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U.S. & Canada

Licensed Retail Sales in U.S. & Canada Jump 3.2% to Reach $114 Billion in 2019

Retail Sales of Licensed Merchandise, U.S. & Canada, 2015–2019
Contact the editor at karina@plainlanguagemedia.com

Licensed retail sales in the U.S. and Canada jumped 3.2% in 2019 to reach $114.0 billion in total, according to TLL’s Annual Licensing Business Survey.

This last year marks the fastest growth in licensed retail sales since 2016, when licensed retail sales also increased by 3.2% from the previous year. In 2017, sales grew by just 2.3% and in 2018 growth was even slower at 1.4% change.

Retail Sales of Licensed Merchandise, U.S. & Canada, 2015–2019

Corporate Trademarks/Brands Lead Growth Among Property Types

Retail sales of licensed merchandise based on corporate trademarks and brands jumped 4.2% in 2019 to reach $31 billion. As the largest property type TLL tracks, trademarks/brands comprised 27.2% of all licensed retail sales in the U.S. and Canada, from from 26.9% share in 2018. The property type added $1.2 billion in dollar sales compared to 2018.

The food- and beverage-based brands category was up 3.2%, or $267 million, for a total of $8.6 billion in licensed retail sales. As the largest sub-category under corporate trademarks, food and beverage brands make up 7.6% of all licensed retail sales in the U.S. and Canada. The biggest pockets of growth in this category were extensions of existing lines into newly licensed adjacent categories in grocery. A handful of A-list brands bridge the gap into pop culture with licensed lines including apparel, accessories, and novelties. The fastest-growing extension categories this last year included plush, stationery, and housewares.

Licensed sales for restaurant brands were up by 2.6% to reach $4.9 billion. Frozen, refrigerated, and pre-made meal kits continue to be the driving force behind the uptick, with sales up by $125 million. Publishing continued to be a stable revenue source throughout 2019.

Automotive and motor vehicle brands saw stable 3.4% growth thanks to particularly strong performance in automotive accessories (the product category was up a stunning 10.0%) as well as in toys/games and video games/software. The property type counted $4.5 billion in licensed retail sales.

Electronics and technology brands jumped 6.5%, or $226 million, to reach $3.7 billion in sales. The property type saw a boost thanks to steady growth in sales of licensed consumer electronics as well as new activity in housewares and gifts/novelties goods with tech-embedded capabilities.

Hardware-, appliance-, and tool-based brands recorded a strong 8.0% performance in 2019, reaching $3.7 billion. A significant share of sales was attributed to growth in hardware and paint, gardening, and housewares as well as steady performance in toys and games licensed lines for selected brands.

Sporting goods was up 4.4%, or $59 million, to reach $1.4 billion in licensed retail sales. While most growth was in adjacent extensions for licensed sporting goods, there was positive activity in health and beauty aids as well as publishing products in 2019.

Sales of home-related brands jumped 13.0%, or just $55 million, to reach $481 million. Note that these brands do not include those connected with home designers and influencers (whose sales are captured under the broader “celebrities” category) or interior home design brands (captured under “fashion”) but instead capture consumer brands for home maintenance, cleaning, and lifestyle. The bulk of activity under the category remains in cross-licensing (e.g., a fabric softener and a detergent brand collaborating on a cleaning product) despite the fact that such deals often have smaller royalties than traditional licensing arrangements. There has been growing activity in pop-culture goods such as apparel, accessories, and novelties over the last two years.

Electronic media brands were up 6.0% last year, or $14 million, for a total of $245 million in licensed retail sales in 2019. Such particularly strong performance has been a result of new licensing programs launched in previous years growing into their own.

Sales of fashion-based brands jumped 2.4% in 2019, up $529 million from the previous year to reach $22.6 billion. As the second-largest major property type TLL tracks, fashion brands contributed 19.9% of all licensed retail sales in the U.S. and Canada, down from an even 20.0% in 2018. The bulk of licensed sales are associated with accessories and apparel in adjacent categories, which have sustained steady growth over the last decade. The most dynamic product category for the fashion property type was health and beauty aids, which saw slower growth in fragrance but dramatic jumps in the upstart cosmetics sub-category.

Apparel-based fashion brands saw the greatest dollar increase among all sub-types TLL tracks with a $373 million jump in licensed retail sales to reach $19.1 billion in value.

