LOS ANGELES — Tokyo-based Sanrio Co Ltd., best known for its Hello Kitty brand, has promoted Janet Hsu to chief operating officer of Sanrio Inc., its North American subsidiary.

Hsu, the first female chief operating officer in the company’s 52-year history, was hired as president in 2008. She will continue to be based out of the company’s Torrance, Calif., headquarters.

During her tenure, Hsu helped propel the $5 billion company to increased comp sales and profits, particularly in the U.S. Hsu also strengthened brand awareness by aggressively growing the company’s strategic partnerships, ranging from Sephora and Vans to Uniqlo and Forever 21. She oversaw two major milestone events for Sanrio: Hello Kitty’s 35th anniversary in 2009 and Sanrio’s 50th anniversary in 2010.

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“The last four years have been incredible in terms of growth and consumer touch points, and every part of our business has been revamped,” said Hsu. “We’re now much more modern and streamlined.” The company now also boasts more than 7 million Facebook fans.

As chief operating officer, Hsu will oversee the day-to-day business operations while launching innovative licensing programs and strategic partnerships to strengthen the brand’s “small gift, big smile” philosophy and drive sales. In addition, Hsu will broaden her role to include a greater focus on Sanrio retail outlets, e-commerce, warehouse operations, business administration and accounting.

One focus will be growing Hello Kitty’s apparel offerings for women. “We believe it’s a lifestyle fashion brand, so the products have really grown to reflect the fact that our consumer does age up,” she said. “We will continue collaborations like the one with Forever 21. The adult response to the products was very telling for us, so we’re looking to do more unexpected partnerships.”

Prior to Sanrio, Hsu held executive positions at Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Mattel and MGA Entertainment.

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