New Year, new opportunities… and it’s a leap year, too, meaning an extra sales day for shoppers to buy consumer products and licensed merchandise.
LicensingSource.net presents 24 talking points for the licensing business in 2024, all of which will have an impact on our industry in some way.
Rishi Sunak kicked off 2024’s political season with a hint at when the next general election will be – saying it’s his “working assumption” it will happen in the second half of the year. Political pundits are predicting anything in the range of September to November, although the later it is, the more cross over with coverage of the US election.
The rise of the machines
While we could have asked AI itself for an explanation of the impact it could have on the licensing industry, we chose to go with a real life person instead.
“It’s clear that Artificial Intelligence, particularly generative AI (GenAI) presents a complex mix of opportunities and challenges for all creative/digital and consumer products industries, especially in the realms of IP, licensing and skills,” says Dr Richard Wilson OBE, ceo at TIGA, the trade body for the UK games industry. “Many of the commonly cited opportunities revolve around enhanced creativity and efficiency. And from a brand marketing perspective, AI’s ability to analyse trends can help IP owners and creators target their audiences more effectively, optimising strategies and distribution channels.
“But there are some concerns around protection of IP, ethics and job displacement. Perhaps the most significant is determining the ownership of AI-generated content. Traditional IP laws are built around human authorship, leaving a grey area when AI autonomously creates content. This raises questions about copyright and the rights of AI creators versus users.”
Year of the Dragon
Represented by the only mythical – and the most powerful – creature of the 12 animal Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Dragon is considered special. The legendary magical beast is symbolic of authority, honour and dignity, particularly in China, where it has represented imperial power since ancient times. In the world of licensing, Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons franchise is celebrating an exceptionally well timed 50th anniversary, with a raft of activity planned.
2024 is another bumper year for key anniversaries from some 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 Peppa Pig (20th), Batman (85th), Hello Kitty (50th), Minecraft (15th), Moomin (80th), Powerpuff Girls (25th), Rubik’s Cube (50th), Spice Girls (30th), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (40th), Tetris (40th), The Next Step (10th), Transformers (40th), Friends (30th), Bing (10th), Ghostbusters (40th), Hey Duggee (10th), The Gruffalo (25th), SpongeBob SquarePants (25th), Peanuts (75th) and Tom & Jerry (85th) among many others.
Box office blockbusters
Total box office for 2023 in the UK and Ireland increased 8% compared with 2022; with the year-end takings crossing £1bn for the first time since the pandemic, according to Screen Daily. The Barbie Movie may have led the way, but Universal Pictures ended the year as the top performing studio thanks to The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Five Nights at Freddy’s among other titles. Hot tips for this year include the Mean Girls reboot, Dune Part Two, Kung Fu Panda 4, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, Inside Out 2, Despicable Me 4, Beetlejuice 2 and Joker: Folie à Deux to name just a few.
Olympic Games Paris 2024
A closer to home Olympic Games this summer should give merchandise an extra shot in the arm. The Olympics – which runs from Friday 26 July to Sunday 11 August – will be the biggest event hosted by Paris in its history and will take in the four corners of France. Expect to see activity around Team GB including promotions and licensed product.
Are you ready for it?
The UK leg of Taylor Swift The Eras Tour kicks off on 7 June in Edinburgh and will wrap up on 20 August following a run at Wembley Stadium. The tour has become the first to gross over $1 billion, while the corresponding concert film earned $261.6 million at the global box office in 2023. Pollstar data also found that Taylor brought in approximately $200 million in merchandise sales… just in case you were in any doubt how much of a big deal she is.
The Barbie effect
Get ready for Barbie to continue her dominance after last year’s stellar performance at the box office. The brand is following up the highest grossing film worldwide of 2023 with a dedicated exhibition at The Design Museum, coinciding with Barbie’s 65th anniversary. Opening on 5 July, it will explore the story of Barbie through a design lens including fashion, architecture, furniture and vehicle design.
The National Gallery at 200
One of the greatest art galleries in the world, the National Gallery is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. The bicentenary party will start on 10 May, with the Gallery celebrating its past and looking forward to its future with a year-long festival of art, creativity and imagination. And there are plenty of opportunities for licensees to get involved, too.
IKEA opens on Oxford Street
The eagerly awaited IKEA store on Oxford Street will open its doors in the autumn, with the Swedish retailer currently underway with a major renovation project at the grade II listed building which was previously home to Topshop – currently hidden behind a unique version of its signature Frakta bag. IKEA’s arrival in the West End should mark a big boost for Oxford Street, as it looks to bounce back from a post-pandemic footfall slump.
