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23 licensing talking points for 2023

It’s a New Year and with it come new opportunities – for licensors, licensees and retailers alike. presents 23 talking points for the licensing business in 2023 – from cost of living challenges, through to key trade shows, anniversaries, trends and major sports events, all of which will have an impact on our industry in some way.

Cost of living
Speaking to licensees and licensors for this issue, cost of living is very much at the forefront of mind – and the impact is already being felt. Consumers are being more cautious on their spending on non-essentials and some said that Christmas activity felt late and quieter last year. In response, different print points are being explored to make products more accessible, while innovation has become even more key.

The Coronation of King Charles III
Kind Charles III’s Coronation will be held on Saturday 6 May at Westminster Abbey in London. The historic event – which will also see Camilla, Queen Consort, crowned – is the first to take place in nearly 70 years following the late Queen’s long reign. An extra bank holiday has also been granted, meaning there are three in May and plenty of time for street parties, gatherings and get togethers. God save the King indeed.

Year of the Rabbit
2023 is the year of the Water Rabbit – the rabbit is a symbol of longevity, peace and prosperity in Chinese culture with 2023 predicted to be a year of hope. In the world of licensing, Miffy has already unveiled a number of collaborations, tying in with the occasion.

OliviaNineties and Noughties
The 1990s has been a source of inspiration for several years already, but this is showing no signs of slowing and is being joined in 2023 by the noughties. ASOS highlighted Olivia Rodrigo’s love of grunge and 1990s’ fashion as being a key source of inspiration for Gen Z (20-29) this year, along with Zendaya and Wednesday star Jenna Ortega.

Recent research by Google apparently found that young people are turning to TikTok or Instagram in search of answers to questions, rather than a search engine – something which could potentially have an impact on retailers when they are looking at online strategy. TikTik is undoubtedly a sweet spot for brands, but knowing how to use it in the right way is key.


Sustainability in Licensing Conference 2023
Over 500 people attended SILC 2022, split between an in-person event at the Royal Geographical Society in London and those who joined digitally across the globe. SILC23 – 8 November – will look to push a deeper conversation around sustainability within product, retail and content.

Esports is a $multi-billion industry and a number of industry watchers believe that 2023 is the year that it edges ever closer to the mainstream. As with all new sectors though, it pays to do your research and find trustworthy partners, says Lee Townsend, ceo of collectables company Koyo. “From our experience the value of the IP lies with the individual players more so than the team as a whole,” he tells us. “When it comes to merch and apparel specifically, having held licences with a number of top teams we have learned that sales at a live esports event far outweigh ecommerce – nothing beats the ‘I was there’ feeling in the fan community.”

Gen Z’s influence
Leading the party when it comes to sustainability, Gen Z (20-29) look at the core values of a retailer (such as ethics, provenance, carbon footprint, etc) when deciding where to purchase. Having started to make strides, brands and retailers can’t now afford to deprioritise their ambitions around sustainability, commented Retail Economics’ ceo Richard Lim, because they will be at risk from consumers boycotting their brands. “Consumers are not willing to budge on ESG credentials,” says Richard.

Euros500x500FIFA Women’s World Cup
All eyes will be on the Lionesses when they head to Australia and New Zealand for this summer’s tournament. After their triumph at the Euros, there is much more of a buzz surrounding the women’s game and The FA is receiving an increased number of enquiries, telling us last year that it wants ‘retailers to wake up to the power of women’s football’.

It’s not just going to be a case of on Wednesdays we wear pink in 2023, it’s more likely to be the whole summer, thanks to Margot Robbie and the arrival of the Barbie movie.

The metaverse
If there’s one word that was everywhere when it came to tech last year it was metaverse. In 2023, the interest from brands looking for metaverse guidance is only set to increase. Tony Pearce, co-founder of Web3 company Reality+, says: “From an IP perspective – and as those conversations mature – 2023 will be focused around nurturing brands on their IP strategies; are they looking to extend, expand and/or protect their brand, while we also continue to educate them on the huge Web3 benefits and implications for IP: co-creation, decentralisation and ownership.

