Interview with Jessica Blue: What to Expect at Licensing Expo 2019

Beloved characters and e-sports are just two of the attractions attendees will be able to check out at Licensing Expo 2019.

Licensing Expo has been the leading place to connect brand owners and creators with manufacturers, licenses and retailers for more than 35 years. We asked Jessica Blue, senior vice president of global licensing at expo partner Informa Markets, about what to expect on June 4-6 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Retail Merchandiser: Tell us what will be new and exciting at Licensing Expo 2019.

Jessica Blue: We’ll host around 150 new exhibitors this year, from a diverse array of categories. LIMA’s Licensing U keynote, seminar and workshop program will move to the show floor for the first time to make it easier for attendees to navigate booth visits and education.

We are also launching “Pitch the Brands,” a new session on the show floor where you can see inventors’ chance to pitch their product to an esteemed group of brand licensing experts. The winner will receive a prize package valued over $18,000 to help move their product forward.

The Global Licensing Group Party moves to a new venue this year: the state-of-the-art HyperX Esports Arena, where attendees can enjoy a night of free game play, drinks and networking. Sponsored by Ubisoft, the Party will also feature a video game tournament that will showcase the excitement and production of an e-sports match.

RM: What trends do you think will be on people’s minds at the show?

JB: Video games continue to grow, and e-sports will be a hot topic. This trend will be reflected on the show floor through exhibitors such as Summoner’s War, Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard and Nintendo. With this trend in mind, it was a no-brainer to move our official party to the brand-new Esports Arena in Las Vegas.

We also see health and natural products continue to rise within licensing. We’re excited to welcome PRØHBTD into the show for the first time this year. They market lifestyle and wellness brands to global audiences, and their presence at the show will include an exclusive, curated marketplace hosting hemp and CBD consumer brands. As the CBD market alone is expected to be worth $22 billion in the U.S. by 2022, we believe PRØHBTD’s involvement at Licensing Expo will open many doors for participating brands in the health and wellness category.

Publishing continues to grow this year as publishing companies look to develop new revenue streams via licensing strategies. We have a great lineup of exhibitors in this category including Billboard, Bonnier Corporation, Dr. Seuss, Encyclopedia Britannica, Penguin Random House, Penske Media, Scholastic, among others.

RM: How does Licensing Expo promote innovation in the licensing industry?

JB: We’re thrilled to welcome back the Virtual Invention Browsing Experience (VIBE) to the show floor to connect enterprising brand owners and manufacturers directly with forward-thinking inventors looking to bring the newest products to market. Made possible through a collaboration with InventHelp, this exciting new initiative will provide a state-of-the-art virtual viewing station, allowing companies to privately view ideas from InventHelp clients.

The One-to-Watch contest, hosted by License Global magazine, is specifically designed to recognize and reward innovation. For properties exhibiting for the first time this year, One-to-Watch is a fantastic opportunity to highlight innovative products and drum up media promotion through Licensing Expo’s social and press outlets.

RM: What will be some opportunities for networking at the event?

JB: In order for attendees to get the most value out of the show, we encourage them to use our Matchmaking Service, which allows them to network and schedule one-on-one business meetings with exhibitors within the categories that they are most interested. These meetings can take place at exhibitor booths or at our dedicated Matchmaking lounge.

They can also attend a number of Licensing Week networking events, which will take place in and around Licensing Expo. In its third year, we’ve added a number of new Licensing Week events to cater to the many different attendee and exhibitor networking interests at Licensing Expo, such as ones geared toward young professionals, women in the toys industry, international attendees and more.

An opportunity for newcomers looking to acquire new strategies, shape innovative ideas and network with licensing veterans is the Roundtable sessions within Licensing U. A crowd favorite, the curriculum is curated by the latest trends, helping attendees connect with and learn the basics of the industry from seasoned professionals. This year, one session is on the rise of eSports. So, attendees can prepare for the Global Licensing Party at the Esports Arena I mentioned earlier and network in a fun, vibrant environment.

RM: What about educational opportunities?

JB: Attendees will also have the opportunity to attend a number of educational sessions through LIMA-hosted Licensing U. This year’s agenda encompasses a full day of “basics” programming for industry newcomers on Tuesday, a full slate of “up close and personal” licensing case studies and countless sessions on the latest trends in the global industry for attendees to refine their brand licensing expertise no matter their current level of knowledge and experience in the industry. All these sessions will take place in the main expo hall this year, making them super easy and convenient to attend.

The Licensing Expo Keynote is a must-attend. Our speaker, Rachel Shechtman, founder of STORY and brand experience officer at Macy’s, is disrupting the industry in all the right ways. We’re excited to have her share her experience as the brand experience officer at Macy’s and speak to how brands can create a deeper connection with consumers. Brick-and-mortar retail is still the major driver for licensed consumer productions – representing over 75 percent of all sales. Her keynote will explore innovations that address evolving consumer expectations while driving foot traffic.

RM: How will Licensing Expo 2019 kick off?

JB: We’ll be kicking off Licensing Expo 2019 with our traditional Costume Character Parade, featuring dozens of familiar and favorite faces from beloved brands at the expo! Our exhibitors are hosting many special events and appearances on the first day of the show as well. For the most up to date information, regularly check

The Global Licensing Group Party with our co-host, Ubisoft, is going to take place on day 2, Wednesday.

RM: How will the expo recognize industry leaders?

JB: Each year at Licensing Expo we celebrate the creativity and accomplishments of industry leaders with the annual LIMA International Licensing Awards. The Awards Ceremony will take place on Tuesday, June 4, at Mandalay Bay’s South Seas Ballroom, beginning with a cocktail reception at 5:30pm, with the ceremony taking place from 6:15-7:30pm.

In addition to announcing the winners in the 23 award categories, we will celebrate the legendary careers of the Hall of Fame inductees Pam Lifford of Warner Bros. Global Brands and Experiences and Michael Stone of Beanstalk, as well as toast to the future with the Rising Star award.

For more information and to register, visit