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Art Licensing Hits $9.23 Billion in Retail Sales in 2017

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Licensed retail sales of art-based merchandise grew just 4% over the last 5 years in the U.S./Canada compared to 16% worldwide, according to TLL’s Annual Licensing Business Survey.

In 2017, the product category grew 1.8% from the previous year to reach $5.86 billion in licensed retail sales in the U.S./Canada—and by the same amount worldwide to reach a total $9.23 billion.

While the U.S./Canada makes up nearly three-fourths of worldwide licensed retail sales for art-based bands, the smaller International segment surged nearly 50% in size over the last five years. The share of International-based sales increased by one percentage point in 2017; the category is expected to gradually catch up to the volume of domestic sales.

Outside of the U.S./Canada, Europe and Asia are the largest territories by retail sales of licensed art products. Specifically, the U.K. and Japan have the largest share in their respective territories. That is not to say that competition on world stage is not fierce, however, from U.S.- and Europe-based entertainment/character brands in the children’s space and fashion brands in the adult space.

Survey: Size & Sales per the Source Book

Museum-based programs have a slightly larger impact internationally than they do in the U.S./Canada. According to The Licensing Letter Source Book, the ratio of “art & artist” to “museum” brand licensors was 89% to 11%, while internationally, it was 74% to 26%.

U.S.-based licensors of art brands make up 88% of the total listings in the Source Book, followed by the U.K. (29% of all international listings), Asia (24%), Canada and the rest of Europe (15% each), and Australia/New Zealand and Latin America (9% each).

Most art licensors are small outfits, with 69% reporting 1–3 employees that are at least part-time. Twenty-three percent have 4–9 employees, followed by 4% each with 10–25 and 100+ employees (none self-reported 26–99 workers).

By that same measure, over half of all art licensors (67%) reported annual licensed retail sales of under $500,000—compared to 10% who had $500,000 to $1 million in sales; 10% with $1–2 million, 5% with $2–3 million, and 10% with over $3 million.

Please note that just under 10% of art licensors listed in the Source Book opted to share the number of employees and/or the amount of retail sales enjoyed by their companies—not enough for a statistically sound assessment of the industry.


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