Hello Kitty firm strikes China deal after viral hit

Image credit: NBC News

The Japanese company behind the Hello Kitty brand has signed a licencing arrangement in China after one of its lesser-known characters became well-liked there.

Alibaba, one of China’s biggest e-commerce firms, will have the exclusive right to create and promote goods with Sanrio’s 26 characters, the company claims.

The arrangement comes after Sanrio’s imp-like rabbit Kuromi made a cameo in a well-known Chinese social media video.

As of Thursday’s Tokyo closing, Sanrio’s shares had risen by roughly 14%.

The pact covers 26 Sanrio characters, including Hello Kitty, My Melody, who is her best friend, and the evil Kuromi.

In China earlier this year, Kuromi’s fame rose as a result of a dancer dressed in a Sanrio character-inspired costume.

The video was posted by Helenoftroy, a user with more than 14 million followers on Douyin, a Chinese version of the TikTok app.

The company has asserted that Hello Kitty is actually a British adolescent named Kitty White who lives just outside of London, despite the fact that she personifies the “kawaii,” or cuteness, culture of Japan.

The brand has generated billions of dollars in sales since it was established almost 50 years ago.

Products ranging from prosecco to plimsolls are available for purchase in 130 different countries and feature the mouthless cartoon emblem and characteristic hair bow.

Additionally, Sanrio has licences for theme parks and coffee shops. In 2018, a Japanese railway company painted its bullet train in the image’s colours of pink and white.

However, Sanrio, whose corporation had been declining for some time, was severely harmed by the coronavirus epidemic.

In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, the company’s theme parks and retail locations were temporarily closed.

Despite the limitations, Sanrio’s sales in China climbed 39% to 4.7 billion Japanese yen ($34.4 million; £28.4 million) in the year up to March of the current year. During that time, its domestic profits increased by 19%.

In 2020, the company underwent its first leadership shift in 60 years.

That took place when Shintaro Tsuji, the company’s founder, handed over management to his grandson, Tomokuni Tsuji, at the age of 92.

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