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Fashion Brand-based Growth Led by Accessories; Bags, Headwear Big Winners of 2018

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Retail sales of licensed fashion brand-based merchandise grew 1.6% in 2018 in the U.S. and Canada to reach $22.1 billion, according to The Licensing Letter’s Annual Licensing Business Survey.

Growth in the property type was largely fueled by accessories (1.7% or $140 million) and apparel (1.7% or $129 million), which accounted for roughly four-fifths of all dollar growth. Specifically, 41% of all growth in fashion-based  sales came from licensed accessories.

The largest-grossing product category for licensed fashion goods, accessories, jumped 1.7% to reach $8.2 billion in sales in 2018.

Growth in licensed eyewear was relatively flat at just 0.9% to reach $2.5 billion in retail sales, thanks in part to a continuing trend of fashion brands bringing production in-house. This trend is expected to reverse quickly in 2019, with more licenses in the category as well as an overall uptick in eyewear sales (in particular, licensed prescription glasses as well as mid-range sunglasses).

Fashion-based headwear sales jumped 1.9% to reach almost $1.9 billion in licensed retail sales, with the bulk of growth emerging from mid- to high-end streetwear. Baseball caps are one of the biggest sub-categories, but other styles like bucket hats, boonie hats, and caps are also popular, especially amongst younger consumers.

Jewelry and watches jumped 1.9% to hit $1.2 billion in licensed fashion sales, reflecting poor general growth in the category rather than a dip in licensed brands specifically.

Sales of luggage and travel accessories were up 4.1%, the fastest-growing sub-category within licensed fashion accessories, for a total of $349 million. The $14 million in growth in 2018 from this sub-category is largely driven by a new influx of fashion licenses over the last three years, and sales are expected to remain strong. Handbags, backpacks, and messenger bags jumped 3.9% to reach $761 million, despite relatively slow sales in the overall general market.

Licensed fashion-based hosiery sales were up 2.5% to reach $791 million, a sign of steady growth propelled in large part by socks. While a large portion os the sub-category is still dominated by leggings, patterned compression socks were one of the fastest-growing categories in 2018 and are expected to remain strong.

Scarves and ties saw some of the weakest performance among all accessories sales, with just 0.9% growth ($1 million dollar growth) for a total of $100 million in licensed sales. Licensed ties are expected to make a comeback this year in addition to closely related accessories such as tie clips.

Other accessories include cold weather goods (not including scarves), gloves, belts, and small leather goods such as wallets saw relatively flat growth overall at 0.6% to reach $663 million.

Retail Sales of Licensed Fashion Accessories, 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
Eyewear $2,497 $2,475 0.9% 30.4%
Jewelry and Watches $1,172 $1,150 1.9% 14.3%
Handbags, Backpacks, Messenger Bags $761 $738 3.2% 9.3%
Luggage and Travel Accessories $349 $335 4.1% 4.2%
Headwear $1,872 $1,837 1.9% 22.8%
Hosiery $791 $772 2.5% 9.6%
Scarves and Ties $100 $99 0.9% 1.2%
Other $663 $659 0.6% 8.1%
Total Accessories $8,204 $8,064 1.7% 100.0%


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