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Top Licensed Retail Sales Figures to Have On-hand in the New Year

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While TLL is crunching the official stats for 2019 over the next month, here are some figures and trends we’re tracking for next year. Please note that all 2019 figures are preliminary estimates and subject to change.

Licensed retail sales in Mainland China exceed $10 billion.

The greatest area of licensed sales growth in 2020 is Asia, with China lifting its neighbors to new heights.

Within the next five years, Greater China (including mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau) is expected to overtake Japan as Asia’s largest licensing powerhouse by retail sales activity. Mainland China sales alone will exceed $10 billion in 2019.

Entertainment/character (35.7% share) and fashion (29.3%) are the largest property types by retail sales in Greater China, while art and sports brands saw the fastest growth rates in 2018.

In the same year, licensed apparel, accessories, and fashion goods made up nearly half of all licensed sales in Greater China (45.6%), followed by toys/interactive games (14.1%) and publishing (11.6%).

American brands decline in influence; only three-fifths of retail sales worldwide are sourced from the U.S. and Canada.

By 2019, licensed retail sales based on brands originating from the U.S. and Canada will make up only 60% share of all worldwide sales, compared to 64.8% in 2017, 64.2% in 2015, 63.7% in 2013, and 64.3% in 2011.

Licensed toys and interactive game sales rebound; jumping 3.0% worldwide.

Following a -0.4% decline in 2017 and flattish 1.0% growth in 2018, retail sales of licensed toys and interactive games are on track to rebound 3.0% in 2019. Growth is spread out worldwide, with positive gains in every major territory we track.

Average royalty rates flatten out with ± 0.1 percentage point growth.
While there have been notable increases in royalty rates from certain A-list brands, overall, the industry average within the U.S. and Canada has not budged in any meaningful way over the last decade. In comparison, the average industry-wide royalty jumped 0.3 percentage points in the Aughts and a full 1.5 percentage points in the 1990s. At the same time, royalty income to brand owners has inched up.

Simply put, the money’s not in the royalty anymore—or, at least, the bulk of it isn’t. Increasingly complex licensing agreements can include scaled royalties, where higher rates are attached to higher retail sales (usually a win-win proposition) and bundling of licensed properties (so that, e.g., a licensee isn’t “punished” with the under-performance of one specific feature film and can “make up” a minimum guarantee with another movie-based property from the licensor’s roster). So where’s the money? Fee-shifting from the licensor to the licensee in the shape of shared marketing budgets, which have evolved from advertisements in print circulars and television commercials to funding digital native content such as YouTube series.

Licensed HBA sales jump up to 5% globally.

At the picture perfect intersection between experiential self-care, influencer celebrity, and consumable good, health and beauty aids experienced a renaissance worldwide in 2019.

Most notably, licensed lines made a splash in the American, European Union, and Asian markets thanks to a deluge of influencer and high fashion brands expanding into makeup and skincare. Unisex lines are expected to be the hot new trend for licensed lines in 2020, with specialized men’s care a close second.

A gap in collegiate licensing.

Multiple American states have followed California’ in mandating that student athletes be directly reimbursed for the use of their image and likeness—just like any other professional athlete. With the NCAA under scrutiny, its remains to be seen who will fill in the leadership gap.


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