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Fun and games of licensing ring up $102 bil worldwide

Retail sales of licensed merchandise reached a worldwide record $102.2 billion in 1994, up 4% from a year earlier, according to figures released Friday by the Licensing Letter, a licensing trade publication.

Entertainment properties “The Lion King” and “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” helped retail sales in the U.S. and Canada hit a record high of $70 billion in 1994. Entertainment properties account for 25% of the retail pie in the U.S. and Canada with a total of $17.2 billion in sales. The joint U.S. and Canadian market accounts for 68.5% of the worldwide market share; Western Europe, 19.5%; and Japan, 9.5%.

Licensees and merchandisers from throughout the world are descending on Manhattan this week for the annual Licensing Show, Tuesday through Thursday at the New York Hilton. Reps from virtually every studio and entertainment company in Hollywood will attend.

Among the film properties represented at the show will be “Batman Forever,” “Pocahontas” and “Apollo 13,” all expected to be major players in the marketplace.

Licensed merchandise has grown into a major source of revenue for entertainment companies since “Star Wars” products took off in the mid-’70s. Retail sales for the original “Batman,” for example, outgrossed the film’s worldwide box office, tallying $1 billion in retail sales.

But the impetus behind merchandise cracking the $100 billion mark has been an influx from other countries.

“What we found this year that is different from the past three is that there is a significant number of properties coming into this country – in particular from Japan, Europe and Australia,” said Karen Raugust, executive editor of the Licensing Letter.

Raugust singled out three properties popular in their home countries ripe for exporting: the syndicated “Sailor Moon” TV series from Japan; the “Blinky Bill” TV series from Australia; and the Mr. Blobby character from a TV series popular in Europe and the U.K.

Another reason for the increase is that markets in several regions of the world are just now opening up.

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