“Time’s up for the Hamster Wheel workplace” – Lesley Jane Seymour

Last evening’s ScreenSide chat featured Lesley Jane Seymour and Maura J. Regan. Lesley is a veteran of the publishing business and an accomplished leader having run magazines like Marie Claire and More. She consults with industry leaders from various verticals including banking, fashion, beauty, publishing and businesses who want to speak directly to the consumer through events, advertising and digital products.

She also founded the CoveyClub.com an online-offline organisation for life long learners who are re-inventing themselves and grow their businesses. Lesley spoke freely about her early years in the publishing business where she had to deal with dual bosses who were not on the same page. In such situations her advice is to approach personnel and have a free and frank discussion with them instead of being coy and sweeping stuff under the carpet. She advised leaders in organisations to protect and fight for their teams. Thats the least they could do for all the hours they put in. Being a working mum herself, Lesley understood first hand how difficult it is for working women to manage home and work. She felt post the pandemic it’s unlikely that the workplace will be the same again. Employers might want to consider offering their employees a more flexible routine which could actually lead to improved productivity. On asking her about her One Big prediction for the post Covid Workplace, she said people from all departments and silos would need to come together and re-define the “hamster wheel” type scenario, because that is surely passe. Lesley and her team are keen to convene a think tank around the same. Stay tuned to Licensing International for more. To view the full webinar head to the webinars section of licensing international.org

Shoppers Stop lays off 1100 employees


One of India’s pioneering retailers Shoppers Stop has laid off 1100 employees on account of the pandemic. The organization has offered each employee 2 months salary as well as the possibility of re-hiring once the situation stabilizes. Due to the pandemic, many malls have remained shut, which has impacted store operations, forcing management to cut costs and let go of these employees. A person familiar with the matter stated that 1000 employees were from across stores and the rest were from the head office in Mumbai. “With a limitation on adding new stores in this situation, the size of our business is effectively reduced and, unfortunately, we need to adjust our cost base in such times,” the spokesperson said.


The news was first reported by The Economic Times newspaper.

Shoppers Stop had 7,500 employees, according to its December quarter earnings presentation.

The pandemic and prolonged lockdown, especially the closure of malls, has severely hit retailers.

Kiranas the “unsung heroes” of Covid-19 in India

During the pandemic, my family (and so many others we know) haven’t faced a shortage of any necessity, thanks to Mahavir stores our local kirana (corner) shop. Infact, many would attest to the fact that in addition to the front-liners that shone during Covid-19 relief apart from the doctors, nurses and support staff were our local “kirana stores” (corner shops). Due to the lockdown, most on liners like Amazon, Flipkart, Swiggy, Big Basket & Grophers were hamstrung especially in the urban areas due to government restrictions and people had no choice but to turn to their neighborhood kiranawalas to get their stock of daily groceries and even some chocolates and ice cream for the kids.

According to Nielsen, India is home to about 12 million kiranas which generate close to 95% of the $650 billion food and grocery spend and they themselves have innovated in these stressful times. WhatsApp has been the main platform for innovation because of its ease of use and total simplicity – from issuing tokens to customers at home inorder to maintain social distancing norms to generating “live order” lists and plan dispatch and “contactless delivery”, each kirana owner evolved his/her own playbook.


But the over-riding commendable factor was that none of them (at least a majority) didn’t indulge in price-manipulation and take advantage of the situation. This has to do with the relationship kirana owners share with their customers. It is one of an extended family member who is aware of what is happening in the family at all time – new births, weddings, favorite food brand, diet plan et al. They are on top of it.

Infact, a recent survey of 3000 people done by Velocity MR revealed that a two-third majority of the respondents found it “safe” to shop at kiranas compared to online shops during lockdown, an attribute which is at a serious premium during these truly exasperating times.

Brands are all praise for these heroes in their supply chain: speaking to Brand Equity Tata Consumer Products, MD & CEO – Sunil D’Souza credits the success to the connect and trust kirana stores have with their customers. He believes the element of “familiarity” has worked to their advantage in such uncertain times.

But unfortunately all is not well with the kirana ecosystem. A recent report in The Economic Times stated that leading consumer goods companies said over 600,000 kirana outlets may have closed during the lockdown, “hurt by a liquidity crunch or the return of owners to villages, and fear that most of them may not reopen.”

While the corona virus continues to spread unabated, we hope these champions of retail will find a solution to mitigate the effects of this pandemic and survive the onslaught of this truly unprecedented situation. Given their resilience and creativity, this is certainly not out of the realm of their ability. We hope the government will step in and do right by them.

