KakaoTalk and Line, the nation’s top two mobile messengers, have been pitted against each other to take the lead in the $20 billion Asian character merchandising market.
The two mobile messengers operate their own off-line retail stores, dubbed the Kakao Friends Shop and Line Friends Store, respectively, selling products ranging from dolls and smartphone battery chargers to clothes and jewelry emblazoned with characters and emoticons on the mobile messenger platforms.
Line Corp. currently runs 10 Line Friends Stores, mostly in shopping districts or tourist sites, such as Myeong-dong, Dongdaemun and Itaewon, in Korea and 15 in global markets, including in Hong Kong and Japan, where the mobile messenger is widely used. Of the 25 stores, 22 opened this year. The company also plans to launch more shops overseas, including in China and Taiwan.
“Around 70 percent of the sales generated at the shops in Korea come from tourists, mostly Chinese and Japanese,” a spokesperson from Line Corp said.
The Myeong-dong store is one of the hottest stores as the district is a popular tourist spot, the spokesperson added.
The Line Friends Stores in Korea attracted 22 million visitors this year alone and the Brown Doll, a stuffed toy bear featuring a character, called Brown, was the best-selling item, as more than 200,000 units of the doll were sold.
|Line Friends Store in Itaewon, Seoul. (Line)|
Targeting Chinese fans of Line Friends, the company added its 10th animated character, named Pang-yo, to the character troupe.
The Asian character business market is valued at $20 billion, according to a report of the Korea Creative Content Agency, a state-run agency to promote Korean cultural contents.
Kakao is also rolling out different types of character-based products, including smartphone cases and camping items.
Collaborating with other companies, including coffee chain A Twosome Place and cosmetics firm LG Household & Health Care, the firm also sells cakes and cosmetics featuring its mobile emoticons.
The company currently runs 15 off-line Kakao Friends retail shops across the nation and reportedly plan to open overseas stores.