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Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Character Merchandising market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

For the purpose of this report, character merchandising is defined as the use of popular (typically fictional) characters from the world of entertainment to promote the sale of consumer goods, including those lines of merchandise that have been especially created to bear the name and image of the character.

Characters typically derive from a number of different media, with the most popular being the following:

  • Television series
  • Cartoon feature films
  • Live-action feature films
  • Toys and games
  • Comic books
  • Fiction books
  • Newspaper strip cartoons
  • Computer/electronic games

Character merchandising seeks to promote the sale of consumer goods via the licensing of copyrighted intellectual properties and other means such as television networks, product brands (eg HGTV Home products), or sports organizations and teams (eg Chicago Bulls basketball or the National Football League).

What you need to know

2017 marked the slowest rate of sales growth for licensed merchandise since 2014, a year when the wild success from Frozen was still peaking. Since then, two of the largest toy retailers have filed for bankruptcy, and consumers have shifted their discretionary spending to experiences rather than tangible goods. Nonetheless, the entertainment industry continues to come to the rescue with blockbuster movies, TV shows, video games, and more that breathe life into the character-merchandising sector. 2018 brought some of the biggest movies in history, with Black Panther, Incredibles 2, and Avengers: Infinity Wars, the effects of which are still being realized but should lead to an uptick in sales at year-end. Even more big hits are expected in 2019 and beyond, including the highly anticipated Frozen 2.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Diana Smith, a leading analyst in the Retail & Apparel sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Licensed merchandise is big business, valued at $111.4 billion, and character merchandise represents the lion’s share (12.1%) of it. Blockbuster movies, TV shows, and other forms of media content all drive enormous demand for character merchandise, but the industry needs to look for new avenues for growth to sustain sales during slower, off-peak periods. Diana Smith
Associate Director - Retail & Apparel


What's included

What's included

Table of contents

Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • Overview
          • The issues
            • Decelerated growth patterns
              • Toys and games in transition
                • Staying top-of-mind
                  • The opportunities
                    • Unleash the “little kid” in the big kids
                      • Embrace online and other emerging media outlets
                        • Explore themes of nostalgia, familiarity, and education
                          • What it Means for the Future of Character Merchandising
                          • The Market – What You Need to Know

                            • Character merchandising outperforms broader licensed merchandise category
                              • Toys and games sit alone at the top
                                • Mass merchandisers and eCommerce seeing gains
                                  • More content and ways to view means more characters to love
                                    • Big buzz surrounding upcoming blockbusters
                                    • Market Size

                                      • Sector continues to post gains but sees slowdown in growth
                                        • Figure 1: Total US and Canada retail sales of licensed merchandise, at current prices, 2013-18
                                        • Figure 2: US and Canada retail sales of licensed merchandise, by product type, 2016 -17
                                    • Market Breakdown

                                      • Three product categories represent nearly half of sales
                                        • Figure 3: US and Canada retail sales and percent share of licensed entertainment/character-based merchandise, 2016-17
                                      • Discounters/mass merchandisers remain dominant channel, while eCommerce comes on strong
                                        • Figure 4: Share of US and Canada retail sales of licensed entertainment/character-based merchandise, by distribution channel, 2016-17
                                        • Figure 5: Retailers shopped, by select demographics, September 2018
                                        • Figure 6: Method of shopping, by retailer, September 2018
                                    • Market Factors

                                      • No notable growth expected for children’s population
                                        • Economic stability could lead to spikes during holidays and beyond
                                          • Traditional gender roles being challenged
                                            • More viewing options means more characters
                                              • Figure 7: Use of subscription online video content, August 2017
                                              • Figure 8: Influence of streaming services, by gender and age and parental status, August 2017
                                            • Blockbuster hits create demand
                                            • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                                              • Long live the classics
                                                • Comic books face challenges
                                                  • Is it time for a resurgence of toys and games?
                                                    • What’s old is also what’s new and next
                                                    • What’s Working?

                                                      • Everyone loves a classic
                                                        • Figure 9: Estimated US/Canada retail sales and share of licensed merchandise based on entertainment/character properties, 2017
                                                        • Figure 10: Popular characters, September 2018
                                                      • Men and their superheroes
                                                        • Figure 11: Popular characters, by gender and age, September 2018
                                                      • Parents likely to pass down their favorites to their kids
                                                        • Figure 12: Popular characters, by parental status by gender, September 2018
                                                      • Mickey for young kids, Darth Varder for older kids
                                                        • Figure 13: Popular characters, by age of children, September 2018
                                                    • What’s Struggling?

                                                      • Comic books losing audiences
                                                      • What’s Next?

