A year has passed with no shows, so can comic cons use COVID-19 as a catalyst for change and restart with a clean slate? Fanattik head honcho Anthony Marks has given his thoughts.
In March 2020, just as COVID brought the world to a halt, I spoke with Robert Hutchins for ToyNews regards my thoughts on the unlicensed merchandise available at comic conventions throughout Europe. The exhibitors selling unlicensed product squeeze out law abiding retailers whilst some of the show organisers turn a blind eye.
Being a gift and collectibles licensee for many of the film and video game studios, I keep my ear to the pop culture ground and have already started to hear rumblings from the usual suspects that they are keen to get back up and running once the shows start again. I am not naïve, small local shows with a few hundred visitors are one thing but the big Comic Cons with 100,000+ visitors, Hollywood stars in attendance and national press coverage should really be a beacon of light for the pop culture industry, and not the wild west for merchandise. The local councils send representatives to these larger shows and they do seem to close down exhibitors selling plush with no CE mark for example, but these officials often have no idea as to whether product is unlicensed or not.
We have retailers in our industry complaining that they cannot sell their licensed ranges at the shows because next door to them is a stand selling knockoff’s at half the price. On one occasion I informed a show organiser that there were stands selling fake jewellery. I explained that licensed jewellery undergoes a plethora of tests before it can hit the market due to its contact with skin and I was met with a shrug of indifference in return.
I am hopeful for the future though. The big shows want to attract brand partners so the balance of power is changing. Before signing up as a partner, the brands can insist that no fake product is sold at the show. This way legitimate retailers of entertainment brands get to sell their product, the brands receive their royalty fees and the fans can walk away with a safe, quality piece of merchandise.
As we edge closer to the 'new normal' and comic cons and shows resume, Fanattik is more than happy to extend an invitation to the event organisers to send a team to walk the halls with them and assist in creating a better environment for the brands, retailers and fans alike.