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European Licensed Sales Up 1.8%; Western Europe Shines

The European territory experienced retatively flat growth (1.8%) with $32.9 billion in licensed retail sales in 2016, according to TLL’s 2017 Licensing Business Survey. But behind the average, several countries out-performed worldwide average growth of 2.7% in 2016.

Visit the Licensing Data Bank for more charts and data here. And contact Jen at for more information on 9th Edition of TLL‘s upcoming International Licensing: A Status Report, which features more in-depth insights on the territory.

Western Europe

The great East-West divide of recent years continues. It seems hard to believe that just a few years ago, Eastern Europe was the bright spot and Western Europe was in decline.

But in 2014, Western Europe turned around three years of decline to post 0.5% growth, following that with growth of 1.5% in 2015. The directionality continued in 2016 with 1.9% growth. As in the U.S., Survey respondents reported that entertainment/character drove sales in Western Europe.

Country-wise, the U.K. saw the highest gain at 3.6% ($7.6 billion total sales). However, many expressed concerns for at least 1Q 2017 and perhaps beyond in the U.K. as a result of Brexit. Fluctuating exchange rates, higher import costs, and copyright law changes are among the key Brexit worries. Based on preliminary reports however, it is unlikely that the country will face steep declines in retail sales.

Europe’s second leading economy for licensed sales, France, had a soft year with only 1.5% growth. It was so bad in France that some respondents even reported that many Disney properties underperformed expectations. Given its dominant market position, dips by Disney are bound to ripple and reduce retailers’ confidence in less-proven licensed brands.

Germany, which led Western Europe with 3.6% growth in 2015, lost a little steam with 2.6% growth this year ($5.5 billion). Licensed activity remains strong in categories like food & beverage, clothing, home goods, furniture and personal care goods.

Ireland/Eire (3.1%), Spain (2.2%), and the Netherlands (1.8%) were the only other countries in Western Europe to show appreciable growth—but considering how poorly they fared in years prior, it was a large show of growth. Greece, which dramatically plunged 25.6% in 2015, bounced back with -5.0% growth in 2016. Having reached the bottom, Greece had nowhere to go but up.

Central & Eastern Europe

For the past three years, the CEE region has been considered the “sick man of Europe.” Declines continued in 2016 but at a much reduced rate (1.1% vs. 8.7% in 2015).

Several countries in the territory, particularly the ones that are relatively insulated from the Russian economy, have been doing well. These include Poland (2.1% growth) and the Czech Republic (3.0%).

But the continued troubles of the territory’s most dominant economy, Russia, continues to pull down overall performance. This year, Russia fell 5.6% to $214 million.

Top European Countries by Retail Sales

The top sixteen spots go to Western Europe, with the U.K. and France leading the pack for retail sales of licensed merchandise in 2016.

Top European Countries, Ranked by Total Retail Sales of Licensed Merchandise, 2015–2016
Notes: Figures are for retail sales of all licensed merchandise for calendar year 2014. Does not include: Content licensing such as DVDs; products created through in-house divisions rather than through licensing agreements with third parties (e.g. toys at Mattel or Hasbro or Pokemon video games from Nintendo); or nonretail products such as touring shows, theme park attractions, cruises, gambling/lotteries, and the like.
N/A = not available
Rank, 2016 Country Retail Sales, 2016 Retail Sales, 2015 Change, 2015–2016 Share of European Sales, 2016
1 U.K. $7,593 $7,329 3.6% 23.1%
2 France $6,521 $6,425 1.5% 19.8%
3 Germany $5,507 $5,368 2.6% 16.7%
4 Italy $4,390 $4,368 0.5% 13.4%
5 Spain $1,716 $1,679 2.2% 5.2%
6 Netherlands $1,340 $1,316 1.8% 4.1%
7 Belgium $861 $857 0.5% 2.6%
8 Sweden $764 $753 1.5% 2.3%
9 Turkey $523 $521 0.5% 1.6%
10 Austria $495 $495 0.0% 1.5%
11 Switzerland $450 $452 -0.5% 1.4%
12 Denmark $441 $436 1.0% 1.3%
13 Finland $312 $316 -1.2% 1.0%
14 Portugal $287 $284 0.9% 0.9%
15 Norway $284 $286 -1.0% 0.9%
16 Greece $220 $232 -5.0% 0.7%
17 Russia $214 $226 -5.6% 0.6%
18 Ireland/Eire $151 $146 3.1% 0.5%
19 Poland $126 $123 2.1% 0.4%
20 Czech Republic $63 $62 3.0% 0.2%
21 Hungary $58 $56 2.2% 0.2%
22 Iceland $40 $39 2.5% 0.1%
23 Luxembourg $20 $20 1.0% 0.1%
Others Western Europe $419 $415 1.0% 1.3%
Others Central and Eastern Europe $86 $85 1.0% 0.3%
Total Europe $32,881 $32,291 1.8% 100.0%

Property Types to Watch

While the major source of growth worldwide on the property type side of the equation were fueled by brands from the U.S./Canada (almost 65% of the global market for licensed goods), European-based properties account for 15.5% of total share. Retail sales of European brands around the world grew 2.1% in 2016 compared to one year ago, and a whopping 6.5% compared to just five years previously.

European sports teams (i.e., football), kid’s entertainment/character properties (especially preschool series like Peppa Pig and Masha and the Bear), mobile game apps (Angry Birds), and scripted TV Shows (Doctor Who) are some notable areas of growth.

European dominance is particularly evident in luxury menswear. Prime retail space around the world is consistently stocked with Gucci, Emernegildo Zegna, Dior, Saint Laurent, and other Italian and French brands.

Football Dominates Sports Brands

Although tastes differ from country to country, football remains the world’s most popular sport and a leading generator of licensed sales. Every major country in Europe has a top-rung soccer league, or a national version of the NFL. Although national teams tend to move the most merchandise in Olympic and World Cup years, products tied to the local clubs from these leagues are the true engines of growth.

But because they are so localized, club teams in Europe have smaller local markets than the American NFL, MLB, or NBA teams. Fans are also wired differently. In the U.S., team loyalty exhibited by wearing the jersey is an inherent part of being a fan in good times, bad, and everything in-between. In Europe, by contrast, buying a team jersey is a kind of celebration of success.

Accordingly, European pro soccer licensing has been the historic domain of a handful of blue bloods who seem to win or at least contend for championships every year—for example, Manchester United, Réal Madrid, Barcelona FC, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Paris St. Germain, and Juventus.

The true growth from these teams lies in targeting foreign fans, such as U.S. Hispanics and new territories like Asia and Africa who are getting a front-row seat to the 2018 World Cup.


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