Licensing Lights Up Holiday Season

‘Tis the season to be jolly and for many brands, licensing agents, and retailers as Q4 will confirm if they will feel the holiday spirit and sing joy to the world in the new year.

Licensing loves the holidays.

Especially in Q4, that magical time of year where licensed product lines take over people’s thoughts and retailers’ shelves from October through December.  Whether it’s Halloween costumes or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons or the holiday decorations and wonderful branded gifts that bring joy and happiness to friends and families, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are big businesses for licensed products.

While 2020 may have brought more scares than delight, in 2021 Halloween sales roared back with consumer spending reaching all-time highs of over $10 billion between candy, costumes, and decorations.

Brands continued to dominate costumes as Google’s Fright Geist tracked the nation’s top costumes; more than half of them were from properties like Spider-Man, Harley Quinn, and Squid Game.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade brought out the old and new favorites with their array of branded balloons. The Pokémon Company International debuted new balloons featuring two Pokémon–Pickachu and Eevee which brought back sweet millennial nostalgia.

Seeing the new (and old favorite) balloons is always the highlight of the parade. Star Wars and Funko had the extraterrestrial cutie Grogu make an appearance in the parade while Peanuts Worldwide and NASA collaborated on the Astronaut Snoopy balloon.

To continue the holiday celebration, Macy’s Collectibles released limited edition Parade NFTs with one NFT selling for more than $300,000. As NFTs continue to build in popularity, we can expect to see them used more throughout the holiday season.

While Halloween and Thanksgiving kick off the holidays in high spirits, it’s the month of December that makes the season extra sweet. With Christmas, Hanukkah (which this year started in November and ends in December), and Kwanzaa, the gift-giving season goes into full swing. From holiday music to holiday cards to wrapping holiday gifts, Q4 is a barometer for retailers, licensors, and licensees to see if the new year will be bright and shiny

According to McKinsey & Company, demand is forecasted to be strong over the 2021 holiday season. While the supply chain issues have been a concern, Walmart’s CEO, John Furman, recently told Good Morning America “We’re all working together to make sure that customers have what they need over the holiday season and ended our third quarter up in inventory.” Furman also stated, “just like every year there’s something hot, a hot toy — like game consoles — but we have a couple of things we can help with.”

They’re already seeing certain categories like Christmas décor selling quickly.

One of the biggest sellers for holidays is toys. U.S. toys sales rocketed up 16% in 2020 due to the pandemic, topping $25 billion. Sports toys like skateboards were the biggest winners followed by fashion dolls and accessories and building sets like Lego.

For 2021, toys are still a holiday hot commodity. Macy’s and Toys “R” Us teamed up to create Geoffrey’s List of the hot holiday toys every kid will love. Brands dominate from Hatchimals to Harry Potter to Avengers to Barbie. There are even cobranded items like Nerf’s Fortnight Heavy SR Blaster.

Amazon, one of the biggest holiday retailers, has curated its “Toys We Love” list featuring all types of toys from action toys and vehicles to arts & crafts to games & puzzles, and more. Brand staples like Crayola and Transformers can be found alongside newer brands like the new animated series Do, Re & Mi.

Q4 is a key time for sales at retail. In fact, holiday retail sales have grown 4.4% on average over the past five years according to the National Retail Federation. The NRF expects holiday sales this year to rise between 8.5% and 10.5% for a total of between $843.4 billion and $859 billion in sales. They expect e-commerce sales to get a boost (as many businesses have added curbside pickup and home delivery). NRF’s Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz is confident going into this holiday season.

“There are several factors coming together to have a major impact on the holiday outlook, but household fundamentals are a bright spot in the uncertain present,” stated Kleinhenz. “Consumers are in a very favorable position going into the last months of the year and are spending because they can.”

And when consumers spend in Q4, that truly makes the licensing season oh-so-very bright.

Wishing you and yours a joyous and bright holiday season.


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