UK clothing manufacturers could be missing out on the growing licensing market according to new figures published by the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers' Association (LIMA).

The recent study, which was part sponsored by researchers at the Yale School of Management and the Harvard Business School, showed that US manufacturers, many of them in the apparel industry, spent a staggering $5.847bn last year on royalties, up by four per cent on the previous year. The reason for the increase is that more US companies, faced with an economic slowdown, are turning to film characters and other properties to boost sales.

The strategy seems to be paying off. At a time when retail sales were sluggish consumers in the US spent $97bn on licensed merchandise, indicating that branded products shift more quickly off the shelves.

"During a time of uncertain economic conditions, the licensing industry continues to thrive while other industries have lagged behind," says Charles M Riotto, LIMA president. "In a year with no singularly notable blockbuster property, we have seen growth along every major sector of the licensing industry, proving licensing is a vital part of the retail marketplace."

UK apparel companies looking to catch up with their overseas counterparts can get the latest advice at Brand Licensing London, which takes place at the Business Design Centre from 24-25 October. The pre-show conference, which is organised by LIMA, takes place on 23 October and guides newcomers through the basics from getting started, legal issues that impact the business, and techniques to make licensing work.