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Retail licensing holds steady

Consumers craving comfort turn to products with names and faces they know. For retailers looking to cash in, retail licensing may be the answer.

Here’s a snapshot of the retail licensing market:

  • Global sales revenue from licensed merchandise and services hit $315.5 billion in 2021, up 7.75% from 2019, according to Licensing International. The US and Canada make up more than half (59%) of worldwide consumption of licensed goods with $186.2 billion in sales, up 9.7% from 2019.
  • Entertainment/character is the largest property type, per Licensing International, generating $129.9 billion in sales, followed by corporate brands ($76.9 billion), and sports ($31.2 billion). Sales of fashion industry licensing, which declined 15.9% from 2019, totaled $28.4 billion.
  • In 2021, the top three product categories for licensed merchandise were apparel (14.3% of sales), toys (13.3%), and fashion accessories (10.3%), the firm noted. The toy category grew the most, up 17.1% from 2019.
  • Casinos can get in on the licensing game, too. “Machine X can generate, let’s say, $10,000 a day. Put a piece of I.P. on it, it’s generating $100,000 a day,” Jason Lim, general manager of digital and online gaming at slot machine company Ainsworth Game Technology, told The New York Times.
  • The top five global licensors are The Walt Disney Company ($56.2 billion annually), Dotdash Meredith ($35.9 billion), Authentic Brands Group ($21.7 billion), WarnerMedia/Warner Bros. Consumer Products ($15 billion), and The Pokémon Company International ($8.5 billion). Of the top 88 licensors, 40 bring in at least $1 billion in licensing revenue a year.
  • Through the strength of their intellectual properties, toy companies like Hasbro and Mattel have been able to hold out against the crush of inflation, according to our analyst Rachel Wolff. CEO Ynon Kreiz said Mattel is using its intellectual property from brands like Disney and Nickelodeon to grow market share, while Hasbro can thank Peppa Pig and My Little Pony for its higher sales.

Why we care: When other macroeconomic factors wreak havoc on retailers’ bottom lines, can licensing stave off the pain?


This was originally featured in in the Retail By the Numbers newsletter. For more retail insights, statistics, and trends, subscribe here.