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Entertainment Steals the Show for 2015 Retail Sales

As in 2014, entertainment/character claimed the highest growth rate of any property type (except for the fledgling digital celebrities subcategory) at 8%. It seems hard to believe that entertainment licensing had declined every year from 2008 through 2012. That trend turned around in 2013 with 3.6% growth, followed by 6% growth in 2014.

Once again, growth in entertainment licensing was driven by Disney properties. “There’s Disney and there’s everyone else,” says one entertainment licensor executive. “Disney owns half the market and the rest is pretty fragmented.”

In 2014, the breakout Disney brand was Frozen; this year saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens break onto the scene. Global sales of the year’s hottest property began on September 4 with “Force Friday,” the official marketing campaign unprecedented in only in scale but in timing, kicking off a full 15 weeks ahead of the movie premiere.

Star Wars generated more than $700 million in retail toy sales, about one-third more than Frozen in 2014, according to NPD Group. But the force of Star Wars wasn’t limited to the usual product categories for blockbuster movies; it spanned beyond toys, video games, apparel and gifts/novelties to everything from shower curtains and duct tape to fresh produce. Analysts, including Tim Nollen of Macquarie Securities, predict Star Wars merchandise sales will reach $5 billion in the first full year, surpassing the $3 billion high for first year sales set by Cars 2 in 2011–12.

But like Frozen, Star Wars was a double-edged sword—or light saber—expanding the market for entertainment licensed goods but also taking share from other brands. “It was hard to get anything besides Star Wars on shelf,” says one agent. “Anything that did get on wouldn’t be taken very deep.”

Star Wars was just one of the mega-properties that dominated entertainment/character licensing in 2015. “It’s been a really big year for big entertainment brands,” said one licensor. Frozen continued its 2014 momentum. Other big sellers in 2015 included Minions and Avengers: Age of Ultron, as well as non-movie properties like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Paw Patrol and DinoTrux. “Because entertainment is working so well, people are chasing dollars in it,” according to a licensing consultant. However, the success of the mega-properties “is making it harder for other brands.”

Click here to read the full story, complete with a complete breakout of 2015 retail sales by product type and product category in the U.S. and Canada.


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