Most exhibitors are reporting a productive Licensing International Expo, which began June 18 in Las Vegas, despite fairly light (but steady) traffic on the show floor. There are a number of new exhibitors and many larger-than-usual booths, although the leading entertainment licensor, Disney Consumer Products, is doing business in meeting rooms rather than having its usual splashy booth presence. The overall attitude among exhibitors and attendees about the show, and the licensing business in general, is positive.
As has been the case for the last several years, properties with origins in books assumed a prominent place among exhibitors, with several licensing agents touting new book-based merchandising programs or new licensing representation for classic properties.
Merrymakers, a manufacturer of literary plush dolls sold in book and specialty stores, exhibited for the first time this year. It launched a licensing division in 2012, when it began representing James Dean’s Pete the Cat. “We’ve seen a lot of really key people,” says Merrymakers president Clair Frederick. She reported good-sized contingents of buyers from a variety of retailers, as well as several publishers, among those stopping by the booth. “It’s all about communicating with licensors, licensees, and international partners, and they’re all here.”
Nick Bruel’s Bad Kitty also made its official Licensing Expo debut. Just prior to the show, Bruel’s newly signed agent, Knockout Licensing – which also handles U.S. licensing duties for Fifty Shades of Grey – announced that it would launch a merchandise program based on that property. Meanwhile, licensing agency Evolution is now representing This One & That One, Jane Seymour and James Keach’s book series about twin cats, which had a limited merchandise effort years ago but is relaunching this year.
King Features, the newspaper syndication and licensing company, is newly representing Chicken Soup for the Soul – for which licensed merchandise generated more than $200 million in retail sales in 2012 – as well as Archie Comics’ Archie & Veronica sub-brand. And British agency Copyrights Group was highlighting the classic British book and animation property The Snowman; a TV special, The Snowman and the Snowdog, will be broadcast this Christmas around the world. It recently assigned The Joester Loria Group as its U.S. agent.
The Expo, which runs through Thursday, June 20, showcases 5,000 properties from 400 exhibitors, including Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Wiley, and the Penguin Group. Publishers such as Simon & Schuster, Parragon, Kappa Books, and HarperCollins are among the attendees, who hail from more than 90 countries. There is a large international contingent among exhibitors this year as well.
Digital properties continue to increase their presence at the show, a trend that has been notable over the past few years but is bigger than ever at the 2013 edition of the Expo. Angry Birds, the most successful digital property to date and one of the most popular licensed characters over the last couple of years, had a large booth, as did several other mobile apps and virtual worlds. In addition, a number of blogs and bloggers (many with book deals) and social media brands are being spotlighted at the show.