Anyone coming to Licensing 97 with the expectation of leaving with some idea of what’s hot in the children’s market must have walked away from the show gravely disappointed.
The show, as described in press materials, truly d’es represent ‘a virtual shopping mall for the thousands of retailers, manufacturers, marketing and promotions executives, licensors and licensees from around the world.’
But for those same people, combing through the expanded floor of New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, shopping has become a much trickier business. Now in its second year at the convention venue after years in the relative informality of a midtown hotel, the Licensing Show is growing, and one senses, in a controlled and disciplined way.
According to statistics provided by Licensing 97, the show has tripled in size over the past two years, and international attendance has quadrupled. There were 350 exhibitors this year, including 172 companies new to the show. The trade journal The Licensing Letter estimates that the global licensing industry has reached US$110 billion, and that in the past year, retail sales of products based on corporate trademarks and brands have jumped six percent to US$15.11 billion.
Clearly, there is more from which to choose, but the choice is getting harder to make. This difficulty arises not just from the increased volume of licensing opportunities, but also from a feeling shared by a number of professionals walking the convention floor that the product offering is taking on a certain sameness. Whether through the imposition of greater discipline on the licensing process and better planning by licensors, or simply due to the exigencies of mass-marketed, mega event-driven projects, there were few if any surprises at this year’s show.
A woman, returning to New York from Los Angeles, remarked on how much the retail environment has changed. New York is not as exclusive as it once was. You don’t need to come to New York because you can pretty much buy the same things from the same chains in L.A. She referred to this as the ‘homogenization’ of retail.
To say that there is homogeneity at the Licensing Show is probably too strong a way of putting it. But to suggest, in this era of building franchises in order to deliver the greatest number of presold consumers, that this is a trend, would not.