The BLE Blog

My BLE: 5 mins with Rob Willis, Publisher, Progressive Preschool Magazine

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Rob Willis reflects on 10 years of BLE, the pre-school category, late nights and lost keys. 

How many years have you been attending the show?

I have been attending the show for some 10 years now, accompanied by trips to the Stateside show in New York, and latterly in Las Vegas.

How long do you usually stay for?

I will always use the entirety of the show, and dare I say it – it’s often not long enough. As an exhibitor, and visitor, and press, my schedule is always set down to literally every five minutes that I’m there.

What do you remember about your first visit?

I do recall on my first visit that the industry was even bigger than I expected. Newcomers to licensing always seem to have that ‘penny drop’ moment, when they realise the product on the high street is actually the result of a huge network of licensors, studios, and brand owners working tirelessly to execute great extensions with manufacturing experts. I also learned about the social side of licensing on my first year too, not getting home until 3am on the first night, with my house keys still on the exhibition booth in Olympia…

Have your needs changed in terms of what you want from the show?

As a company publishing trade magazines in nearly every product sector, our needs get bigger each year. Our focus on preschool became more prominent at the launch of the title a few years ago. Additionally this year we’ll focus even further on the brand sector, as we work towards our inaugural Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards in April 2016, headline sponsored by BLE.

What do you love most about BLE?

I love the energy you feel at BLE. I attend dozens of shows, worldwide, every year. But you feel the energy at licensing shows – it’s palpable.

When I’m at BLE one thing I always do is… factor an hour into my schedule to walk the halls. Meetings give me individual overviews of a company’s activity, but it pays to step back and walk the aisles to get an idea of trends forming.

What do you do about lunch?

Lunch? No chance! What would we do without those super-hygienic bowls of sweets on (all good) stands to keep us going?

What are you on the hunt for this year?

As with any show, I’ll look to spend as much time as possible listening to the plans of my existing clients and partners, but also make sure I schedule to see a raft of new people too. It’s vital for any media attending the show to consider new and evergreen in equal importance.

What will make it a successful show for you this year?

BLE this year will be another success story for me, for our firm, and for everyone who attends. There’s just too many great licensors, licensees, and retailers under one roof for one not to come out with something great to work on. At the very least, I’ll remember my house keys this time.

Max Publishing also produces The Licensing Source Book | Art & Design Licensing Source Book | Brand & Sport Licensing Source Book | Progressive Preschool | Progressive Party | Progressive Greetings | Progressive Gifts | Progressive Calendars | Progressive Housewares | Showtime Worldwide. It also organises the BLE sponsored Licensing Awards.

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