’ both days, meaning all brands will have a dedicated party organised for them to do more networking.

I am also working behind the scenes on the Summer ‘23 event which will take place in Brighton, where they’ll be a Summer party on the pier as well… yes Fish and Chips will be included, you heard it here first…

On something different – I am also talking with the Global Animation industry as I am now setting up Get Animated UK Conferences; educational seminars for junior animators, university students and production teams and are designed to educate them on the business side of the creative industry. Something that has been needed for years.

And also a Finance conference in early ‘23, which will cover Tax, Copyright, IP Law, Funding and How the Consumer Products Business operates. This should help bridge the gap between the creatives and the business side, again aided by collaboration, knowledge and ultimately data – another perfect alignment with Fabacus’ mission. Having run educational events for LIMA for years it’s something I’m excited about getting off the ground.

Thanks Ryan, exciting times! Thank you so much for your insights, thoughts and kind words on our collaboration and aligned thinking, too. It’s been a pleasure and lovely speaking with you.

Ryan Beaird is a key licensing figure with a long spanning career in events production and licensing. He has held senior positions at LIMA UK and is now Event Director and Founder of Brand and Retail UK Conferences. To hear more from him or to get in touch with any questions, please contact

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