Despite the sorry state of the economy, business was booming at the 28th annual Licensing International Expo, a three-day conference for merchandising rights holders that was held in early June at New York's hard-to-get-to Jacob Javits Convention Center. Regardless, Advanstar Global Licensing Group, which organizes the show on behalf of the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association (LIMA), is planning to move the Expo to the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas for its 2009 edition, citing the desire to "expand in new directions." VidioAge spoke with a slew of attendees to discern this year's sweeping licensing trends and to find out whether the organization will be able to weather the move to Sin City.
"The biggest trend I've noticed this year is that companies are trying to refresh classic characters," said Doug Schwalbe of New York-based Classic Media, an Entertainment Rights company. Classic Media came to the Expo this year to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Casper the Friendly Ghost, as well as the 15th birthday of Veggietales. "It's a big issue for everyone involved in character licensing. We're doing that with Casper, of course. We have the new CG [computer-generated] Casper) Scare School and at the same time, we're re-launching classic Casper with a completely separate style guide. He's living on as a hip, Halloween-themed retro property."
While trends like this were easy to spot, less easy to finger was whether or not the falling dollar had a major effect on attendees. "It's got to be weighing on people's minds," said Schwalbe. "But prices for things that people want will still be driven by competition--not the dollar."
According to Steven Ekstract, group publisher for License! Global Magazine, the declining dollar only meant that more foreigners came to the show. "Europeans, especially, have a lot of spending power now," said Ekstract, mentioning that BBC Worldwide and Hit Entertainment were just a couple of the many Europe-based firms that exhibited at the Expo. "Europeans love coming to New York to shop, anyway," he said with a laugh. "This event [gave] them the perfect excuse to come here."
The downward spiraling economy and the costly Javits Convention Center may have kept some would-be exhibitors at bay, but the companies that did come were there to do business. Iceland's LazyTown Entertainment inked deals with licensing agents in Bendux, Israel and Eastern Europe for series ZazyTown...