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31 flat. 42 up. 9 down. That's how 82 of our Leading Licensors shook out when we compared 2004 worldwide retail sales of consumer products with those of 2003. The majority of the companies that remained flat year over year include some of the industry's largest licensors and those in our top 10: Disney Consumer Products, Warner Bros. Consumer Products, Sanrio, and National Basketball Association. For those licensors that reported an increase in sales year over year, the total amounts to roughly $6.2 billion, of which Marvel holds the lion's share with a more than $3.8 billion increase. The down represents nearly $1.6 billion. That means our Leading Licensors' overall increase was about $4.6 billion. Not bad...better if we removed the decimal point.

I'm beginning to believe 2005 will be remembered as the year of retail. Since we last spoke (or I spoke and you read), Federated Department Stores and May Department Stores became one, and the global Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us businesses were acquired by an investment group. The moves appear strong on the surface for the retail environment, but cause for alarm at the same time. Let's take the Federated/May transition for example; internally, questions such as job functions, cost-cutting measures, overhead, underperforming doors, and strategies for unification will be hot-button issues for executives. Once that behind the scenes shakes out, an evaluation of consumer bases throughout the U.S. will take effect, followed by a marketing stance for cohesion purposes. The end result may prove positive...but takes time. As for Toys "R" Us, well, I'm certain the sentiments are the same: Thankfully, TRU remains in business.

Bad news is never my intention in this column. For the last three years, I've watched our industry stats fluctuate like those of the stock market. Licensing is not the stock market...it's money in the bank. Your bank. That goes for licensors, licensees...and, yes, retailers. You can bank on this industry to offer new ideas, new animation, new brand imaging and extensions, new opportunities (wireless content, for example), new promotions. Now, what are you doing to bring that newness to the end-user? I'll bet consumers are asking for newness, but risk is no longer the mantra. All this and many other industries need is for one retailer (just one) to step out of the mold and take a few chances. It may prove positive for everyone.

Since I've been a writer for quite some time, I know a transition when I see one. This month, we're breaking a mold. Our Licenses Granted/ Recently Available pages are now online. While we usually devote upward of 8 pages to this section, there now will only be one page of Editor's Picks (both recently granted and now available). The rest of our section can be found at tracker.licensemag.com. We've taken the Licenses Granted/Recently Available sections that have run on our pages for the last two years and entered those into a searchable database. Curious who has the license for apparel for Brand A? The information is now at your fingertips. Our online section then will be updated weekly with the latest information. Plus, we've got an e-zine coming next month (yep, an e-zine). But, breaking one mold a month is enough for me.

JOYCEANN COONEY EDITOR-IN-CHIEFjcooney@advanstar.com

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