SERT-MST wants to put the stars of the screen in bathrooms across the UK with its new line of licensed toiletries. But, as Elinor Zuke asks, are supermarkets ready for the Power Rangers?
Sabir Tayub doesn’t dress like the boss of a £116m-a-year company. He cuts an incongruous figure when we meet, in his executive chair wearing a hoodie. It may be dress-down Friday at the offices of toiletries wholesaler SERT-MST, but still Tayub seems a little too relaxed. After all, he has set himself the task of almost doubling sales to £200m in the next 18 months by forging into licensed toiletries, a category the supermarkets have so far shown little interest in.
That hasn’t stopped him forking out £500,000 for 18 licences to produce and distribute toiletries in the UK and Ireland under a range of kids’ film and TV brands including the Care Bears, Horrid Henry, Garfield and Transformers. He’s also committed to delivering another half a million in royalties when the products hit the shelves. If sales aren’t up to scratch that figure will come out of his pocket.
But he appears almost blasé about the risks involved. “If we haven’t sold enough, that’s tough,” he says. “We felt we needed a good portfolio before we started. Having so many is a powerful statement.” In fact, the portfolio looks set to grow. Tayub claims he’s in talks for 12 more. So how’s he going to make the gamble pay off?
SERT-MST today supplies 6,000 indies including pharmacies, as well as Nisa-Today’s and Landmark members, with toiletries, home and petcare products after Tayub spotted what he saw as a weakness in these categories in the independent sector when he set up business in 1997. But it’s the giants that hold the key to success in Tayub’s new foray into licensed goods.
Although he’s enthusiastic about all his brands, there’s one licence in particular that he thinks will be attractive to the mults. “In 2012 Power Rangers is going to be huge. It’s phenomenal,” he says. “They’ve got a film and a huge series coming out. You’ll see it and think ‘wow’.”
So will the supermarkets, he hopes. Tayub favours a model where lines would be exclusive to one supermarket and sold through independents. But the licensors are less keen on the discount route. “None of them want us to take everything in and stick it in Aldi, Lidl, pound stores and so on. We expect people to pay a premium on a licence,” says Tayub.
They won’t if there’s not a clear difference between what’s on offer, so Tayub is keen to emphasise that his will not simply be the same products packaged under different licences. “The bubble bath in every bottle will be different,” he says, adding that he is particularly enthusiastic about SERT-MST’s Horrid Henry hand soap, green like the goo associated with the kids’ character and packaged in a clear bottle.
The product also has to be quality, if shoppers are going to forego established brands in their favour. So Tayub has to ensure standards are met across factories in 24 countries. “People know you’re not going to put any old thing in a heritage brand like Noddy,” he says. “Quality is going to be paramount because we want repeat purchases that’s the whole idea.”
And only then can Tayub really relax.