Miffy, the simply drawn bunny created by author/illustrator Dick Bruna in 1959, is poised to beef up its merchandise presence in the U.S. with a new deal with Mervyn’s for an extensive range of apparel and accessories. This deal is in addition to the Miffy sections in Zany Brainy stores, which were previously Miffy’s only U.S. distribution outlets.
The Miffy areas will officially open in Mervyn’s 258 stores in 14 states on March 14.
According to Marja Kerkhof, managing director of Amsterdam-based Mercis, which owns the property, the deal will help slowly infuse the U.S. with the Miffy character.
She says Mercis chose Mervyn’s stores because it was impressed with the chain’s dedicated children’s area.’I think that was very key to us. We’ve always been worried about having a few items in a very large store and no one noticing any of it.’ The program is definitely targeted at middle- to high-end markets.
The Mervyn’s program will include plush by New York-based Prestige, videos from L.A.-based Pioneer and books from New York’s Kodansha, all set to hit shelves March 1.
Coinciding with the Mervyn’s launch is the round bunny’s 45th birthday, which will be celebrated all year via special birthday promotions like costumed Miffy appearances in the States and a Dick Bruna tour. Fifty-two new episodes of the Miffy TV series will air on Cartoon Network’s Small World preschool block, and Kerkhof says Mercis is currently considering 13 more episodes.
Japan-based Shop Hondo will also produce braille books for visually impaired children and provide them free to institutions in Australia, the U.S., Germany, France, the U.K., Korea and Japan.
‘Not only will the text be in braille, but the illustrations in braille as well. Because Dick’s work is almost like pictograms, you can do it in braille.’ Kerkhof says this is the way the Miffy program has rolled out in other countries-slowly but with a definite focus. ‘We’d rather do it in a well developed way-really work the program rather than pushing it on the market and it getting lost everywhere.’ There are large Miffy programs in Australia, the Netherlands and Japan, where sales have increased 45% over the last few years.