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 almost 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 run by founder and head designer Shintaro Tsuji. Software company Sega Sammy is the largest minority shareholder and the two companies have an alliance to develop jointly owned characters. Sanrio's revenues for the year to 2018 were around $540m. More than 75% of revenues were generated within Japan. The biggest international markets are mainland China, Hong Kong and the US. In 2019, Mattel secured licensing rights to all the main characters in the collection for all markets outside Asia. 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.
Who are the competitors of Sanrio? see Toys & Games Sector index
Capsule checked 31st December 2018
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.
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