                                                        • The “big three” look to capture sales of toys and games
                                                            • Figure 14: Amazon Toy Catalog, October 2018
                                                            • Figure 15: Amazon’s Movie and TV Hub for character merchandise, October 2018
                                                          • Driving sales through events
                                                            • Mickey turning 90
                                                              • Figure 16: Target, Mickey and Minnie Mouse Collection, Email, May 2018
                                                            • Snoopy going to space
                                                              • Disney comes to the dinner table
                                                                • Properties to watch
                                                                • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                  • Not just for kids
                                                                    • Consumers say they prefer items with longevity, but their purchasing patterns don’t always reflect this
                                                                      • Young men will treat themselves
                                                                        • Tapping into nostalgia
                                                                          • Gravitating toward the familiar
                                                                            • Characters as children’s (and parents’) role models
                                                                            • Who’s Buying and Items Purchased

                                                                              • Young adults and parents are primary buyers
                                                                                • Figure 17: Items purchased – Any (net), by gender and age and parental status by gender, September 2018
                                                                                • Figure 18: Nonbuyers, by presence of children in household and household income, September 2018
                                                                              • Toys and games fall down on the list
                                                                                • Figure 19: Items purchased, September 2018
                                                                              • Except for toys, kids are not the primary recipient
                                                                                • Figure 20: Recipient of items purchased, September 2018
                                                                            • Reasons for Buying

                                                                              • Appealing more to kids and dads could help drive planned purchases
                                                                                • Figure 21: Reasons for buying, September 2018
                                                                              • Men love to gift themselves
                                                                                • Figure 22: Buys made for self-gifting or collectible reasons, by gender and age, September 2018
                                                                              • Hispanics and non-Hispanic Black consumers respond to affordable prices
                                                                                • Figure 23: Buys made for self-gifting, rewards, or price reasons, by race and Hispanic origin, September 2018
                                                                            • Shopping Preferences

                                                                              • Consumers seek longevity and nostalgia
                                                                                • Figure 24: Shopping preferences, September 2018
                                                                              • One third of men 18-34 are collectors
                                                                                • Figure 25: Shopping preferences, by gender and age, September 2018
                                                                              • Longevity of branded merchandise is important to parents
                                                                                  • Figure 26: Shopping preferences, by parental status by gender and children in household, September 2018
                                                                              • Attitudes toward Character Merchandising

                                                                                • Familiarity is important to drive purchase
                                                                                  • Figure 27: Attitudes toward character merchandising, by gender and age, September 2018
                                                                                • Hispanics generally positive about character merchandising
                                                                                  • Figure 28: Attitudes toward character merchandising, by Hispanic origin, September 2018
                                                                                • Characters can be good role models for children
                                                                                  • Figure 29: Attitudes toward character merchandising’s ability to encourage good behavior from children, by parental status by gender and presence of children, September 2018
                                                                              • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                                • Data sources
                                                                                  • Sales data
                                                                                    • Consumer survey data
                                                                                      • Purchase Intelligence
                                                                                        • Direct marketing creative
                                                                                          • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                            • Abbreviations
                                                                                              • Terms
                                                                                              • Appendix – The Market

                                                                                                  • Figure 30: Total US and Canada retail sales of licensed merchandise, at current prices, 2013-18
                                                                                                  • Figure 31: US and Canada retail sales of licensed merchandise, by product category, 2016-17
                                                                                                  • Figure 32: Population by age, 2013-23
                                                                                                  • Figure 33: Population of children under 18, by race and Hispanic origin, 2018-23
                                                                                                  • Figure 34: Median household income, by age of householder, 2016
                                                                                                  • Figure 35: Consumer Sentiment Index, January 2007-September 2018
                                                                                                  • Figure 36: Disposable personal income change from previous period, January 2007-August 2018
                                                                                                  • Figure 37: Median household income, by race and Hispanic origin of householder, 2016

                                                                                              About the report

                                                                                              This report will give you a complete 360-degree view of your market. Not only is it rooted in robust proprietary and high-quality third-party data, but our industry experts put that data into context and you’ll quickly understand:

                                                                                              • The Consumer

                                                                                                What They Want. Why They Want It.

                                                                                              • The Competitors

                                                                                                Who’s Winning. How To Stay Ahead.

                                                                                              • The Market

                                                                                                Size, Segments, Shares And Forecasts: How It All Adds Up.

                                                                                              • The Innovations

                                                                                                New Ideas. New Products. New Potential.

                                                                                              • The Opportunities

                                                                                                Where The White Space Is. How To Make It Yours.

                                                                                              • The Trends

                                                                                                What’s Shaping Demand – Today And Tomorrow.

                                                                                              Please Note: This is a sample report. All of the figures, graphs, and tables have been redacted.