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Toy successes continue to drive market, says NPD

16 licensed products were purchased every second of the year in the UK in 2017.

2017 was a year of change for the UK and, for the licensing market, the macro-economic conditions in the UK have been an added challenge. However, the market remains very dynamic with adults purchasing over £4bn of licensed products for 0-14 year olds (source: NPD Kids License Tracker, 12 months to June 2017) or 500 million units. This means that 16 licensed products were purchased every second of the year in the UK, ranging from toys to clothing and homewares to publishing and party supplies.

Toys accounts for the largest area of the licensed kids market with 26% of all licensed kids value sales, while clothing was the second largest with 18% of value. In 2016 the UK toy market hit its largest value ever and grew +6% (source: NPD POS Retail Tracking). While 2017 may not have been able to continue the same growth rate, the total toy market retained a key focus on licences and character brands.

The preschool market in particular has been very dynamic with PAW Patrol continuing to grow, up +24% and the number two property in total toys YTD October 2017. PJ Masks also had a strong launch with just under £10m sales in nine months, while old favourites like Peppa Pig and Thomas and Friends remained top properties across the total market.


However, the top property in the UK toy market YTD October 2017 was Total DC Comics, driven by the LEGO Batman movie products released at the start of the year, as well as the Justice League movie in November.

Indeed, 2017 seemed like there was a big movie launch every week, from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Cars 3 to Universal’s Despicable Me 3, Saban Brands’ Power Rangers to Hasbro’s Transformers – not to mention the regular Marvel offerings throughout the year: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man Homecoming and Thor Ragnorok.

In addition, there was also the December film release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, so perhaps there was an overwhelming choice for consumers which saw the toy sales for some movie lines lower than many expected. However, overall movies still accounted for 13% of all toy sales, while TV/DVD/digital accounted for a further 21% in the last 12 months.

The digital world as well remains important in licensing with Minecraft remaining the largest digital video game property in toys. However, sales from licences new to toys like Roblox, Disney Crossy Road and Five Nights at Freddy’s have also been contributing to this area of the market in the last year.


One of the key successes within the toy market in 2017 was L.O.L Surprise, which managed to successfully combine the collectable and unboxing trends in the market. The strength of the toy range, with the original L.O.L Surprise Doll Assortment the number one best selling toy in total toys (YTD October 2017), has led the toy brand to look at licensing out into other areas of the market including clothing for 2018.

This demonstrates that there is inspiration to be found by taking a successful toy and expanding its presence in the wider licensing world.

As ever, the licensing market remains very buoyant with a balance between fresh new licences and traditional favourites. There are opportunities for licences to expand across categories and media in 2018 and even create their own unique marketplace, through in-store activation, utilising social media and additional marketing activity.

NPD’s UK License Tracker aims to equip licensors, manufacturers and retailers to uncover opportunities and grow their share of the licensed product marketplace. You can find out more by contacting NPD on 020 8237 1300.

This feature originally appeared in the spring 2018 edition of Licensing Source Book. Click here to read the full publication.

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