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‘Star Wars’ Helps Licensed Merchandise Sales Grow to $251.7 Billion

With “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” providing a boost, global retail sales of licensed merchandise rose 4.2% to $251.7 billion last year, according to the Licensing Industry Merchandisers Assn.

The association issued the report Tuesday in conjunction with the opening of the four-day Licensing Expo at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

The report did not break out any specific contribution from Disney’s first “Star Wars” movie, but Marty Brochstein, senior VP of industry relations and information for LIMA, said that the tentpole movie played  a crucial role in boosting the overall numbers.

“You had an epic-ly popular franchise being marketed for the first time by Disney, which made a massive  effort,” he noted.

Brochstein pointed to Disney’s “Force Friday” event on Sept. 4 — more than three months before the movie opened — as evidence of the company’s widespread push. Touted as the world’s first global live toy unboxing event, Disney held an 18-hour online marathon with YouTube stars opening the toys online.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” became the third-largest worldwide grosser with $2.07 billion in box office.

Brochstein also said Universal’s “Minions” — which grossed a surprisingly strong $1.16 billion worldwide — also made a major contribution last year.

“The merchandising for both the films was really effective because the movies had become part of the cultural conversation,” he added. “There’s an emotional connection to the properties.”

The top licensing property type is entertainment/character, which accounted for $113.2 billion, or 45% of global sales of licensed products at retail. Apparel topped licensed sales with $37.9 billion, followed by toys at $33.7 billion and fashion accessories at $28.5 billion.

The U.S. and Canada saw retail sales of licensed merchandise increase 3.9% in 2015 to $145.5 billion, followed by Western Europe at  $51.8 billion and Northern Asia (which includes Chinas and Korea) with retail sales of $22.1 billion.

The report also showed continued growth in online retail sales, which now accounts for 18.3% of the licensed retail sales, up from the 16.4% reported last year.

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