Globetrotting: The UK

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Clothing is the biggest category for licensed goods in the UK with $983 million in 2005 sales.

The most striking thing about the UK retail sector is its size. In 2005, the total value of the whole retail sector was £249 billion (U.S. $437 billion). This was more than the combined total economies of Ireland and Switzerland, and represented 6 percent of the UK's total GDP of £4,150 billion (U.S. $7,283 billion).

NPD Eurotoys recently produced its second annual tracker report on the UK retail and licensing market, and Frederique Tutt, Eurotoys director, UK and Spain, believes the report reveals some interesting results. "Although there has been an overall decline in clothing sales in terms of value, in 2005 the sector was worth £4.971 billion (U.S. $8.7 billion), so there has not been a corresponding decline in the volume of sales." Tutt believes this "reflects the impact of value retailers such as Matalan on the clothing market."

The British Retail Consortium, the retail trade's representative body, agrees, reporting that in 2005, value retailers took 20 percent of the UK clothing market, double their 1999 share.

Clothing is important to the UK's licensing business as it is the biggest category for licensed goods, with a 2005 value of £560 million (U.S. $983 million), ahead of toys at £509 million (U.S. $893 million); video/DVD, £221 million (U.S. $388 million); publishing, £218 million (U.S. $383 million); and school equipment, £155 million (U.S. $267 million).

The 2005 value of the UK licensing market was just short of £2.1 billion (U.S. $3.69 billion). Overall, this represented a growth of 4 percent over 2004, although spending on girls rose 7 percent to £1.1 billion (U.S. $1.9 billion) versus spending on boys, which was flat at £972 million (U.S. $1.7 billion). Eurotoys' Tutt attributes this difference "almost entirely to the difference in clothing spend," which for boys in 2005 was £1.939 billion (U.S. $3.4 billion) and for girls was £2.927 billion, (U.S. $5.1 billion).

By far the biggest retailer of licensed goods in the UK is Woolworth's with 2005 sales of £1.939 billion (U.S. $3.4 billion). The retailer sold nearly double the value of licensed goods of second-placed Argos. Yet a Woolworth's spokesperson placed clothing in third place in the stores' sales behind entertainment and toys. When assessing a potential licensing line, the chain looks at the "popularity of the license, the available margin, and the relevance of the product to a Woolworth's customer," he says. The chain's top five selling licenses over the last year: Batman, Bob the Builder, Star Wars, King Kong, and Thomas the Tank Engine.

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