Licensing on stage
It has been a constantly growing category for the last few years, and the immersive events and location-based experiences space is showing no signs of slowing. This year, there will also be activity on the stage, with Studio Ghibli’s Oscar-winning Spirited Away being reimagined by the Olivier and Tony award-winning director of Les Misérables, John Caird. All eyes are also on the return of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express, which is opening in the summer in the specially designed Starlight Auditorium at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre.
Brands in Roblox
A number of savvy brands have been turning to Roblox as the metaverse of choice to get in front of Gen Z (born 1997-2012) and Gen Alpha (early 2010s onwards). Brands as varied as LEGO, adidas, McDonald’s, Crocs, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, The Met, Walmart, H&M and Nickelodeon, as well as music stars like Nicki Minaj and Rihanna, have all used Roblox to get closer to their audiences and create immersive experiences for them.
Anime and manga
While manga (Japanese comic books) and anime (the animation series based on them) have been growing in popularity in western markets in recent years, lockdown took them to another level. The success of companies such as Abysse, Toei Animation, Reemsborko, Crunchyroll and Funko in the space – with brands including One Piece, Hatsune Miku and Dragon Ball to name just a few – shows this is a category to watch. HMV is also a huge supporter on a retail level, ensuring visibility on the high street.
Inflation fell from 4.6% to 3.9% in November 2023, the lowest for more than two years, leading to some economists thinking the Bank of England may start to cut interest rates in the first half of 2024, much earlier than previously forecast. However, households won’t start to feel better off just yet, with energy bills and borrowing costs remaining high. UK inflation also remains higher than in other countries including the US and Germany, although the gap is narrowing.
In November 2023, Booths – a high-end northern England supermarket chain – announced that it was removing self-checkouts in the majority of its stores, with md Nigel Murray telling The Grocer: “We pride ourselves on great customer service and you can’t do that through a robot.” Independent retailers have long known that the key to bringing customers back into stores is all in the personal level of service they can offer. While it’s unlikely self-service bays will disappear from the landscape entirely, bringing back the human touch is certainly no bad thing.
A physical media comeback?
Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer made headlines for a number of reasons last year, but probably the most surprising one was for its impact on Blu-ray sales in the US. The 4K Ultra HD version sold out in its first week at major retailers including Amazon, with some limited edition copies apparently fetching more than $200 on eBay. While the overall trend for physical media is a downward one, it seems that high profile theatrical new releases are benefitting from premium physical formats. The Digital Entertainment Group in the US said that 4K UHD Blu-ray experienced 20% growth for the full year 2022, driven by the likes of The Batman and Top Gun: Maverick.
From Pantone’s colour of the year, Peach Fuzz – which has already inspired a number of collaborations from Ruggable through to Polaroid and Motorola – through to a desire for authenticity and traditional art, design-led trends can be expected to act as a muse for categories including apparel and gifting among others. An overall vibe of calmness is being ushered in, after last year’s bright pink Barbie-inspired hues.
London Stationery Show
Acquired by Max Publishing in December, London Stationery Show (14-15 May at the Business Design Centre) is the UK’s only event dedicated to the stationery, arts, crafts, paper and writing instruments sector. Licensing will be present across the showfloor with confirmed exhibitors including Blueprint Collections, IG Design Group, Robert Frederick and Manuscript Brands among others.
Licensing Expo 2024
Licensing Expo is returning to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas from 21-23 May. With Brands at Play set as the core theme for 2024, the event will spotlight the power play holds in every stage of life and the creativity it fosters when building brands. Registration is now open for visitors and exhibitors. Don’t forget, while admission is free of charge for qualified retailers, press and exhibitors, general admission will be $50.
Sustainability in Licensing Conference 2024
Hosted by Products of Change, the Sustainability in Licensing Conference (SiLC) will return to the Royal Geographical Society on Wednesday 6 November. Last year’s SiLC was hailed as “the most amazing, inspiring and engaging industry event ever attended” with the jam-packed agenda covering topics ranging from the legislative changes impacting retail and manufacturing now and in the future, to the new systems emerging across supply chains to reduce impact and encourage circularity.
Brand Licensing Europe 2024
BLE boomerangs back into September this year, running from 24-26 September at London’s ExCeL. Plans are already underway – with the Brands at Play theme continuing from Licensing Expo – and stay tuned for further announcements through the first part of 2024.
Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards 2024
This year’s Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards will take place on Thursday 25 April at the Royal Lancaster London. The awards are open for entries now, with a closing date of Friday 8 March.
The Licensing Awards 2024
Mark Tuesday 10 September in your diary and keep your eyes peeled for further details…