“The technology stack is still in its infancy, but if I had to double-down on a hot trend for 2023 then it would be co-creation, with the winners being those organisations that are willing to work with fans to develop new Web3 brand experiences, and in doing so relinquish historic IP to develop new.”

HRPHeritage highlights
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam first opened its doors in 1973 and is marking 50 years of welcoming visitors. In terms of licensing, new artwork has been specially developed and Licensing Link Europe is busy building the programme in the UK and Ireland.

Historic Royal Palaces will see the opening of Crown to Couture at Kensington Palace in April – the major exhibition will see contemporary couture worn by celebrities displayed alongside historic costume.

Two of the biggest entertainment studios are marking 100 years in 2023 – The Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Disney has already kicked off its 100 Years of Wonder celebrations, while WB will be highlighting ’100 Years of Storytelling’.

DrWhoDoctor Who at 60
The first episode of the sci-fi smash first aired on the BBC on 23 November 1963. BBC Studios is keeping its powder pretty dry when it comes to CP plans, although its director of global licensing, Andrew Carley, did reveal in the industry roundtable in LSB Spring that the company is “working hard to build the licensing programme across multiple retailers for end 2023 and into 2024.”

Milestone anniversaries
2023 is another bumper year for key anniversaries from some other major brands, with special edition merchandise, events and experiential activity all part of the plans. Just a few to keep an eye out for include PAW Patrol (10th), Beano (85th), the London Underground map (90th), London Underground (160th), Laura Ashley (70th), The Rocky Horror Show (50th), Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (40th), Jurassic Park (30th), The Smurfs (65th), Kellogg’s (60th) and National Geographic (135th).

TheLittleMermaidBox office blockbusters
Total box office revenue for the UK and Ireland in 2022 was up 64% on 2021 to £978 million, Screen Daily reported, with Top Gun: Maverick leading the way. This year is set to welcome a new batch of cinema seat fillers including Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, The Little Mermaid, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, The Flash, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Barbie, PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie and Trolls 3, to name just a few.

A linear TV revival?
With consumers looking to cut back, streaming subscription services could be in the firing line. The question is, is linear TV considered retro enough to be cool again and back in fashion?


Growing new product categories
From pet care to wellness, pampering either our pets or ourselves will be even more vital in 2023 as appreciation of those small moments of joy continues to grow, and there are opportunities for licensing in both.

Licensing Expo 2023
Licensing Expo will return to the Mandalay Bay Convention Centre in Las Vegas from 13-15 June. Continuing on from Brand Licensing Europe’s success in 2022, with the show bringing fashion to the forefront, the category will also be the theme for the US show in 2023.


Brand Licensing Europe 2023
BLE returns to its October slot for this year, running from 4-6 October at London’s ExCeL. Plans are already underway and stay tuned for further announcements through the first part of 2023.

BLE’s Retail Mentoring Programme
Applications for the 2023 mentoring programme are open now and will officially close at the end of March. Space is limited to 80 delegates, with Laura Freedman-Dagg, head of retail at Global Licensing Group, telling us that “take up has been great so far”, with 30 confirmed at time of writing.
“We’re excited to welcome a diverse group to the programme from entry level to heads of department across buying, merchandising, design and marketing and with category representation from apparel, gift, toys and more. What they all have in common is a real desire to upskill when it comes to brand licensing,” says Laura.

New for this year, RMP alumni will be invited to join two elements of the programme with the 2023 delegates – the new Licensing Retail day in April and the licensor host days throughout the summer.

Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards 2023
This year’s Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards will take place on Thursday 27 April at the new venue of the Royal Lancaster London. The awards are open for entries now – including the new for this year B&LLAs Rising Star Award – with a closing date of Wednesday 8 March. Check out pages 72-73 for more details.

The Licensing Awards 2023
Mark Tuesday 12 September in your diary and keep your eyes peeled for further details…

This feature originally appeared in the spring 2023 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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