Sanrio has defied all sceptics by establishing the cutesy Hello Kitty brand as a perennial favourite which, incredibly enough, has now been delighting the world for more than 45 years. The company specialises in what it calls "social communication gifts": toys, clothing, stationery and hundreds of other items adorned with the likeness of its internationally famous mascot. In fact, Hello Kitty is only the best-known of a cast currently numbering well over 100 different creations, including lazy egg-yolk Gudetama, edgy red panda Aggretsuko, naughty penguin Badtz Maru and the company's second most popular invention, floppy-eared puppy Cinnamoroll. Sanrio acquired the British characters Mr Men and Little Miss in 2011. Sanrio is effectively a retail operation, licensing the creation of a vast collection of products based around its characters, which it sells through its own worldwide store network. It also operates two Disney-style theme parks in the domestic market - Sanrio Puroland and Harmony Land - as well as restaurants and arcades. The business is still controlled and led by founder and head designer Shintaro Tsuji - now in his 90s - but he passed over day-to-day management in 2020 to his grandson Tomokuni Tsuji. Software company Sega Sammy is a large minority shareholder and the two companies have an alliance to develop jointly owned characters. In 2019, Mattel secured licensing rights to all the main characters in the collection for all markets outside Asia, and soon afterwards Hello Kitty became a sponsor of the Team USA for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. Even so, Sanrio's sales and profits have been in steady decline for several years. Revenues for the year to Mar 2020 were around $507m, while net profits plunged to less than $2m. The following year has been even worse as a result of the impact from Covid closures on the group's theme parks. More than 75% of revenues were generated within Japan. The biggest international markets are mainland Greater China and the US. Shintaro Tsuji began making embroidered scarves and sandals in 1960 and started to add cartoon fruits to his designs soon afterwards. His first character design was a sort of humanoid strawberry, which proved so popular with buyers that Tsuji was encouraged to open his own small shops in the US and Japan in the early 1970s. He also hired a team of inhouse designers to come up with other further characters. Among the first of these arrived in 1974, a simply drawn cartoon kitten who made her debut on a small vinyl coin purse, bearing the word "Hello!" printed in red letters. She was never given a name but soon became known as "the Hello Kitty". A flood of further characters followed.
Capsule checked 24th November 2020
Who are the competitors of Sanrio? see Toys & Games Sector index
Adbrands Daily Update 19th Jun 2019: Mattel has acquired global licensing rights outside Asia to the Sanrio character collection. Hello Kitty is just the best-known of a large portfolio of cute animal characters that are popular with adults as well as children. The first toys and products will become available in Autumn 2020. No terms were disclosed.
Adbrands Account Assignments is a database tracking account management for the world's leading brands and companies. In other words, which advertising agency handles which accounts in which countries. Fully searchable by brand, brandowner company or advertising agency, the database now contains more than 35,000 worldwide account assignments for over 9,500 leading brands.
All rights reserved © Mind Advertising Ltd 1998-2021