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Inside Licensing News and Notes, Oct. 27, 2017


Build-A-Bear Expands Licensing Business

Build-A-Bear Workshop has signed an agreement with Just Play to develop plush toys based on the retailer’s IP, further expanding its outbound licensing program. The line will include plush based on Build-A-Bear’s standard bear as well as mini-figures and collectibles with a goal of expanding the brand in mass retailers and specialty chains.

The collection will  likely use Build-A-Bear’s characters including Honey Girls and Promise Pets, says a company spokeswoman. The outbound licensing program for toys began with Spin Master and a miniature stuffing station in 2016 and has recently grown to include footwear (Esquire Footwear) and magazines (Signature Publishing).

While revenue from the licensing program is a small portion of Build-A Bear’s total annual sales, the brand exposure is valuable, Chief Financial Officer Voin Todorovic told us Friday at the opening of a new 2,500-sq.ft. Build-A-Bear store in New York. “We are a small organization so at some point it makes sense to have an outside third-party” license the Build-A-Bear brand and give it distribution “we might not otherwise get outside of our stores,” says Todorovic. Meanwhile, Build-A-Bear is continuing to expand sales of licensed products, which typically account for 35-40% of its annual revenue, says Todorovic.

The chain’s Discovery format, which will be in 106 locations by year-end, has separate displays for licensed goods, including those for Frozen, Paw Patrol and Star Wars as well as a “sports central” section with National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball bears tailored to the local markets.

Build-A-Bear has about 360 stores, 23 of which are in a new 200-sq. ft. format designed for mall concourses. The concourse stores generate about half the $1-$2 million in average annual revenue of a standard 3,000-sq.ft. Build-A-Bear location, but with a merchandise mix focused on top licensed brands and lower operating costs, says Todorovic.


Build-A-Bear, Voin Todorovic, Chief Financial Officer, 314-423-8000 x5221,

Utz to Buy Inventure Foods for $165 Million

Utz Quality Foods agreed to buy Inventure Foods for $165 million, bringing the snack food supplier its first licensed brands. In buying Inventure, Utz would get access to TGI Friday’s, Vadalia, Nathan’s Famous labels as well as Jamba Juice ready-to-blend smoothie kits and Seattle’s Best frozen coffee blends. Utz sell products under its own, Bachman and Zappo brands. As part of the purchase, privately-held Utz also will assume $75 million in debt. The sale is expected to close late this year. Inventure has been a TGI Friday’s licensee since 2000 and its agreement with the restaurant chain runs through 2024. It signed with Jamba (2013), Vadalia (2015) and Nathan’s Famous (2016) during the past several years. Inventure had struggled in recent years, having launched a strategic review in 2016 and selling off its frozen food business in September as it sought to pay down debt. Inventure’s net loss for fiscal year ended Dec. 31 widened to $30 million from $20.7 million a year earlier as sales fell 4.8% to $269 million. Sales of TGI Friday’s products were 11.5% of Inventure’s 2016 revenue, while those of Jamba Juice products were 4.4%.


Inventure Foods, Steve Sklar, SVP, 623-932-6200,

GB eye Signs Licensing Deal for Transport of London

GB eye will ship London Tube wall décor, mugs and posters in Q1 as the Transport of London takes its first steps in broadening its licensing program. The products will initially feature London Tube maps, including heat-activated mugs that feature the map and light up with stops when a warm liquid is poured into them, says GB eye’s Emily Aldridge. There also will be mugs for each of the London Tube’s 10 main lines and 19 stations. There are about 150-200 stations and additional mugs that will be produced on a build-to-order basis, Aldridge said. The collection also contains London Tube map and “Mind the Gap” posters as well as framed prints of advertisements including those for the first Wimbledon tennis tournament. The agreement is among the first to be signed since TSBA Group started representing the Transport of London earlier this year. The 130-store Paperchase chain has an existing direct-to-retailer agreement with the Transport of London for snack boxes, lunch bags, notebooks and playing cards.


GB eye, Emily Aldridge, Licensing Mgr., +44 114 292 0086,

TSBA Group, Aisling Smith, Licensing Mgr., +44 203 691 8150

High-End Pen Supplier Launches Justice League Collection

A high-end pen supplier has been drawn into licensing for the first time. Switzerland-based Caran d’Ache launched the Justice League Trinity collection that will be available in 60 special edition box sets, each containing three roller ($3,462) or fountain ($5,219) pens featuring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman characters. The pens also will be sold separately at prices ranging from $1,740 for a Trinity fountain pen to $922 for a Justice League Infinite. The pens, available through distributors and at Caran’s web site, are being introduced in advance of the new Justice League movie is being released Nov. 17.


Warner Bros. Consumer Product, Paul Bufton, VP Licensing and Business Development EMEA, +44 20 7984 5152,

Caran d’Ache, Jean-Francois de Saussure, Managing Dir., +41 22 869 01 01


Michael Conway, ex-Canadian Tire, named Chief Brand and Revenue Officer at Cherokee Global Brands, new position…  Ryan Kernan, ex-DwellStudio, named Senior Director of Licensing at Branded Entertainment Network and Greenlight, new position that handles licensing for the estates of Sophia Loren, Buzz Aldrin, Albert Einstein and Steve McQueen.


Cherokee Global Brands, Michael Conway, Chief Brand and Revenue Officer, 818-908-9868,

Brand Entertainment Network, Ryan Kernan, Senior Dir. Licensing, 310-342-1500


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