Those are a few of the themes propelling the entertainment industry hard-sell expected this week at the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association‘s (LIMA) annual Licensing Expo. Deals with manufacturers and retailers at the Las Vegas confab can determine what chachkas will appear on store shelves beginning this year. And execs are more upbeat than usual as they offer opportunities to license images tied to upcoming sequels to Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Fantastic Four, Superman, James Bond, and Finding Nemo for toys, T-shirts, and goodness knows what else. “Everybody is trying to get share of mind with consumers,” says LIMA SVP Marty Brochstein.
Entertainment companies — including TV and digital video providers — will be buoyed by strong sales figures from 2013 that the trade group will announce today. Stores in the U.S. and Canada sold $51.4B in merchandise tied to entertainment properties last year (+4.3% vs 2012) with licensing revenues of $2.7B (+4.3%). Entertainment was the industry’s biggest category: It accounted for 44.4% of the $115.7B in total retail sales (+3.3%), and 47.2% of the $5.6B in licensing revenues (also +3.3%).
Some of the increase reflects improvements in the overall economy. But entertainment is growing faster than most other categories. Disney’s setting the pace for kids’ merchandise by pushing Disney Jr. TV properties including Sofia The First and Doc McStuffins. Products linked to the movie Frozen “succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations,” says Brochstein. Others are developing location-based attractions including Mythbusters‘ “Behind The Myths Tour” and AMC’s The Walking Dead‘s “Halloween Horror Nights” at Universal Studios parks.
Adult-oriented properties are gaining ground. Walmart and other stores carry a broad array of Duck Dynasty stuff including boots, headphones, and greeting cards. Fans of AMC’s Breaking Bad last year could buy a Halloween costume that resembled Walter White’s yellow suit. This year’s Expo will feature jewelry, glassware, and backpacks promoting Syfy’s Sharknado.
YouTube channels also are sniffing for licensing opportunities. Aeropostale appears to be doing well with a clothing line from teen social-media phenom Bethany Mota. Dealmakers will be looking for additional deals for two other online stars: Michelle Phan and Rosanna Pansino. DreamWorks Animation‘s AwesomenessTV also hope to make a splash: In April it hired former Claire’s Stores CEO and former Disney Stores Worldwide president James Fielding to be AwesomenessTV’s Global Head of Consumer Products and Retail.