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Laura Freedman-Dagg (Global Licensing Group) on returning to in-person events and tradeshows

By Kristopher Fraser


Fairs |Interview

Laura Freedman-Dagg

Global Licensing Group has appointed Laura Freedman-Dagg their new head of retail and licensing. The role was specifically created for her, and prior to this role, Freedman-Dagg held the position of event manager, brand licensing, Europe, where was key to growing the trade show’s retail business and attracting more European retailers. In her new role, she has big plans for how to take her company to the next level. Freedman-Dagg took time out of her spearheading her new role to speak with FashionUnited about how she intends to transform Global Licensing Group.

What are your duties in your newly created role?

My core responsibility as the Head of Retail, Licensing at Informa Markets, is to work across the business’s global event portfolio, including Licensing Expo, the European and North American Brand & Licensing Innovation Summits and Brand Licensing Europe, to first and foremost, gain a deeper understanding of our retailer community’s needs, how these needs pertain to licensing, and their buying calendar. Long-term, my objective is to create a consultative experience for retailers, delivering a turnkey experience on-site encompassing meaningful content that moves their business forward and facilitating the appropriate meetings with exhibitors.

Much of my day-to-day currently is centered around establishing relationships and speaking with a range of retailers, from big box to boutique, to learn what their challenges are, how their consumers’ shopping behaviors are changing, how they’re leveraging licensing as a strategic tool, if at all, what is their ideal trade show experience, and what types of brands are they interested in meeting with on-site. This way, we can beautifully package up a meaningful and productive experience for the retail community.

Really, society evolves. Consumers change how they shop and engage with brands, and retailers must adapt in lockstep. We, as event organizers, recognize this shift, and my role is hyper-focused on proactively designing a tailored program that better helps retailers tap into the power of licensing.

Why do you think trade shows are more important now than ever as we work on emerging from the pandemic?

Nothing quite beats face-to-face connection. The licensing industry is very social and reliant on in-person meetings to discover new IPs and drive business forward. We’re in the business of connections. Trade shows provide the entire industry’s ecosystem a chance to reconnect, learn from peers, discover trends, and so much more, much of which is tough to meaningfully accomplish online.

A commonality that I hear, again and again, is the importance placed on meeting a potential partner in-person to build a strong rapport. This sentiment is shared among our retailers, licensees, and manufacturing attendees, as they all rely on our events to facilitate introductions with brand owners.

What are retailers and exhibitors expecting from trade shows nowadays?

Time is of utmost importance to retailers. They are incredibly busy, and often trade shows lack the highly specific education they’re seeking or are so overloaded with meeting requests that events can be a burden. Retailers have a real need and desire to attend our licensing events for access to the hottest and emergent brands, we as organizers need to curate their on-site experience appropriately for maximum efficiency.

My new role is a direct response to the growing need to simplify the experience for our retail community and paint a clear picture of their on-site goals and how we fit into their long-term strategy so that we can meet expectations. This level of transparency and one-on-one support is largely overlooked by trade show organizers but has the promise to dramatically improve ROI, which trickles down to the exhibiting brands. Suppose our retail community is taken care of and more stores are investing in licensing as a tactic to reach consumers. In that case, our exhibiting brands will reap the benefits via greater exposure and product sales. It’s a win-win. A seamless and easy to navigate experience is an additional expectation from all our event participants, as today’s society is used to information readily available at their fingertips. We’re constantly refining how we communicate to our attendees and exhibitors, so they have access easy access to clean and informative information on the brands exhibiting per product category, for example.

What’s the biggest challenge in driving retail attendance?

We understand licensing often consumes a relatively small portion of a retailer’s day-to-day responsibilities. So, we have a short window to show them how licensing /smart brand partnerships can helps them remain agile and relevant in today’s fleeting society. It’s all about being intentional with the content and experiences we’re providing and understanding where each retailer is at in their licensing journey.

Many customer conversations and a rapidly changing marketplace led us to where we’re at today, with a dedicated role whose sole purpose is to dig even deeper into the core challenges retailers face and identify how a visit to Licensing Expo can seamlessly fit into the puzzle.

What new initiatives do you have planned?

With such a short time between now and the May show, my priority focus is on customer insight. I plan to speak with as many retailers as possible to ensure we deliver the most efficient show that matches their needs.

My new role reflects our investment in the retail community; we’re making headway on new initiatives that move the needle for their business and strengthen their grasp of how to leverage brand extension as a strategic marketing tool.

Something I’m looking forward to is exploring ways in which we can bring the Retail Mentoring Program, that is well-received at our European shows, to Licensing Expo. In its current state at BLE, it’s a year-long program that consists of seminars, coaching and mentoring, brand owner site visits, and expo passes to encourage the younger generation to pursue future career opportunities in the retail space. I’m investigating and am eager to adapt this to the US market!

New for our 2022 edition, which will undoubtedly interest retailers, is our Location-Based Entertainment (LBE) theme, spotlighting immersive and interactive commerce and partnerships that revolve around an IP. LBE reflects how consumers today want to engage with brands in a new way that evokes emotion – a trend we’re seeing more and more retailers adopt.

How have you seen the retail buying calendar change throughout your career?

Interestingly, and like many aspects of global business, the retail buying calendar has evolved in that it isn’t consistent. What’s important is for retailers now is access to portfolios of available IP that predict new trends and align with ever-changing consumer buying habits. The Global Licensing Group delivers value through consistent events held strategically throughout the calendar year in key global markets.

Our audience has told us their priority in today’s environment is to remain agile and in front of consumer trends, and our robust schedule of events helps them effectively deliver to their customers year-round.

What is the biggest challenge in mounting a tradeshow now?

It’s two-fold. The first is re-convening for the first time in person after two years apart. Our attendees and exhibitors must feel confident in conducting business face-to-face. We’ve taken every proactive measure to communicate the health and safety mandates in place, each in accordance with local and state health authority policies.

Second, so much has changed regarding how we conduct business, and the challenges we’re facing as an industry have flipped on their head. Today, supply chain woes, low inventory, and changing consumer habits keep retailers up at night. The ownness is on us as organizers to analyze the current market, uncover these new challenges, and identify how we can help our customers, exhibitors, and attendees alike, find solutions to these challenges.

What are your biggest goals in this new role?

Ultimately, my objective is to design programming, an accumulation of in-depth conversations, for retailers that enhances their experience on-site and instills a deeper understanding of the vast opportunities licensing can offer. The power of fans is immense, and there is so much inspiration to draw from; it’s my job to facilitate connection between retailers and exhibitors.

It’s such an exciting and expressive industry, and I’m so excited to have the chance to bring the world of licensing to so many more retailers across the globe, helping them adapt and continue to cater to societal changes, whatever they may be.

Global Licensing Group
Informa Markets
Laura Freedman-Dagg
Licensing Expo
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