All ‘non-essential’ retail to re-open from June 15 in the UK

Thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centres were on May 25 given three weeks to prepare, as the government gave the date of June 15 for when non-essential retail could re-open its doors.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that non-essential stores – including those which sell licensed products such as clothing, toys and books – will be able to open from next month if the government’s five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines.

Businesses will only be able to open from these dates once they have completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks. They must have taken the necessary steps to become COVID-19 secure in line with the current Health and Safety legislation.

The government is publishing updated COVID-secure guidelines for people who work in or run shops, branches and stores, as well as working with local authorities to continue to carry out spot checks and follow up on concerns by members of the public.

Measures that shops should consider include placing a poster in their windows to demonstrate awareness of the guidance and commitment to safety measures; storing returned items for 72 hours before putting them back out on the shop floor; placing protective coverings on large items touched by the public such as beds or sofas; and frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly.

“Bira is pleased with the guidance being given to retail outlets,” commented Andrew Goodacre, ceo of the British Independent Retailers Association. “It provides a broad framework for the basic measures and still allows the retailer to be flexible according to the size, layout and location of the shop.”

All non-essential retailers in England have been closed since March 23.

Source: https://www.licensingsource.net/all-non-essential-retail-to-re-open-from-june-15/

Brands rising to feed the need and show they care

With governments around the world making it mandatory for its citizens to wear face masks for the foreseeable future to avoid the spread of the Covid-19 virus, several entrepreneurs and companies have already picked up the mantle to serve this need by repurposing their existing assets. Some purely as CSR initiatives and others as a balance between CSR & to support other businesses that have dipped due to the strictures that have been imposed on business as usual. Here are just a few of the initiatives that caught our eye.

Bravado the licensing arm of Universal Music Group recently announced an initiative to provide a range of non-surgical face masks to its fans under the initiative We’ve got you covered. The website also mentions 100% of net proceeds will be donated to Music cares an initiative to benefit music-oriented charities and communities. The face masks are priced at $15/- each and are branded with some of the most iconic music brands including Queen, The Rolling Stones, Guns N Roses, Imagine Dragons, YungBlud, Black Pink and Black Sabbath.


According to LicensingSource.Net, Bravado and Universal Music Group (UMG) launched the programme first by offering free face masks to all UMG employees. The programme will also contribute 50,000 masks to those serving communities across the US including workers in food banks, school lunch programmes, homeless shelters and other community service providers.

Closer home in India, quite a few brands and designers have also decided to repurpose their existing resources to help meet the need of non-surgical masks. With the objective of “Staying Safe and Stylish” designers Anita Dongre & Masaba to name a few have announced initiatives via social media platform Instagram earlier this month much to the delight of their fans.

Said Ms. Dongre, “Ever since lockdown measures came into place, we have been finding ways to contribute meaningfully to safety efforts amidst the current pandemic. These efforts have now been greenlit.”

(image courtesy Anita Dongre’s Instagram account)

 She further stated – “24 of our women employees from two of our community tailoring units in Charoti and Dhanevari have offered their services in creating protective face masks to meet the needs of the community at large. All social distancing norms and hygiene measures will be followed during this time”

(image courtesy Anita Dongre’s Instagram account)

Designer Masaba Gupta wrote “Changing gears for some time in the wake of the current pandemic & lockdown across the country, all operations at the House of Masaba came to a halt. While the damage that this will do is immeasurable at this point, my hope is to keep my chin up by doing my bit to help my country instead-in this time. We have started the production of non-surgical masks for donation at a production facility keeping all hygiene and safety standards in mind. These masks are washable and reusable”

India’s largest English news daily The Times Of India has taken the DIY route to rally its readers to design their own face masks and share the same with the tag #MaskIndia on its website. Best masks get featured in the newspaper. So far the campaign has received over 90,000 submissions.

(image courtesy Times Of India campaign page)

While the central government has announced 17th May as the end date for Lockdown 3.0, the Prime Minister’s Office has left it to individual state governments to decide on their exit plans. However, the discourse has certainly shifted from saving lives to saving “lively hoods” and with 1.3 billion people to care for getting things up and running and back to normalcy is going to need everyone to pitch in with whatever they can do. Whether its making masks or serving at a local soup kitchen, we are all in this together.