Footwear brands jumped 2.4%, or $97 million, over the year to reach $2.8 billion in sales. The largest category for growth in 2019 for this sub-type was licensed apparel, which also happens to take up the lion’s share of sales.

Home-based fashion brands saw stunning 7.8% growth with sales up $58 million to reach $804 million in total. The increase in sales had its root in home-related adjacent licensed goods categories such as domestics, furniture/home furnishings, and housewares.

Sports-based brand sales were up 3.2%, or $516 million, to reach $16.7 billion. Strong apparel sales buoyed licensed sales for the property type over 2019 with bright spots of growth including video games/software, accessories, footwear, and gifts/novelties.

Entertainment- and character-based brands recovered from a -1.3% decline in 2018 to jump 3.7% this year. With an additional $483 million in sales in 2019, the property type reached $13.5 billion in licensed retail sales for the year. The category continues to slowly take up a larger share of licensed sales in the U.S. and Canada, with its share up to 11.9% of total sales. Disney properties such as Frozen and Marvel continue to be the biggest-grossing entertainment brands, driving a good share of the $483 million added to the category in 2019. Preschool brands continued to perform positively, while film-based properties lagged in retail sales this last year.

Celebrity-based properties saw a 2.3% increase, or $137 million, for total of $6.2 billion in licensed retail sales. The property type slid in share this year, dropping to 5.4% share of all U.S. and Canada retail sales. The largest sub-type, entertainers and models, had relatively slow sales growth of 1.2% despite jumping 2.2% in 2018. Chefs and home-related celebrities likewise saw 1.4% growth, compared to 1.9% in the previous year. Licensed retail sales associated with traditional celebrities dipped in favor of new online- and social media-based influencers, included in the “other” sub-type, and helped add $73 million to the catch-all category.

Licensed retail sales of art-based properties were up 3.1%, adding $181 million in 2019 for total sales of $6.1 billion. The weak performance of licensed publishing and stationery products, the largest product categories for art-based brands, did not entirely depress growth thanks to positive growth in gifts and novelties. The art and artists sub-type was up 2.9%, or $128 million, to reach $4.6 billion in sales thanks in part to positive performance in apparel and accessories. The smaller museums sub-type jumped 3.5%, or $53 million, for $1.6 billion in sales with a larger share of growth attributable to toys and games.

Publishing-based brands were up 2.2%, adding $104 million for total licensed sales of $4.8 billion. The property type’s share of total sales dropped to 4.2% in 2019. The largest sub-type, newspapers and magazines, was up by a relatively slow 1.7% thanks to puttering lifestyle programs. Comic books and strips were up 3.1%, while books were up 3.0% in 2019.

Collegiate-based brands were up 3.0%, or $15 million, to reach $3.7 billion in licensed retail sales.

Music was flat at 1.0% growth, remaining at $2.5 billion with just $25 in growth compared to the previous year. In 2018, sales had increased 2.1%; this slow-down in growth led to music losing its share of total licensed sales to dip to 2.2% the following year.

Licensed sales of brands based on estate properties tracked the national average with 3.3% growth, up $78 million to reach $2.4 billion. This last year marks the highest growth rate for the property type since TLL first began tracking its sales.

Traditional toys and games were up 2.6% in 2019 after declining by -1.1% in 2018, rebounding to a total of $1.5 billion in licensed sales. Notable categories of growth included accessories, novelties, and toys/games.

Non-profits were up 4.1% following years of flat growth, generating $51 million over the year to reach $1.3 billion.

Video game-, interactive-, and online-based brands saw 2.3% growth in sales over this last year following rapid 9.0% growth in 2018. With an additional $16 million in sales over 2019, the property type counts $698 million in licensed retail sales.

