NEW YORK — With big-name movies like “Shrek 2” and “SpongeBob SquarePants” slated for upcoming release, deal makers were in full swing at the Licensing 2003 show trying to determine what the next hot retail property might be.
The international show, which saw a 7.5 percent increase in attendance from last year with more than 20,000 attendees, took place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here. The show featured more than 425 exhibitors representing more than 5,500 properties in categories from entertainment and publishing, and art and design to food and beverage. The licensing industry generated some $2.6 billion in royalty revenues in the past year, a 3.9 percent increase, according to the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association.
Helping to pique imagination on the licensing show floor were larger-than-life inflatable characters of Meow Mix orange cats and Elmo, plus a giant Shrek and, surrounding the Disney station, a make-believe castle.
A spokeswoman for Disney consumer products said the elaborate displays were all meant to create the stage for potential deals.
“We’re hoping to take comic strips from the past and inspire clothing,” she said, referring to the popularity of vintage Mickey Mouse, adding that Disney just launched a line of T-shirts at Fred Segal in Los Angeles.
The company was also hoping to strike more deals with its ever-popular Disney Princess characters like Pocahontas, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.
“Mickey is so hot right now, you see people like Debra Messing and Sarah Jessica Parker wearing Mickey T-shirts, and we feel we have this vast collection of archives we can draw upon,” she said. “Disney is a brand that exists at Fred Segal and at Wal-Mart — it has great appeal.”
New to the licensing show was DreamWorks, which was promoting “Shrek 2,” slated for summer 2004, “Sharkslayer” for holiday 2004 and “Madagascar,” summer 2005.
Anne Globe, head of DreamWorks consumer products marketing, said, “The licensing show provides an ideal platform to demonstrate innovation and creativity to retailers, as well as licensees and partners.”
Other timeless classics seeking to make deals at the show included Looney Tunes, Winnie the Pooh, Pink Panther and Sesame Street.
“While Sesame Street products have traditionally been targeted to preschoolers, apparel and accessories featuring nostalgic characters have recently been sought after by an older demographic,” said Tamra Seldin, Sesame Workshop’s vice president of marketing.
But timeless classics don’t stop relative newcomers like SpongeBob from trying to grab their piece of market share. Since its debut on Nickelodeon in 1999, SpongeBob has grown into a national phenomenon and one of the hottest licenses, with retail sales of $800 million in 2002. The show is one of the highest rated on cable TV. Its first feature film is planned for fall 2004 and will be accompanied by a new assortment of products for kids, teens and adults.
“It’s just huge, the popularity goes across all demographics,” said Sara Stern Levin, director of communications at Nickelodeon, “from toys, apparel, stationary, adult clothing, packaged goods and candy. It’s our biggest property right now and one of the biggest today.”