Licensed products make up one quarter of U.S. unit sales for children age 14 and under, across 17 industries, shown by Q4 2017 findings from our U.S. Kids’ License Tracker. Backpacks, coloring books, t-shirts, games . . . kids love the company of Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss characters alike. What industries, categories, and products are doing well across the licensed product market? How can licensed products fuel your business? Here are 10 things to know if you’re in licensing or considering it.      

1. Kids like to wear their favorite characters

Across 17 industries*, clothing captured the largest share of licensed product sales in Q4 2017, followed by toys, games, and puzzles; party supplies and costumes; and books.1 “One thing is clear,” said chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen. “In a world where consumption keeps changing more rapidly than ever, kids love their licensed products. And in particular love to wear them.”

This figure is even higher for certain industries: 48 percent of movies were licensed, followed by 37 percent for books, 37 percent for party supplies and costumes; 35 percent for toys, games, and puzzles; and 33 percent for video games software in Q4 2017.1

3. Dogs win over mice, snowmen, and Jedi

Paw Patrol was the top license across all industries and age groups in Q4 2017, followed by Disney Frozen, Mickey Mouse, Star Wars, and NFL.1 Because who doesn’t like to adorn children’s toys, games, crafts, and bath products with scenes from a rescue dog troop?

4. People buy a significant proportion of licensed products online

While the majority of licensed products for kids were purchased in stores, online dollar sales accounted for more than one-third of kids’ licensed products—a proportion much greater than that for most industries.1 For example, online dollar sales accounted for just 24 percent of total toy sales, and 21 percent of apparel sales in 2017

5. Licensed products are hottest for those aged three to five

Nearly 30 percent of licensed product sales in Q4 2017 were for this young age group.1 The biggest license among this group was Paw Patrol. “There is a lot of fluidity in the kids’ licensing market, and understanding the differences among age groups is critical to finding opportunities,” said Juli Lennett, our senior vice president and toys industry advisor. Kristen McLean, Executive Director, Business Development – NPD Books added that today’s digitally-sophisticated kids are an increasingly powerful force that does not always behave in ways that are easy to anticipate. Their passion drives all kinds of new patterns of discovery, and when they get behind things, it can really move the consumer needle.

6. Mom and Dad call the shots

Who buys licensed products for kids? The 25- to 34-year-old age group is responsible for nearly one-third of licensed product sales, followed by 35- to-44-year-olds, who made up more than one-quarter of licensed product sales in Q4 2017. Together, these two segments were responsible for 58 percent of licensed product sales in Q4 2017.1

7. Grandma buys more licensed gifts than Grandpa

Licensed sales skew toward older women. Looking at licensed product sales by consumers 55 years and older, women dominate the space: in Q4 2017, 81 percent of licensed product buyers aged 55 to 64 were women, and 74 percent of buyers of 65+ were women.1

8. Globally, it’s all about licensed action figures and toy cars

Looking at the G12 countries2 in 2017, licensed toys made up 26 percent of total toy sales. Global toys analyst Frédérique Tutt shared that, perhaps not surprisingly, the toy categories with the highest share of licensed products were action figures (77 percent of dollar sales), vehicles (39 percent), and building sets (38 percent). Arts and Crafts (14 percent), games and puzzles (14 percent), and outdoor toys (15 percent) had the smallest category share of licensed toy sales.

9. Video games favor sports licenses

The best-selling U.S. licensed video game properties in 2017 were NBA, NFL, and Tom Clancy. “Licensed properties in the video games space are particularly important to the sports, action, and fighting game segments,” said video games analyst Mat Piscatella

10. In books, the classics still hold true

Licensing in books was led in Q4 2017 by a mighty group of 10 licenses that accounted for 38 percent of 2017 sales, as shown by our BookScanTM License Reporting Service. It may be more than half a century old, but Dr. Seuss still comes out on top as the number-one license for books, followed by James Patterson and Harry Potter. Looking at the first four months of 2018, BookScan® shows the oldie-but-goodie Berenstain Bears (introduced in 1962) made the top 10 list, as did children’s fiction classic A Wrinkle in Time, also published in 1962 and released in U.S. movie theaters in early 2018.

*U.S. Kids’ License Tracker covers apps and in app purchases, arts and crafts, baby gear, books, clothing, consumer electronics/accessories, DVD/Blu-ray and digital (movies, TV shows), footwear, fashion accessories, health/beauty products, home products, party supplies/costumes, school supplies, sporting goods, toys/puzzles, video game console/portable hardware and accessories, and video game software and accessories.

[1] Source: The NPD Group/ U.S. Kids’ License Tracker, Q4 2017
[2] Global toys data covers Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Mexico, Russia, Spain, UK and US

Learn More

The U.S. Kids’ License Tracker is a consumer tracking service that provides a holistic view of licensed purchases spanning 17 industries. It reveals licenses’ share by industry, focusing on purchases made for children up to age 14. It’s a new way to uncover cross-industry licensing opportunities. For more on licensing trends, click here. To discover how you can measure performance, predict future performance, and improve your marketing and product development, visit our LinkedIn page. Questions? Call us at 866-444-1411 or email