Share of Retail Sales of Licensed Merchandise, Based on Property Type, U.S. & Canada, 2019

Retail Sales of Licensed Merchandise, by Property Type, U.S./Canada, 2018–2018
Note: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding.
Figures in Millions USD
Property Type Retail Sales, 2019 Retail Sales, 2018 Change, 2018–2019 Share, 2019
Art $6,116 $5,934 3.1% 5.4%
Art and Artists $4,552 $4,423 2.9% 4.0%
Museums $1,564 $1,511 3.5% 1.4%
Celebrities $6,195 $6,058 2.3% 5.4%
Entertainers/Models $2,746 $2,714 1.2% 2.4%
Chefs/Home-Related $2,268 $2,236 1.4% 2.0%
Digital/Other $1,181 $1,108 6.6% 1.0%
Collegiate $3,733 $3,624 3.0% 3.3%
Entertainment/Character $13,526 $13,043 3.7% 11.9%
Estates $2,431 $2,354 3.3% 2.1%
Fashion $22,644 $22,116 2.4% 19.9%
Apparel $19,054 $18,681 2.0% 16.7%
Footwear $2,786 $2,689 3.6% 2.4%
Home $804 $746 7.8% 0.7%
Music $2,556 $2,530 1.0% 2.2%
Non-profit $1,300 $1,248 4.1% 1.1%
Publishing $4,814 $4,710 2.2% 4.2%
Books $2,982 $2,932 1.7% 2.6%
Newspapers/Magazines $1,328 $1,288 3.1% 1.2%
Comic Books/Strips $505 $490 3.0% 0.4%
Sports $16,655 $16,138 3.2% 14.6%
Trademarks/Brands $31,006 $29,764 4.2% 27.2%
Automotive/Motor Vehicle $8,622 $8,355 3.2% 7.6%
Food/Beverage $4,913 $4,789 2.6% 4.3%
Restaurants $4,528 $4,379 3.4% 4.0%
Sporting Goods $3,701 $3,475 6.5% 3.2%
Hardware, Appliance and Tool $3,403 $3,151 8.0% 3.0%
Home-related $1,409 $1,349 4.4% 1.2%
Electronics/Technology $481 $425 13.0% 0.4%
Electronic Media $245 $231 6.0% 0.2%
Other $3,704 $3,610 2.6% 3.2%
Traditional Toys/Games $1,454 $1,417 2.6% 1.3%
Video games/Interactive/Online $698 $682 2.3% 0.6%
Other $876 $868 1.0% 0.8%
TOTAL $114,003 $110,488 3.2% 100.0%

Licensed Apparel & Accessories Contribute 40% of Growth in Sales by Product Category

The largest share of licensed retail sales in the U.S. and Canada is attributed to apparel and accessories goods, which make up a combined 34.6% share of sales. These two categories punch above their weight class, contributing 40.5% of all dollar sales growth in the U.S. and Canada for 2019.

Licensed apparel sales jumped by 3.7% on 2019, up $816 million to reach $22.9 billion in sales. Positive growth came from every major property type TLL tracks, and not insignificantly so from fashion- and sports-based brands, which make up two-thirds of sales in this category. The product category’s share of retail sales was up by 0.1 percentage points in 2019 to reach 20.1% share of all licensed sales in the U.S. and Canada.

Accessories sales were up 3.8% in 2019 with an additional $606 million in the category propelling sales to $16.6 billion. The product category also saw an increase in sales share this year, up to 14.5% share.

The largest sub-category in licensed accessories, eyewear, saw sales increase 3.9% over the year to reach $5.4 billion. The bulk of the $202 million increase was thanks to fashion brands (which make up nearly half of all sales) whose programs have matured over the last couple of years. There has been brisk growth from smaller property types such as sports and other trademarks/brands. This year marks the fastest growth in eyewear since 2012, when sales jumped 5.9% from the previous year.

Jewelry and watches was up 3.5%, growing by $131 million to reach $3.9 billion in licensed sales. In 2019, the category saw strong growth from celebrity-based properties as well as art and entertainment.

Sales of licensed handbags, backpacks, and messenger bags were up 4.0%, adding $86 million in sales for total sales of $2.2 billion. After two years of flattish declines in 2015 and 2016, the category has steadily rebounded with slightly depressed sales in the stalwart back-to-school category and new activity in pop culture and street fashion goods.

Luggage and travel accessories sales were up 4.4%, growing by $67 million over the year to reach $1.6 billion in sales. Sales in this category have gone up as generic sales in all travel-related goods and experiences have climbed over the last couple of years, with particular effect from fashion and corporate trademarks/brands.

Headwear was up 5.4%, or $80 million, for total licensed sales of $1.6 billion. Sports and fashion brands were the largest drivers of growth in this category, but other major property types also saw positive growth in 2019.

