Nickelodeon Opening Flagship Retail Store in London
The destination store — featuring SpongeBob, Dora, Turtles and other merchandise — is located in Leicester Square, the top foot traffic location in all of Europe.
Viacom's Nickelodeon is opening a flagship store in London this weekend, adding a destination venue in the British capital to its growing number of retail stores in international markets.
The first Nickelodeon Store opened in Panama more than a year ago to serve fans of SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other Nick properties.
The company has since also opened a branded store in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a second Panama location and two stores in Honduras.
The Viacom International Media Networks unit sees the push into the branded stores business as a key revenue opportunity. Instead of operating the stores itself, like Disney does with its Disney Stores, the company works with a partner.
The London venue is the sixth Nickelodeon store, but the first in Europe.
"It's our first flagship store. This is our first store that is a destination store, including great consumer interaction on video screens, fixtures like Dora's tree and a pineapple that is from Bikini Bottom," said Ron Johnson, executive vp of consumer products at Viacom International Media Networks. "We definitely see flagship stores as a growth vehicle and working for us in the right markets across the world."
While the company is not ready to announce another flagship store, he tells THR that "we are definitely looking at places like Dubai, Shanghai, Paris and Milan."
Asked about the British capital store's location in Leicester Square, equivalent to New York's Times Square or the like, Johnson says: "We chose this spot because it is the number one footfall location in all of Europe. This square has more people passing through than anywhere in Europe." The location has about 35,000 people walking by every day, he adds.
The store's entrance floor offers a range of London- and U.K.-themed merchandise, such as a SpongeBob plush toy with a bearskin hat, a T-shirt featuring the SpongeBob crew's version of the Beatles' famous Abbey Road album cover and a T-shirt that says SpongeBob Leicester Square Pants.
How key is such localized product? "It's incredibly important," says Johnson. "We call it name-drop merchandising. It is stuff using the Union Jack, using the London name. It's about 15 percent of the selection in the store when it comes to items, but we think it will trend higher on the revenue side, maybe 20-25 percent. It is something that works well for us in markets where we have done this before."
For locals, it provides a chance to buy product with a globally beloved character or brand but at the same time getting something uniquely British, he explains. "And over half of those people [who walk by this location every day] are from other countries. When they come here, they are always looking for souvenirs," he adds. "So, the opportunity to pick up something that has a character that you love, like SpongeBob, and having a unique flair targeted to the country you are visiting works."
The upstairs area of the London store includes much more product, a pineapple iPad bar and an area with coloring sheets for kids, among other things.
Johnson says the Nickelodeon retail store business has so far done well. Adult business has been stronger than expected with loungewear and character items, such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, doing well.
The London store will look to regularly bring in new properties and ensure a large selection of adult apparel, says Johnson. "We also have some retro properties, such as Ren & Stimpy," he explains.
While supermarket giant Tesco and other retailers also feature Nick merchandise in Britain, he says his team expects the branded store to be additive to the company's retail business. "In this store, 80 percent of the merchandise is exclusive in this market," he says.
An orange-carpet event Friday evening will help celebrate the new store, with British talent expected to be on hand, and help raise additional awareness beyond foot traffic and on-air plugs.
With three more Nickelodeon stores expected to open this year, Johnson says there is more to come in Europe and beyond. "This will be our first store in Europe," he says. "And we think once partners see what's happening here, there will be more activity in Europe."