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Licensed Retail Sales Jump 4.5% in 2018 in Asia; China Adds $750 Million Alone

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Licensed retail sales reached $22.3 billion in 2018 in Asia, according to The Licensing Letter. The total was up 4.5% from the previous year, adding just over $950 million compared to 2017.

The largest and most established licensed economy in the region grew an unprecedented 0.6% in 2018, the fastest rate of growth TLL has observed since we began tracking licensed sales in 2011. In that 8-year timespan, however, Japan-based sales actually shrunk by $85 million thanks to a gradually contracting economy. Despite natural disaster striking in the latter half of the year, Japan observed healthy, mostly tourist-based growth for rest of 2018.

In 2018, the fastest-growing categories in Japan were fashion- (2.2%) and sports-based (1.9%) licensed retail sales. Meanwhile, entertainment/character-based sales dipped -1.9%, a loss of $76 million from the previous year. Corporate/trademark sales continue to do well at 1.4% growth, while art-based licenses rebounded with 0.4% growth for the first time after two straight years of declines.

The second-largest economy in Asia added $3.8 billion in licensed retail sales over the same 8-year period, now only $1.2 billion behind the region’s licensing powerhouse. Up 8.4% overall in 2018, China contributed an unprecedented $750 million in licensed retail sales.

In greater China, a region comprised of mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, entertainment/character (up 5.9%) is a key growth area, although it lags behind the dollar growth contributed by fashion brands (9.0%). In 2018, sports-based properties saw the fastest growth of any category at 12.4%, thanks primarily to esports and soccer. Corporate/trademark-based goods jumped 6.9% in 2018.

India broke the billion-dollar mark in 2018, counting $1,023 million in licensed retail sales. The country observed double-digit growth in sports-based sales (18.0%), and is one of the few countries in which the property type outpaced fashion-based (5.6%) growth on a dollar basis. Corporate/trademark licensing was up 8.7%, art up 7.0%, and entertainment/character up 5.6% from the previous year.

Licensed sales in South Korea were up 4.0% in 2018, largely spurred by activity from the Winter Olympic Games. Sports-based sales in the country were up 27.0% in 2018, outpacing growth in fashion (4.4%), corporate/trademark (3.2%), art (2.4%), and entertainment/character (1.8%).

Southeast Asia tracked 4.7% growth overall in 2018; the region includes Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and other territories. Entertainment/character-based sales make up almost 40% of the territory’s total $399 million in licensed retail sales; growth categories for 2018 are sports (7.0%) and fashion (6.5%). Entertainment/character sales were up 2.6%, lagging behind the growth of corporate/trademark (2.8%) but not art (2.0%).

Retail Sales of Licensed Merchandise, Asia,
by Territory, 2017–2018
Note: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding.
(Figures in millions)
Territory Retail Sales, 2018 Retail Sales, 2017 Change, 2017–2018 Share, 2018
Japan $10,349 $10,287 0.6% 46.4%
Greater China $10,061 $9,280 8.4% 45.1%
China (mainland) $9,119 $8,366 9.0% 40.9%
Taiwan $566 $553 2.4% 2.5%
Hong Kong $306 $294 4.0% 1.4%
Macau $70 $68 4.0% 0.3%
India $1,023 $947 8.0% 4.6%
South Korea $443 $426 4.0% 2.0%
Southeast Asia $399 $381 4.7% 1.8%
Singapore $101 $99 2.5% 0.5%
Malaysia $70 $67 4.6% 0.3%
Philippines $95 $89 6.6% 0.4%
Indonesia $69 $66 5.1% 0.3%
Thailand $24 $23 3.9% 0.1%
Vietnam $15 $14 10.0% 0.1%
Other Southeast Asia $24 $24 3.3% 0.1%
Other Asia $35 $35 -0.6% 0.2%
Total Asia $22,309 $21,356 4.5% 100.0%


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