While the licensing industry is never at a standstill, merger-mania and a waning economy–worsened by the events of September 11–slowed the pace considerably in 2001, making it easier to spot trends as they developed.
Breakout trend of the year honors have to go to brands–a segment that commands a 16.8% market share, recording an impressive 10% increase in royalty revenues in 2000 over 1999, according to the third annual LIMA-sponsored Harvard-Yale study released in June.
The rise of the tween demo, demonstrating a penchant for trend-mining entertainment’s past, spurred property owners to dust off their kid classics and reintroduce them as tween-centric brands–with American Greetings’ Care Bears (now repped by the Joester Loria Group) and Strawberry Shortcake (now part of DIC’s portfolio) standing out as two notable examples. A fresh crop of graphic tween brands also entered the fray at the New York Licensing Show–among them, MGA Entertainment’s sassy girl brand Bratz and Inkmonster’s bad girl quartet Mischievous Girls.
And while tween brands were heralded as a largely untapped market opportunity, the proliferation of such properties–all flooding the market at around the same time–launched a branded visual assault on agents and licensees, who were left with a ‘you’ve seen one tween brand, you’ve seen them all’ taste in their mouths.
Brands also took baby steps into the infant segment, with 102-year-old toyco Gund launching a babyGUND line, and MGM nabbing the rights to Crank2′s graphic property for the zero to four set, Personalibees.
Mass market retailers took stock of brands’ market cachet, bringing branded merch into the mainstream spotlight in 2001, which placed pressure on mid-tier and specialty retailers to keep up in the brand game. Another retail trend tied to brands–the retail exclusive–exploded this year, with branded ‘worlds’ popping up in retail outlets from Toys ‘R’ Us to Wal-Mart.