The UK market grew 9.6% to $13.09bn (£10.03bn), overtaking Japan, whos market declined 2% to £11.95bn (£9.15bn).
The UK now accounts for just over 5% of the global total, which was up 4.2% to $251.7bn, according to the second annual global licensing industry survey from the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association.
The global industry is massively dominated by the US and Canada, which collectively account for 57.7% of global sales – although this is down slightly as demand for licensed products gathers steam in Europe and Asia.
A full 45% of the market – some $113.2m worth – was accounted for by character and entertainment properties, followed by corporate and branded (21%), fashion (12%) and sports (10%), with smaller shares for publishing, celebrity and music.
Merchandise is a massive commercial opportunity for the film industry; the London School of Marketing has calculated that of the $28bn (£21.43bn) in sales to date for the Star Wars franchise, only $4bn was generated through box office sales. The latest film in the series, The Force Awakens, is expected to bring in $5bn in merchandise sales in its first year alone.
In terms of product types, the most lucrative opportunities were apparel, representing 15% of sales, toys, with 13%, and fashion accessories (11%), followed by home decor, games and apps, and food and beverage.
Lima UK managing director Kelvyn Gardner said: "Licensing continues to grow fast and clearly punches above its weight when compared to general economic growth.
"The UK has now become the second largest market in the world against what is still a tough retail environment, testimony to the strength of licensed brands, the quality of licensees' products and the vision of UK retail which clearly understands the message: 'licensing sells'."