How AMGI Animation is Adapting to COVID-19 Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally shifted the entertainment industry. From production shutdowns to the rise in at-home streaming, the toll on people and businesses has caused studios across the spectrum to reexamine how they work. From Zoom meetings to direct-to-streaming film debuts, the industry is trying new things to be more adaptable and prepared for the pace that is sure to arrive when things open back up again.

Now, as a light at the end of the tunnel slowly begins to emerge, companies are looking to become more efficient and flexible than ever before. While this paradigm shift can be a challenge, some studios are finding their inherent nature is giving them the advantage to get up-to-speed faster than they even realized was possible.

One such studio is AMGI Animation. The self-described ‘IP factory,’ based in South Pasadena, Calif., has been able to quickly adapt to the new normal by leveraging the vision and expediency inherent in its DNA. AMGI’s unique advantage comes from its technology, business mission and its experienced team of animators that help bring each project to life.

“In a strange sort of way, this shutdown has kind of accelerated our production,” Colin Brady, co-founder, AMGI, tells License Global. “We were already a digitally based studio, so the transition to working from home wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be. We can still create the characters just as fast as we did before, and all our animators are working remotely, so we are perfectly suited for this.”

The group includes alums from Disney and Pixar who leverage real-time rendering technology based on the Unreal Engine to create animations quickly. Using Unreal technology, the team can render projects rapidly from their home workstations in real-time, in an industry that isn’t always based on speed to market.

The studio’s unique business model also allows AMGI to be flexible and quick to react to the market. After just one year in business, the company has developed eight properties for each demographic of kids’ entertainment. Characters range from the young adult music-themed IP “Zeppelin Reign” to the younger-focused “Little Kaiju” property. AMGI is looking to leverage those digital-first characters by extending them into episodic streaming content and licensing across verticals.

“One of the things that struck me when I attended Toy Fair this year was the preponderance of toys that were built on digital influencer initiatives,” says Tony Diioia, co-founder, AMGI. “The sheer number of eyeballs that are watching content on these online platforms is really enough to kickstart a full-blown licensing program.”

AMGI’s fast-acting approach and potential to quickly develop streaming content for new character IP may end up being a significant opportunity for the studio, as distributors look to launch new material following the production stoppage. The company’s quick to market model is also powering how it works with licensees and retailers.

AMGI sees the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown as affecting how the industry does business even after companies can begin to reopen. With that in mind, the studio is looking to work with partners who can adapt to whatever the future may bring. Potential partners for the company include retailers and licensees with a robust e-commerce and digital presence.

“Eventually, we are going to come back, but I don’t think we are going to come back to exactly how it used to be,” adds Diioia. “We think that e-commerce is going to be an accelerator based on what is happening today.”

Overall, AMGI believes that it will come out of the COVID-19 shutdown with a business model that has been accelerated, as major industry players look for companies that fit the quick-to-adapt mold.

As everyone learns to readjust to a fundamentally shifted work environment, companies such as AMGI will prove vital for an industry landscape looking to offset the challenges of the shutdown rapidly.

“I think when we look back at this time, we are going to see it as we got a shot of adrenaline when everyone slowed down,” adds Roger Paglia, chief executive officer, AMGI. “We are one of the few independent studios still standing, and our whole crew is churning out properties.”

Source: https://www.licenseglobal.com/streaming-and-tv/how-amgi-animation-adapting-covid-19-challenges

Acessorizing for a Pandemic

Masks have become of the face of the battle against the coronavirus and are taking a little more style and flair. And, inevitably, characters, logos and designs of all sorts have begun to pop up to cover mouths and noses. As far as we can tell, they’re rarely, if ever licensed. (We have no idea whether the masks above via Etsy are licensed; they merely illustrate the ubiquity of merchandise flooding the online world.)

A quick trip through the maker marketplaces is instructive. Going into the weekend, Etsy maker Kawaii Dress Shop had a line with Disney characters including Maleficent, Snow Queen Elsa from Frozen and Cinderella, all priced at $19. Turkey-based Art Plus had a version with Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises artwork on Zazzle, while Etsy maker Back Stitch Beauty was selling Sesame Streetcharacter face masks in men’s, women’s and children’s sizes.

A Disney spokeswoman declined to comment, and a Sesame Workshop spokeswoman said the design we cited isn’t licensed but declined further comment. Spokespersons for the Van Gogh Museum, Etsy and Zazzle couldn’t be reached.

