MCV's guide to the top merchandise firms and products

Marie Dealessandri
MCV's guide to the top merchandise firms and products

From indie outlets to worldwide distributors, we talk to the top merchandise firms in the industry.

Fangamer

Location: Tucson, Arizona (USA)

Headcount: 24 

Key brands:  Double Fine, Yacht Club ames, Undertale 

Key contact: Customer relations and designer Laura Verdin, laura@fangamer.com

Fangamer is a small community-focused US-based merchandise company, specialising in indie merch. Undertale, Yooka-Laylee, Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight and Hyper Light Drifter are among the titles covered, with an extensive catalogue of products including pins, exclusive prints and T-shirts designs, plushes, figures, books and more. It should be noted that Fangamer is primarily an online retailer – the firm does rely on brick and mortar stores to sell its products, but on a case-by-case basis to small family run gaming or hobby shops. Fangamer stands out from the crowd of the merch firms thanks to its unique offerings. Fancy an Octodad tie? You’ll find it on Fangamer.

Featured product: The Undertale Little Buddies

Modeled by Dutch sculptor Gijs van Kootenm, this set of five Undertale figurines comes in a windowed collector’s box. The figurines, all hand-painted, range in size from 2.5 to 3.6 inches tall and have a removable base. They can also be bought separately, too, for $15 (£11) each.

Price: $70 (£55) 

Manufacturer: Happy Worker


Five Element Distribution

Location:
Hertfordshire

Headcount: 3

Turnover: £500k

Key brands: Super Mario, Zelda, Pokémon, Sonic the Hedgehog, Minecraft, Assassin’s Creed, Game of Thrones, Adventure Time, DC Universe, Marvel, Plants vs Zombies, Star Trek, Star Wars, South Park, Dragon Ball

Key contact: Director Steve Nicholas, fiveelementdistribution@gmail.com

Five Element Distribution has an extensive catalogue of licences, primarily from Nintendo flagship franchises. Super Mario, Zelda and Pokémon are among these licences, with Five Element also distributing officially licensed products from other triple-A titles such as Minecraft and Assassin’s Creed, as well as pop culture brands like Star Wars, Harry Potter, Disney, Marvel and more.

Featured product: Pikachu Plush with Ash Hat

Pokémon fans never grow tired of Pikachu. Luckily for them, there are endless options for Pikachu merch on the market, including this plush distributed by Five Element.

Price: £16.99 

Manufacturer: Tomy


Gaming Merchandise UK

Location: Kidderminster, Worcestershire

Headcount: 6

Turnover: £2m-£4m

Key brands: Gaya Entertainment, Bioworld Europe, GB Eye, Jinx, Level Up Wear, Musterbrand

Key contact: Founder and director Luiz Ferreira, luiz@gamingmerchandiseuk.com

GM UK has been a key player in the merchandise scene ever since its inception in 2013. “We have an extensive range of merchandise from clothing and apparel to homewares and collectable statues and figures,” founder and director Luiz Ferreira tells MCV. “If retailers invest in a range of merchandise it will deliver incremental revenue and increase margins while adding value to their customer experience.” GM UK doesn’t just work on triple-A titles, though, as it also invests in indie merchandise - a growing category, Ferreira adds: “We are working on a range for Chucklefish Games indie farming simulator Stardew Valley - a range which includes clothing, accessories and, of course, the range of plush toys.”

Featured product: Stardew Valley Junimo Plush

Nothing is mandatory in Stardew Valley but one of the quests facing the player is helping the lovely Junimos to repair the Community Center by bringing them various products. They’re the cutest fellows ever and they’re now available in plush form.

Price: £24.99

Manufacturer: Gaya Entertainment


 

Heo UK

Location: Fulbourn, Cambridge

Headcount: 140

Key brands: Hot Toys, Hasbro, Kotobukiya, Good Smile Company, Funko, Sideshow Collectibles, First 4 Figures, McFarlane Toys, Bandai, LEGO, Bioworld, Hollywood Collectibles, Think Geek, Dark Horse, Gaming Heads, Winning Moves, Jinx

Key contact: Managing director Tom Pelly, 01223 789 780 or tom.pelly@heo.com

With over 250 brands, Germany-based Heo is one of the largest distributors in Europe, with offices in the UK, France, Spain, Italy and even outside of Europe, in Japan, the US and Hong Kong. “Heo works with the largest range of manufacturers of any distributor in Europe,” MD Tom Pelly tells MCV. “We are a one-stop-shop for all licensed collectibles and merchandise. From low-end items likes mugs and key chains, right up to high end life-sized statues – and everything in between – we carry nearly 25,000 SKUs.”

