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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Line app characters craze hits

Many Singaporeans are attracted to the cute
The Sunday Times - April 6, 2014
By: Amanda See
| More
Line app characters craze hits Design architect Cess Aguilar (above) with her collection of characters from the Line mobile app. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

The craze over characters from popular Japanese mobile messaging app Line has hit Singapore, as people snap up merchandise ranging from soft toys and stationery to waterproof bath speakers and mobile phone pouches.

Megcorp & Co, a supplier here, says it has seen sales of related products jump by at least 20 per cent since they went on sale in the middle of last year.

Line, which has more than 400 million users globally, is similar to Whatsapp, another mobile messaging app with more than 450 million users.

But it is Line's "stickers" that draw people to the app. These are similar to emoticons but feature distinct characters displaying different emotions. Some stickers come free with the app, while others cost $2.58 a set. There are currently about 300 sets of stickers.

Popular characters include Brown, a mild-mannered bear; Cony, a cheerful but self-centred rabbit; and James, a narcissistic yellow-haired man. In Japan, cartoons based on the characters have also been spun off.

Line will have its first pop-up store in Singapore at the end of this month.

Japanese toy company Takara Tomy A.R.T.S is one of the brands that makes the Line products. These are distributed here by Sheng Tai Toys, which sells them at its retail store Soda POP at HarbourFront, I12 Katong, Changi Airport Terminal 3 and Takashimaya Department Store.

Items cost from $8.95 for a plush keychain to $79.95 for a battery-operated dancing plush toy.

Megcorp & Co, which is licensed to produce their own range of Line products, sells them in Takashimaya Department Store.

Ms Cheryl Tan, Megcorp & Co's sales and marketing manager, says the company brings in new items once every two months and will continue to expand the range of items, which target teenagers. "We have plans to sell water bottles, mugs and many more," says Ms Tan, who is in her 40s.

Comics Connection, which began stocking Line merchandise at six outlets in July last year, has seen sales rise by 30 per cent. All its 21 outlets now carry the products.

Stationery Superstore has seen encouraging sales too. Its two outlets in Suntec City and Funan Digitalife Mall have been selling Line toys from Takara Tomy A.R.T.S. and stationery from Showa Note since December.

Mr Tsurumi Tetsuya, director of Standard Stationery, which owns Stationery Superstore, says he decided to carry the products, such as stickers, notebooks and files, as they are popular in Japan.

The 42-year-old says he was surprised by the good response. Both outlets have sold more than 630 items in the past three months.

Design architect Cess Aguilar, 25, who uses the Line app with her friends and boyfriend, has spent about $400 on items such as soft toys, cardholders and postcards.

She writes about the Line merchandise she buys on her blog, where she writes about fashion and toys.

Her favourite character is Cony, as she says she can relate to the character, who is in a relationship with Brown.

Ms Aguilar says: "I watched the anime and Cony seems very friendly. She's energetic and always happy.

"My boyfriend and I just send stickers to each other sometimes, instead of text messages," she adds.

"For example, I'll send him stickers of Cony doing her work and he understands what I'm trying to say."

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