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Art-based Licensing Jumps 1.3%; Commercial Artists Drive Growth in Home Goods

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Retail sales of licensed art-based merchandise jumped 1.3% in 2018 within the U.S. and Canada to reach $5.9 billion. The art and artists sub-category led with 1.4% growth ($61 million), while museum-based licenses drove 1.0% growth ($15 million) in licensed retail sales.

International sales outside of the U.S. and Canada outpaced domestic growth, jumping 1.6% to reach $3.2 billion in sales. All in all, worldwide sales of art-based licensed goods totalled $9.2 billion in 2018.

The largest product category for art-based licensed retail sales in the U.S. and Canada slumped with just 1.0% growth; stationery and paper goods reached $1.5 billion in 2018. Examples of popular goods within the category include calendars, diaries, notebooks, planners, and writing instruments. While discount channels observed steady growth, surprisingly, higher-end and specialty channels did not falter but were a bright spot of growth among all licensed sales.

The second-largest gifts and novelties category, on the other hand, dipped -0.4% to reach $1.1 billion in sales, unable to avoid the fate of industry-wide trends.

Sales of publishing goods were up 2.1% to reach $946 million. Licensed coloring books continue to do well, but naturally command lower volume of sales compared to the trend’s heyday.

The fastest-growing categories were home-based goods, up 2.5% collectively to reach $1.3 billion in licensed sales. Specifically, housewares were up 1.9%, domestics up 3.3%, and furniture/home furnishings up 2.6%. Most of the gains in home goods emerged from commercial artists, but select museum programs continue to deliver steady sales from existing licensing programs.

Sales of licensed art-based infant products were down -0.9% to reach $458 million in sales, largely thanks to lower overall sales for infant goods. Overall, art properties are performing quite well relative to other property types for the product category.

Accessories sales were up 2.6% to reach $336 million in sale, while apparel was up 3.3% to reach $238 million. Museums and popular artists drove most of the growth in these two categories with high-end fashion collaborations.

Other product categories were relatively flat with 1.7% growth to round out $90 million in licensed sales. Notable products in this catch-all category include home improvement aids such as painting or gardening tools as well as health and beauty aids.

Retail Sales of Licensed Art Merchandise, by Product Category, U.S. & Canada, 2017–2018
Note: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding.
(Figures in millions)
Product Category Retail Sales, 2018 Retail Sales, 2017 Change, 2017–2018 Share, 2018
Accessories $336 $328 2.6% 5.7%
Apparel $238 $231 3.3% 4.0%
Domestics $449 $435 3.3% 7.6%
Furniture/Home Furnishings $278 $271 2.6% 4.7%
Gifts/Novelties $1,064 $1,069 -0.4% 17.9%
Housewares $620 $608 1.9% 10.4%
Infant Products $458 $462 -0.9% 7.7%
Publishing $946 $926 2.1% 15.9%
Stationery/Paper $1,454 $1,439 1.0% 24.5%
Other $90 $89 1.7% 1.5%
Total $5,934 $5,858 1.3% 100.0%


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