Oct 10, 2018

By Pam Kaufman
Pam Kaufman, President, Viacom/Nickelodeon Consumer Products on the state of retail.

Retail is dead. Long live retail.

2018 has been labeled the year of the retail meltdown. The Retail-Apocalypse, if you will.  But not so fast. I firmly believe what we’re witnessing is retail’s metamorphosis, where today’s struggles will yield tomorrow’s reinventions.

The brands that truly put the consumer first and embrace new innovative experiences and technologies will not only survive, they’ll prosper. And from my vantage point as President of a newly global Viacom/Nickelodeon Consumer Products business, I see success coming from a combination of relevant IP that consumers connect to emotionally, outstanding product, and leading-edge experiential storytelling moments at retail.

Analysts at KPMG agree. In their Global Retail Trends 2018 report, they cite that by January 2019, 90 percent of all retail will still be done in physical stores, and ‘’stores that are doing well offer a customer experience that meets or exceeds customer expectations.’’ Physical retail is not dying; customers simply expect more. They want it to be an experience.

At Viacom, we have been meeting this change head-on, reinventing everything from the content and products we make, to how we market and to whom. In May, we unified consumer products into a single, global organization with the newly formed Viacom/Nickelodeon Consumer Products, or VNCP for short. Consumer Products is a key strategic pillar for Viacom, and VNCP’s creation speaks to the deep investments we are making in our licensing business.

"We are seeing the most innovative retail brands invest in making their stores an unforgettable experience."

While Nickelodeon’s powerful portfolio features universally beloved kids and family franchises, from SpongeBob and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to PAW Patrol, the enhanced strength of VNCP is the addition of the MTV, Paramount Pictures and Comedy Central brands to our arsenal, heightening our ability to develop fashion and lifestyle programs for adults. Jersey Shore Energy Drinks? That’s a no-brainer.

I’ve long considered retail an essential extension of the amazing stories we tell on screens. Cut to today, where we are partnering with retail to translate the love for our characters into retail-tainment experiences. This practice is already hugely popular in Asia-Pacific, where we have executed more than 70 mall events across the region this year, and we are bringing these kinds of experiences to the rest of the world. We toured a mobile Sunny Daysalon to Walmart stores in the US, an immersive Nick Jr. Adventure Centre thrilled kids and families across the UK, and we continue to expand our popular Slimefest to more countries around the world.

We are seeing the most innovative retail brands invest in making their stores an unforgettable experience. KMPG highlight Nike’s new five-story, 55,000 square foot store in New York City, saying, “It is as much a place to play as it is a place to shop.”  Additionally, the New York Timesrecently reported Tiffany & Co.’s plans to renovate its flagship Manhattan store to include hospitality offerings, including a “Breakfast at Tiffany” experience in its in-store Blue Box Café.

If brands like Nike and Tiffany’s are ushering in a new retail experience economy, what value do we as a content company and licensor believe we can offer? The answer is our continued investment in storytelling. We are investing in what we believe is the future of storytelling through the work of our new technology division called the Nick Entertainment Lab. We recently announced that the Lab is developing a TV series utilizing augmented and virtual reality in both its production and storytelling. Imagine the possibilities that can come from applying this kind of content innovation and imagination to the retail experience.

Pairing beloved IP with new technologies like VR and AR in a retail setting has the potential to change the way the consumer discovers and shops.  It’s just one possible scenario in a future filled with opportunity where the retailers who invest in their physical stores and new technologies will come out winners in this reinvention. It’s a future that is coming very soon, and it’s exciting.

Pam Kaufman is the president of Viacom/Nickelodeon Consumer Products. This article first appeared in License Global magazine and is reprinted with permission. See the original piece here