Brand Owner Dilemma

Brand owners are in a ticklish situation – needing to maintain control over their characters, logos and other IP, but not wanting to come within miles of being perceived as profiteers during a crisis. They also have to be concerned about potential liability if, for example, a character-adorned mask is sold to somebody who thinks they’re buying rock-solid protection and subsequently gets sick.

When Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said in an interview last week that the number of its makers producing cloth masks had increased fivefold to 20,000 during the prior weekend, he also hastened to add that “the CDC itself has said a fabric face mask is probably better than nothing but please do not assume that this keeps you or the people around you safe. It’s an additive measure. It’s not preventative.”

So even as they pitch in to the collective effort, brand owners are conscious of walking a fine line. Natasha Fishman, EVP of Marketing at Authentic Brands Group, (ABG) acknowledged that if the state or federal government mandates wearing face masks, ABG would likely initially give them away to healthcare workers. ABG’s Hickey Freeman division currently is making  masks using hospital-provided surgical curtains and distributing back to hospitals in the Rochester, NY area.

The goal is not to profit off the pandemic because “clearly there is a need , and that need starts from healthcare workers, then other essential workers,” Fishman said. But “then it will translate to bringing product to people that becomes part of their personality for PPE.”

Longer term,  ABG will make about a dozen of its more than 50 brands available for licensed masks, says an ABG spokesperson. The first ecommerce sales are expected to launch in the next few weeks.

“Up until a few weeks ago, Americans really didn’t wear masks,” says the ABG spokeswoman. “And going forward [a key element] it will be aligning with a real charity.  Brands partner with charities because they want to have a purpose that creates an authentic connection and we will see more of that. Once people stop buying masks frantically, charities will be a key component and eventually it will be OK for companies to make money from face masks.”

Source: https://licensinginternational.org/news/accessorizing-for-a-pandemic/

Homebound ‘Kidults’ Helping to Drive Construction, Game, Puzzle Boom

The sharp rise in sales of puzzles, games and building sets ( widely publicized and extremely logical in these “shelter in place” times) has seen the continued emergence of “kidults” — grownups filled with nostalgia and perhaps seeking out new activities – as a driving force in those categories that was underway even before the pandemic struck.

Adding fuel

The crisis has only added fuel to the fire. “In my opinion, some of this growth [in games, puzzles and construction sets] is coming from adult sales,” says Julie Lennett, NPD Group’s leading toy authority. “We’re seeing strong growth in adult puzzles, expensive and more complex LEGO sets, and ‘adult’ games like Cards Against Humanity and Settlers of Catan. Even adults are looking for a way to escape the chaos in their lives and toys can be a great distraction.”

For example, in the UK and Australia, Lego’s Technic Bugatti Chiron and Land Rover Defender construction kits – both of which have more than 2,000 pieces and are priced around the equivalent of US$280 —  were among the Top 10 selling products in the games/puzzles/building sets category in the weeks ended March 21 and 29, respectively, according to NPD. And the UK’s John Lewis department store chain said sales of puzzles in the week ended March 29 were higher than during the Christmas holidays and that more than half its stock – including all 1,000-piece versions, which are mostly aimed well beyond younger age groups —  was sold.

“Kidults is something that applies to puzzles, because it is something that reminds you of your childhood. In the current situation, it is definitely helping to drive sales,” says Melissa Dragonas, a Product Manager at Ravensburger USA. Indeed, the company’s sales of puzzles rose 370% during the past few weeks, and while children’s products led the category — Disney Collector’s Edition, Villainous, Frozen 2 and Toy Story 4 puzzles were top sellers — adult puzzles “weren’t far behind,” says Dragonas.

The rise in games, puzzles, and building set sales wasn’t limited to one global market. While sales of games and puzzles were up 228% in the U.S. in the week ended March 21, they also skyrocketed in the UK (240%), France (122% for puzzles; 83% for games), and Australia (417%), according to NPD. In the UK, games and puzzles also more than doubled to 21% its share of toys sales in the week ended March 21. In the case of building sets, sales soared in the U.S. (76%), UK (59%) and Australia (155%).

The increase in sales hasn’t been limited to mass merchants and toy stores. Etsy’s sales of puzzles and games were “more stable” in March along with those of bath and beauty and self-care, CEO Josh Silverman told investors. Those sales offset a sharp decline more typical top sellers in March such as jewelry and wedding-related items, the purchases of which were delayed as weddings were postponed, Silverman said.

