Global licensed retail sales soar 3.2% in 2018

Licensing International’s fifth global survey charts rapid rise of emerging markets in Asia and LatAm and impact of Toys R Us on toy category in last year’s $280bn total earnings

Written by Rhys Thomas

Posted 04.06.2019 | Consumer Product

Global licensed retail sales soar 3.2% in 2018 thumbnail

Global retail sales of licensed merchandise and services grew 3.2 per cent to hit $280.3 billion in 2018, according to Licensing International’s fifth Annual Global Licensing Survey, up from the $271.6bn raised in 2017.

The US and Canada saw a rise in line with global trends, with sales up 3.1 per cent to $162.6bn for the year, accounting for 58 per cent of consumption of licensed product and services.

Emerging markets performed much better year-on-year. Latin America, Northern Asia and Southern Asia/ Pacific all experienced growth above 5 per cent.

Courtesy Licensing International

Worldwide royalty revenue for brand owners leapt to $15 billion, an almost four per cent increase on 2017.

The entertainment and character sector was the largest category by some margin, accounting for $122.7 billion (43.8 per cent) of the total global licensing market. Corporate brands also fared well, showing the highest growth of 5.5 per cent on 2017 and claiming the second spot with $58.8bn in revenue and 21 per cent of the market share. Fashion and sports licenses round out the top four categories with $32.2 billion (11.5 per cent) and $27.8 billion (9.9 per cent) respectively.

Perhaps most surprisingly, respondents said an average of 79 per cent of business came from brick-and-mortar stores in 2018 and 21 per cent from online retail. Those are the same average percentages reported in the prior two years, despite a global shift in focus to ecommerce and online marketing.

The liquidation of Toys R Us took its toll on licensed toy sales in 2018

The survey was commission by Licensing International, the rebranded identity of LIMA, which makes its first major appearance at Licensing Expo this week. Brandar Consulting once again conducted the survey and found global licensing has trended upwards 16 per cent in the five years it has tracked the industry.

“The 2019 Global Licensing Survey drives home the fact that licensing continues to be a vital part of the consumer marketplace, and a versatile tool for brand owners and licensees to creatively build their businesses,” says Licensing International president Maura Regan. “This year’s results highlight licensing’s wide reach, value and potential in both developed and growth markets. It’s an exciting time to lead the licensing business into its promising future.”

Courtesy Licensing International

Apparel (15 per cent), toys (12.6 per cent) and fashion accessories (11.5 per cent) continued to lead in the breakdown by product category, though the global toy sector did tumble by 2.1 per cent due in part to the collapse of Toys R Us and dramatic upheaval in a number of other leading national specialist chains, such as Intertoys and BR Toys.

The complete report is available for free to all Licensing International members this summer and to non-members for a fee at

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