Written by Art Licensing Coach J’net Smith
Educate yourself about retail channels.
It is important to have a clear understanding of the types of licensed products you want your art to appear on, as well as which type of retail channels, and retailers, carry those types of products.
Art licensing doesn’t mean you need to be in Wal-Mart. And while the landscape is always changing, today there are more products featuring licensed art sold in specialty retail channels (Spencer’s Gifts, Hot Topic, etc.), independent retailers (privately owned gift or card stores), and upscale department and chain stores (Bloomingdales, Nordstrom’s, etc.). And less than half of licensed art on products are sold through mass-market channels.
You need to think about where you want your product to ‘live at retail,’ and then plot your strategy for getting there. You, as the licensor (artist), need to make a decision as to where your art fits on products—what type of products, retail price points and retail channels are best for your style of art, and the brand you want to build. And when you make that decision, then you have to stick with it and be determined to make it happen.
There are a lot of manufacturers out there who will get you in department stores, but they also have distribution in drug stores, deep discounters and even ‘dollar’ stores. It’s up to you to ask about a manufacturers’ channel(s) of distribution and to come to an agreement as to where your product will be distributed.
No discussion of retail channels would be complete without the dual acknowledgement that retailers today are being held hostage by the economy, corporate mergers and price-driven consumers, while at the same time acting as the gatekeepers who hold the key to distribution (or not!) for manufacturers. This means retailers are both unusually stressed and powerful at the same time.
Regarding your art licensing business, keep in mind those retailers—whether brick and mortar, catalogs, or online e-tailers—allow or prevent the flow of products to consumers. So, they can help you reach consumers, or they can prevent your licensed products from reaching the consumers’ hands.
Today there are more and more online retailers who can take your art from production all the way to the consumer. But online sales of art licensing products are still miniscule compared to the level sold at brick and mortar retailers.
So, retailers still have the ultimate power. But years from now we may be stating something entirely different here. Understanding who the gatekeeper is—who has the power in an industry—will absolutely affect your marketing plan and how you create and manage your business.
Jeanette Smith is the consummate art licensing coach—she is passionate about helping you achieve a level of success beyond imagining and definitely knows how to do it! In just six short years, J’net turned Dilbert™ from a relatively unknown syndication-based comic strip into a 200 million dollar a year global brand. Then in 2000, J’net translated and expanded on her extensive experience to train, advise and license all types of creators. She has helped hundreds of artists, graphic designers, painters, photographers, authors, illustrators, design firms, fine artists, creative companies, non-profits and agents to maximize the power of their brands and talents.
J’net is best described by her combination of specialties—she is one of those very rare people who possess a balanced combination of creative sensibility and extraordinary business acumen. It is this combination that has served J’net over the span of a very impressive career,and has garnered her equally impressive press and testimonials!
From her early days in New York building new divisions for such corporate giants as Official Airline Guides, MacMillan Publishing, Paramount Communications, and VIACOM International, to her six years of work at United Media spearheading the astronomical growth of Dilbert, Jeanette has compiled a long list of satisfied clients and has gained an enormous amount of respect and experience in marketing, licensing, advertising, PR, agenting, negotiating, and much more.