“We have some games that are moving up in the ranks like Monopoly and Uno for obvious reasons, because these are like comfort food,” says NPD’s Lennett. But whether that trend continues after the coronavirus outbreak abates, “remains to be seen. There is the potential that families rediscover (or discover) the joy that playing family games has on the family. I hope that happens, but we’re in unusual times and I don’t think anyone can predict what families will be doing in a month or six months.”

Source: https://licensinginternational.org/news/homebound-kidults-helping-to-drive-construction-game-puzzle-boom/

Sesame Workshop Expands Caring for Each Other Initiative

Building on last week’s launch of its Caring for Each Other initiative, Sesame Workshop is expanding the initiative with the rollout of brand-new content. The array of “Sesame Street” content made available, which includes newly produced content, is designed to help parents and caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“‘Sesame Street’ is there for children and families whether it’s a sunny day or a stormy one, and unfortunately many families are facing unprecedented challenges right now,” says Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president, U.S. social impact, Sesame Workshop. “Through Caring for Each Other, we’re committed to supporting families for the duration of this crisis and beyond – equipping them with the tools they need to get through this together and look to the future with hope and optimism.”

The content includes animation covering healthy habits, resources providing comfort and activities that caregivers can use to spark learning in areas like reading, math, science and more. The animated spots, which will be available in 19 languages, include Elmo’s new “Washy Wash” song and “Sesame Street’s” Muppets learning how to sneeze properly and learning about how caring for yourself means caring for each other.

“As families around the world adjust to their new realities, parents and caregivers are looking for help in creating new routines, staying healthy, and fostering learning at home,” says Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president, curriculum and content, Sesame Workshop. “At Sesame Workshop, we’re here to support the caring adults in children’s lives as they help their children navigate these challenging times.”

The new animated spots will be distributed through partners in the U.S. and globally, including HBO, PBS KIDS and local PBS stations, Univision, the Ad Council, YouTube, Sesame Street in Communities partners and international broadcast partners. They will be available in the coming days in languages including English, Spanish, Amharic, Arabic, Bangla, Dutch, Dari, German, Hausa, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Kurdish, Mandarin, Pashto, Portuguese, Rohingya, Somali, Swahili and additional dialects.

SesameStreet.org/caring will be updated to meet the needs of families as the situation evolves on an ongoing basis, with resources designed to help parents provide comfort and manage anxiety, as well as help with creating routines, fostering playful learning at home, and staying physically and mentally healthy.

Source: https://www.licenseglobal.com/streaming-and-tv/sesame-workshop-expands-caring-each-other-initiative

Companies Pitch In On The Coronavirus Fight

In this period of pain and adjustment, when we’re all inundated by a flood of bad news and surrounded by the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak, we decided to begin the week with a look at some of the ways that companies in and around the licensing business are stepping up and making a contribution.

A vast number of companies are making huge financial donations to help fund such things as relief efforts for the needy, financial help for workers who have lost their jobs due to the financial upheaval and aid for health workers.

Some companies also are lending their talents, facilities and supply chains to the effort. Those cited below are only a sampling, but we hope it gives a dash of inspiration about what’s possible, and how people and companies around the world are pulling together to try to make a difference.

  • Fanatics is manufacturing masks (shown above) and gowns out of material originally destined for Major League Baseball jerseys in its Easton, PA facility. The program is totally funded by MLB and Fanatics.
  • Burberry is dipping into its global supply chain to “fast-track the delivery of over 100,000 surgical masks to the UK National Health Service,” among several other measures.
  • My Icon Story has launched a free greeting card initiative aimed at getting cards sent to those in need, be they shut-ins, health workers or others.
  • Careismatic Brands donated $1 million worth of Cherokee and Dickies branded scrubs to impacted hospitals across the U.S., specifically for healthcare workers on the front lines of COVID-19.
  • Crazy Aaron’s switched from manufacturing its Thinking Putty to producing hand sanitizer.
  • MGA Entertainment, in addition to helping source masks and other medical supplies, is retooling its Little Tikes toy factory in Ohio to produce ventilator valves and googles for hospitals, Forbes reported.
  • Major European fashion companies owned by Kering and LVMH, as well as such retailers as H&M and Zara, said they will either source or retool their supply chains to produce masks and other medical equipment.

Please let us know about other companies and industry members contributing to the effort. Send info to Mark Seavy (mseavy@licensing.org) and Marty Brochstein (mbrochstein@licensing.org).

Stay safe.

Source: https://licensinginternational.org/news/companies-pitch-in-on-the-coronavirus-fight/