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Sales of Art-based Brands Up 1.8%; Home Boosts Growth

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Compared to overall licensed retail sales in the U.S./Canada, art-based properties saw somewhat anemic growth at 1.8%, or just over $105 million in added sales. The property type makes up 5.4% of total retail sales in the territory, with the art & artist subcategory making up 4% of the total and museums 1.4% share.

The art & artists subcategory includes fine artists and commercial designers (living and deceased) who create images with products in mind, including textile and surface designers—as well as fine artists who create art for art’s sake, for whom licensing is a secondary concern.

Note that not all museum merchandise is licensed; some is sourced by the museum for sale in its own and other retail channels. Survey respondents point to a handful of museums with robust licensing programs bulking as the heart of the museum segment.

Retail Sales of Licensed Merchandise, Based on Art Properties, U.S./Canada, 2016–2017
Note: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding.
(Figures in Millions)
Product Category Retail Sales, 2017 Retail Sales, 2016 Change, 2016–2017 Share of Market, 2017
Art & Artists $4,362 $4,289 1.7% 74.4%
Museums $1,496 $1,464 2.2% 25.6%
Total Art $5,858 $5,753 1.8% 100.0%

Home Goods Lead Sales by Product Category

Every product category in the sector met or beat out the overall art-based licensing growth rate of 1.8%—with the exception of gifts/novelties, declining $18 million in value (-1.7%) and infant products, up just $5 million (1.2%). Because the category is the second-largest, at 18.2% share of all art-licensed merchandise sales, it helped depress performance for the sector.

At just over 22% of all art-based merchandise sold in 2017, sales of home-related goods rose 4% from the previous year to add $50 million to the pot. Specifically, furniture/home furnishings rose 4.8% in 2017, housewares grew 3.8%, and domestics grew 3.7%. Surprisingly, respondents to TLL’s Annual Survey reported greater growth and sales in hard goods than soft—bucking a decades-long trend.

Retail sales in the broader home-based category continue to be brisk as consumers demand more variety and style in designs across increasingly shorter seasonal periods. Commercial artists as well as museum properties saw a welcome boost in licensed sales even as the market for domestics and home accessories, design, and home improvement grew increasingly crowded.

The largest category, stationery/paper, grew 1.8% or $25 million in 2017 after jumping 2.7% in 2016 and 2% in 2015. Survey respondents reported stable demand for quality greeting cards, calendars, and stationery. While growth in digital greeting cards seems to have faltered, the experiential, luxury aspect of physical cards is cited as a sustaining factor. Retailers have remained friendly towards this category because of its high margins and high seasonal turnover.

Publishing rounds out the top three with 15.8% market share (up one-tenths of a percentage point). The category grew 2.5% in 2017, putting on the brakes on 3.6% growth observed in 2016. Key product trends include children’s books (soft and hard formats) as well as adult coloring books (still a thing).

Art brands were one of the few property types to see growth in the infant products sector, however slight that might have been at 1.2% growth in 2017.

Apparel and accessories grew 3.5% and 3.1%, respectively, in the U.S./Canada in 2017—making up 9.5% of total art sales.

In some product lines, the volume of sales has been gradually increasing while prices have dropped—leaving the impression of anemic growth. But several Survey respondents cited this trend as a future area of sales growth as prices rebound—particularly in infant products and accessories.

Retail Sales of Art-licensed Merchandise, by Product Category, 2016–2017
Note: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding.
(Figures in Millions)
Product Category Retail Sales, 2017 Retail Sales, 2016 Change, 2016–2017 Share of Market, 2017
Accessories $328 $318 3.1% 5.6%
Apparel $231 $223 3.5% 3.9%
Domestics $435 $419 3.7% 7.4%
Furniture/Home Furnishings $271 $259 4.8% 4.6%
Gifts/Novelties $1,069 $1,087 -1.7% 18.2%
Housewares $608 $586 3.8% 10.4%
Infant Products $462 $457 1.2% 7.9%
Publishing $926 $904 2.5% 15.8%
Stationery/Paper $1,439 $1,414 1.8% 24.6%
Other $89 $87 2.2% 1.5%
Total $5,858 $5,753 1.8% 100.0%


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