He continues: “Heo offers its partners an intuitive website, detailing all product information and images, along with in-stock status. Over 80 per cent of products listed are in stock at any time, enabling convenient and immediate shipping on orders.“

Featured product: The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild Statue

This 25cm statue of Link was created to celebrate the launch of Breath of the Wild in March. It’ll release in early June and is available to pre-order.

Price: £60.99

Manufacturer: First 4 Figures


Iron Gut Publishing

Location: Holmes Chapel, Cheshire

Headcount: Less than 10

Key brands: Sony, Capcom, Sega, Flash Gordon, Shepperton Studios, Mr Benn  

Key contact: Managing director Anthony Marks, sales@irongutpublishing.com

At Iron Gut Publishing, quality is more important than quantity, as the small merch company specialises in limited edition prints for the likes of Sony, Sega or Capcom.

“We are in the process of signing a license with a major Hollywood studio,” MD Anthony Marks tells MCV. “This license will give us access to most of the most iconic films from the past twenty years, all our collectable affordable artwork will be available in mail order packaging for online retail, as well as framed for the High Street. We will be announcing this major new licensing agreement next month.”

In the meantime, there’s still plenty to choose from at Iron Gut, including a brand new Star Wars collection following a new partnership with Shepperton Design Studios.

Featured product: Sonic limited edition print

Created for Sonic’s 25th anniversary last year, this collectable artwork is produced on 300gsm textured paper, and limited to only 995 worldwide, hand numbered and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Sega.

Price:£18

Manufacturer: Iron Gut


Musterbrand

Location: Hamburg, Germany

Headcount: 10+

Key brands: Star Wars, Nintendo, Street Fighter, Game of Thrones, Assassin’s Creed, Warcraft, Uncharted 

Key contact: Sales manager Henrik Lünzmann, henrik.luenzmann@musterbrand.com

High-end apparel designer Musterbrand is both manufacturer and distributor of its products, even though it also partners with international distributors such as GM UK. Founded in 2010, it works closely with a game’s development team to create unique apparel and accessories.

“We’re currently working on extending our highly acclaimed Zelda collection to include Breath of the Wild designs,” says marketing manager Karrie Shirou.

By the time you read this, Musterbrand will also have announced its first ever shoes as well, part of its Star Wars collection.

Shirou continues: “Retailers should look at our products because they’re high quality designer fashion that resonates with fans who want to show off their fandom in fashionable ways. Our Zelda collection has sold out worldwide – twice!”

Featured product: The Legend of Zelda collection, Link shirt

Get the Link look with this long-sleeve shirt. It features great details such as Triforce embroidery and Link’s trademark pointed hood.

Price: €59 (£50)

Manufacturer: Musterbrand


Rubber Road

Location: Welwyn Garden City & Newcastle

Headcount: 18

Turnover: £7m

Key brands: Disney, PlayStation, Activision, Sega, Capcom, Ubisoft, Bandai Namco, EA, Atari, Bethesda, 2K, King

Key contact: Commercial director Liam Taylor, liam.taylor@rubberroad.co.uk

Distributor Rubber Road is best known for being the mother company of merchandise designer Numskull. They work closely with triple-A publishers such as Sony, Sega, Capcom, Ubisoft and Bandai Namco.

“We are launching retro Tekken merchandise products next month to celebrate Tekken 7,” commercial director Liam Taylor tells MCV. “A very cool range of Crash Bandicoot merchandise has also just been announced to our partners, with great success as it’s so unique. September will witness Destiny 2 products – and we really can’t wait to announce the concepts we have been working on secretly… Expect new PlayStation, Sega and Atari retro ranges coming too.”

Featured product: Crash Bandicoot Limited Edition Pin Badge Set

To celebrate the upcoming release of Sony’s highly awaited Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy on June 30th, Rubber Road is releasing this limited edition pin badge set, which includes all the iconic Crash Bandicoot characters and items. 

Price: £19.99

Manufacturer: Numskull


The merchandise market is not just B2B business - you can read Part Two of our guide to the top merch firms and products here, where we catch up with Insert Coin.

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Tags: Licensing , merchandise , feature , insert coin

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