The last five years
As one would expect in the often fickle world of kid licensing, trends come and trends go at ever increasing speeds. One year’s must-have Christmas toy is often found smoldering on the next year’s Christmas log fire. But aside from the annual toy crazes that sweep the world’s toy stores, the global licensing landscape has seen more fundamental changes since the birth of KidScreen five years ago.
One of the main issues is simply this: Kids are growing up quicker. While this might sound like a cliché from an exasperated grandparent, this real phenomenon is having a significant impact on the licensing industry. The net effect is that younger children aspire to the teen lifestyle, brands and cult movies that their elder siblings are already into. This in turn has meant a shift away from traditional entertainment and character licensing towards aspirational fashion-, brand- and trademark-licensed merchandise. Retail sales of brand merchandise from the likes of Coke, Jeep, Caterpillar and FUBU have recently started to outstrip entertainment merchandise sales. According to License! magazine, brand and fashion licensed product sales shot up from 37% of the global market in 1998-1999 to 42% in 1999-2000, while entertainment and character retail sales only increased from 35% to 36% over the same period.
The next five years
Trying to predict the future of kid licensing is notoriously difficult. E-tailing continues to struggle with complex issues of logistics and distribution and remains but a tiny part of the total retail market. But it seems universally accepted that the volume of licensed e-business will rise significantly over the next few years once these issues are solved.
A more intriguing issue is just how character rights owners intend to make their licensing offerings heard above the din, particularly in the burgeoning and vastly competitive arena of preschool properties. For every highly-marketed Teletubbies or Bob the Builder success, dozens of properties fall by the wayside. It appears that new children’s TV shows are being produced around the globe simply to fill the vast acres of airtime generated by the plethora of new cable, satellite and digital channels. It is difficult to envisage how retailers can possibly take product from all these new properties. Shelf space would simply not permit it. It seems likely that five years hence, the market will continue to stick with the tried- and-tested classic evergreen properties-the Disney and Warner characters-as well as some of the classics CPLG represents in Europe, such as The Simpsons, Peanuts, Dennis the Menace and The Mr. Men.
Kirk Bloomgarden is chief executive of London, England-based Copyright Promotions Licensing Group, an entertainment, sports and brand licensing agency.