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Fashion, Entertainment & Corporate Brands Lead Globe

Global retail sales of licensed merchandise reached $171 billion in 2017, according to TLL’s Annual Licensing Business Survey.

Territories outside the U.S./Canada saw greater growth as a whole; international licensed retail sales grew 2.5% to reach $62 billion in 2017.

With the U.S./Canada generating $109 million in licensed sales, that means that internationally-based sales were just 36% of the global total. But that is set to change; over the next 10 years, U.S./Canada market share is expected to drop to just over 60%.

Entertainment/character-based licensed goods continue to grow at a faster rate than the other five major property types TLL tracks globally. But that growth is largely being driven by demand in the U.S./Canada—fashion-based brands are the fastest-growing property type internationally at 4.7% growth. Corporate trademarks/brands round out the top three property types for both domestic and international markets.

Retail sales and, more importantly, demand for movie and TV-based properties are on the rise in every territory we track. Superheros retain a supersized influence, with many Survey respondents still reporting double-digit sales growth for A-list properties like Marvel and DC Comics. Retro visualisations remain sought-after for merchandising.

Most international respondents report that retailers are snubbing other types of brands in favor of Disney licenses and movie-tie ins, with the result that the licensing market is becoming incredibly oversaturated and consumers are starting to feel the fatigue of seeing the same handful of brands.

But while the entertainment/character sector dominates pop-culture, other property types that are starting to seize the day. Social media is now a dominant means of fan engagement and marketing. Some Survey respondents are reporting that their largest retail sales gains have been from ecommerce rather than retail, where buy-ins are lower and margins are tighter.

Under the music umbrella, classic rock remains strong, but pop groups have also managed to make a comeback.

Estates of deceased popular idols, actors, musicians, and other public figures likewise have seen a resurgance in the last couple of years, especially with the rise of technology that allows such figures to come to life in concerts, stage shows, and other live events.

Growth of licensed fashion brands are largely being driven by Asia, with reasonably healthy growth in the rest of the world. While many major fashion houses are taking their licensing enterprises in-house in the U.S./Canada and Europe, they may be more willing to license in territories where their distribution networks are not as robust. For the deals that remain, there is a larger damand from a growing upper and middle class.

Sports brands continue to grow at a faster pace in the U.S./Canada than they do internationally. In part, this is because the major five American sports leagues have not seen their merchandising efforts overseas take off just yet, and in part because European soccer teams have started to cash in stateside.

Growth in retail sales of artist- and museum-based consumer goods were largely flat in 2017, thanks to depressed performance in licensed stationery/paper goods and a boost in sales of domestics and housewares.

Retail Sales of Licensed Merchandise, U.S./Canada vs. International, by Property Type, 2017
Note: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding.
(Figures in Millions)
Property TypeRetail Sales, 2017Change, 2016-2017
Corporate Trademarks/Brands$29,155$7,6102.5%2.8%

Growth in international licensed retail sales outpaced that observed in the U.S./Canada for six out of eight product categories TLL tracks globally.

Licensed food/beverage goods jumped 5.8% in retail sales, while the home furnishings/housewares/domestics categor grew 5.4% globally in 2017. But the two categories, combined, generated less dollar growth than apparel/accessories/footwear in 2017, which grew 2.8% to add $1.9 billion in value to reach almost $70 billion in retail sales.

Thanks in part to entertainment and fashion brands, apparel/accessories/footwear grew 3.3% internationally. The fastest-growing price point in this category was discount and low-priced wearables; in part because department and other high-priced retailers grew more discerning over which products they would accept on shelves.

Most notably, there was a 6.9 percentage point difference in growth rates for toys/games in 2017. Thanks in part to that divergence, the international market for licensed toys/games is worth approximately $3 billion more than the domestic U.S./Canadian market. Although the Toys ‘R’ Us bankruptcy softened the U.S. and U.K. toy markets in particular (the latter also had the double-blow of Brexit), most of the rest of the world recorded healthy sales.

Retail Sales of Licensed Merchandise, U.S./Canada vs. International, by Product Category, 2017
Note: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding.
(Figures in Millions)
Product CategoryRetail Sales, 2017Change, 2016-2017
Apparel/Accessories/ Footwear$42,843$26,8972.5%3.3%
Toys/Interactive Games$7,703$11,057-4.4%2.5%
Home Furnishings/ Housewares/Domestics$10,241$3,0656.2%2.7%


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