Licensed hosiery sales were up 3.2%, climbing $20 million to reach $634 million in retail sales. Much of the category’s performance that is not based in fashion or corporate trademark brands is connected to pop culture merchandise for entertainment and sports brands, among others like music and celebrities.

Scarves and ties has been steadily declining or flat since 2012, which was the highest year of growth following the dramatic turndown in all licensed sales following 2009. Sales were up 2.8%, or a mere $4 million, to reach $155 million in 2019.

Licensed food and beverage sales were up 2.4%, or $297 million, for a total of $12.7 billion. Sales growth in the category has slowed dramatically compared to previous years; since 2010, average year-over-year growth has ranged from 5.0% to 9.5% (mean 6.5% growth). In 2018 however, sales growth slowed to 2.3% as distribution channels became saturated and new sales venues difficult to develop. With over 80% of the sales in this category tied to food/beverage- and restaurant-based brands, other notable and upcoming categories with positive performance in 2019 include celebrity chefs, publishing, and entertainment.

Sales of health and beauty aids were unexpectedly slow in 2019, up just 2.0%, or $161 million, to reach $8.2 billion. That contributed to a 0.1 percentage point dip in share of total U.S. and Canada sales, bringing HBA down to 7.2% share.

Fragrance is the largest sub-category under HBA, comprising half of sales. Sales of licensed fragrance were up 1.9%, or $77 million, for a total of $4.1 billion. While most sales in the category are attributable to fashion- and celebrity-based brands, there has been positive activity in estates and entertainment licensed lines over the last year.

Hair accessories were up 2.5% from 2018, or $7 million, to reach $281 million in sales. Cosmetics, nail polish, and other HBA sales were up 2.1%, or $77 million, for total sales of $3.8 billion. Much of the growth in this category has come from new types of self-care and makeup products popularized by digital, social media, and musical celebrities.

Toys and games were up 3.8% in 2019 after dipping by -2.3% in the previous year. Sales rebounded by $286 million to $7.8 billion and increased the share of sales for the product category up to 6.9% of total sales. Although half of all sales in the category come from sales of entertainment- and character-licensed products, there was also positive growth from smaller property types such as traditional toys and games (expanding into adjacent categories), celebrities (digital and social media influencers, particularly), and video games/interactive properties.

Retail sales of licensed consumer electronics were up 2.8%, or $160 million, to reach $5.9 billion. Strong performance from corporate trademarks/brands, which makes up nearly three-fourths of sales in the category, were the biggest factor behind sales growth this year.

Footwear sales were up 2.6% after several lackluster years, with sales down by -3.9% in 2017 and up by just 1.4% in 2018. With an additional $148 million in sales, the category reached $5.8 million in sales over the year. Sales of licensed fashion- and trademark/brand-based footwear were positive, if not exuberant.

Licensed publishing products were up 2.4%, or $94 million, to reach $4.0 billion in retail sales. Category sales have continued to recover at this steady pace since 2013, when sales dipped by -6.8% with a mean growth rate of 2.7% over the last six years. No one property type dominates licensed sales within publishing, although sales tied to art-based brands (which has the largest share of sales at one-forth share) have remained the most steady and tracked the category-wide average over the last several years.

Licensed domestics were up 2.8% this year, adding $107 million in value to a $3.9 billion category. Following a 5.8% jump in 2017, sales of soft home goods have settled into steady growth as the consumer appetite for home improvement, decoration, and renovation has stalled.

For the same reasons, sales of licensed furniture and home furnishings were up 2.7%, or $91 million, to reach $3.5 billion. Housewares sales lagged behind with 2.4% growth, adding $75 million to reach $3.2 billion in total sales.

Despite such relatively slow growth rates, below the median average rate of change of all licensed sales in the U.S. and Canada, the three home-related goods combined occupied a 9.3% share of total sales in 2019, unchanged from their share in 2018.

Sales of licensed video games and software jumped 3.1%, or $98 million, to reach $3.3 billion in sales. This year marks the fastest rate of growth since TLL began tracking the product category. In addition to console and mobile games which rely on sports (half of sales), entertainment (a third of sales), and other pop culture properties, a smaller portion of sales (roughly one-tenth) is tied to corporate properties for software applications with more professional purposes.

