One girls line that’s not afraid to call itself so is Japanese corporation SANRIO’s Hello Kitty. The Hello Kitty brand contributes a substantial chunk of the US$1.2 billion that products based on the SANRIO characters gross worldwide annually. The proliferation of SANRIO Gift Gate and SANRIO Surprises retail outlets 150 in the U.S. and nearly 600 internationally offering Hello Kitty along with other SANRIO lines indicates how strong a girl-targeted property can be, says Joy Tashjian, president of worldwide merchandising and sales at DIC Entertainment.
Hoping to build on this momentum, DIC announced at this year’s Licensing Show that it had picked up key worldwide licensing and merchandising rights to Hello Kitty. Also included in the deal are international distribution rights to the catalogue of 50 Hello Kitty episodes, previously produced for Japan, and rights to develop an undisclosed number of episodes of a new animated series. DIC will create its own line of Hello Kitty products to be sold in SANRIO outlets, as well as through other retailers.
‘The TV show and toy line in the U.S. will target girls [age] four to eight,’ says Tashjian. ‘DIC also plans to further define the personality of the Hello Kitty character and her friends.’
Tashjian notes that while two TV series based on SANRIO’s Hello Kitty, Keroppi and other characters aired briefly a few years ago one in Japan and another in the U.S. the growth of the licensed product line has continued independent of programming support. ‘Without a TV show, SANRIO has built a brilliant gift line. By adding a TV program, the character will be able to have a more defined role.’
To date, Hello Kitty has only been exploited in the stationery and gift categories. DIC plans to expand the line to include dolls, play environments, mini-dolls, mini-play environments and lockets.
Tashjian says that Hello Kitty is unique and very promising in the U.S. market because it blends a character-based line with fashion and lifestyle elements. ‘The property has traditionally attracted [girls age] four to 16, and a lot of that is based [on] the strength of the design. These designers create a fashion piece, not just a character item. That’s why Hello Kitty’s line comes out in four seasons, just like any apparel line.’
‘For a girl’s property, it’s really rare to go beyond the age of 10,’ Tashjian adds. ‘But Hello Kitty has a huge teen following.’