Sporting goods sales were up 2.6%, or $78 million, reaching. $3.1 billion in licensed sales. This is the first year that TLL has reported an increase of licensed sales in the category since TLL began tracking this data. In 2019, the biggest sources of growth were corporate trademark- and sports-based brands, which have a combined three-fifths share of sales in the category.

Infant products were up 2.9%, or $79 million, for a total of $2.8 billion in licensed sales. Since 2013, sales in the category have remained flat. The biggest drivers for growth in 2019 were sports and character brands, followed by art and publishing properties.

Gifts and novelties sales jumped 4.2%, adding $110 million to the category for a total of $2.7 billion in retail sales. After six straight years of declines, licensed sales finally picked up in 2018 with 2.8% growth and re-bounded this last year. Although occupying the largest share of sales at two-fifths share, art-based brands have some of the slowest sales growth in the category with sports and entertainment properties outpacing them.

Stationery and paper goods rebounded this year with 2.9% growth, the first year of positive growth since TLL began tracking the category. With an additional $68 million in sales, the product category reached $2.4 billion in retail sales in 2019. Art-based brands make up five-eights of all category sales, and were largely responsible for pulling positive growth with the addition of key entertainment brands in back-to-school as well as higher-end personal writing supplies.

Other licensed products not included above constitute $5.2 billion worth of retail sales in the U.S. and Canada, or 4.6% share of total sales.

Notable, if much smaller, categories include boats and vehicles, for which sales were up 5.0% (or $27 million); pet products, which grew a stunning 18.0% ($89 million); automotive accessories, up 10.0% ($42 million); hardware and paint, up 7.0% ($25 million); gardening, up 5.0% ($12 million); and funerary, up 10.0% ($1 million).

Share of Retail Sales of Licensed Merchandise, Based on Product Category, U.S. & Canada, 2019

Retail Sales of Licensed Merchandise, by Product Category, U.S./Canada, 2018–2019
Note: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding.
Figures in Millions USD
Product Category Retail Sales, 2019 Retail Sales, 2018 Change, 2018–2019 Share, 2019
Accessories $16,560 $15,954 3.8% 15.2%
Eyewear $5,390 $5,188 3.9% 5.0%
Handbags, Backpacks, Messenger Bags $3,868 $3,737 3.5% 3.6%
Headwear $2,244 $2,157 4.0% 2.1%
Hosiery $1,601 $1,534 4.4% 1.5%
Jewelry and Watches $1,560 $1,480 5.4% 1.4%
Luggage and Travel Accessories $634 $615 3.2% 0.6%
Scarves and Ties $155 $151 2.8% 0.1%
Other $1,108 $1,093 1.4% 1.0%
Apparel $22,864 $22,048 3.7% 21.0%
Consumer Electronics $5,884 $5,723 2.8% 5.4%
Domestics $3,934 $3,827 2.8% 3.6%
Food/Beverages $12,692 $12,394 2.4% 11.7%
Footwear $5,847 $5,698 2.6% 5.4%
Furniture/Home Furnishings $3,467 $3,375 2.7% 3.2%
Gifts/Novelties $2,738 $2,628 4.2% 2.5%
HBA $8,216 $8,055 2.0% 7.6%
Fragrance $4,118 $4,041 1.9% 3.8%
Hair Accessories $281 $274 2.5% 0.3%
Cosmetics/Nail Polish/Other $3,817 $3,739 2.1% 3.5%
Housewares $3,202 $3,127 2.4% 2.9%
Infant Products $2,812 $2,733 2.9% 2.6%
Publishing $4,015 $3,921 2.4% 3.7%
Sporting Goods $3,082 $3,004 2.6% 2.8%
Stationery/Paper $2,395 $2,328 2.9% 2.2%
Toys/Games $7,811 $7,525 3.8% 7.2%
Video games/Software $3,263 $3,165 3.1% 3.0%
Other $5,221 $4,982 4.8% 4.8%
Hardware and Paint $562 $535 5.0% 0.5%
Gardening $584 $495 18.0% 0.5%
Pet Products $457 $416 10.0% 0.4%
Funerary $379 $355 7.0% 0.3%
Automative Accessories $258 $245 5.0% 0.2%
Boats and Vehicles $10 $9 10.0% 0.0%
Other $2,970 $2,926 1.5% 2.7%
TOTAL $114,003 $110,488 3.2% 100.0%


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