With an airplane, full-on-apparel line, inner tube and scores of other super-twee products, Hello Kitty is about to get a chain of stores, thanks to a deal between the character’s parent company Sanrio and Universal Parks & Resorts.
Through a new partnership, the first interactive Hello Kitty shop will debut later this year at Universal Orlando Resort, followed by one at Universal Studios Hollywood. Fans of the partial-to-all-things-pink cartoonish feline will find stationery, home goods, apparel, accessories and collectibles. There will also be Hello Kitty candy and Hello Kitty Universal Park co-branded items. Sanrio plans to make room in the stores to sell items from its other properties, including Chococat, My Melody, Badtz-Maru, Purin and Keroppi.
Japanese illustrator Yuko Shimizu created the Hello Kitty character in 1974, and exited Sanrio two years later. Hello Kitty is by far Sanrio’s standout with the label said to generate $8 billion in sales annually. Shimizu is not the New York-based illustrator by the same name whose work is currently part of the “Samurai!” exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum through Sept. 6 in Worcester, Ma.
In the Universal stores, shoppers will be able to custom design merchandise, have photo-ops with Sanrio properties, create souvenir versions of Hello Kitty’s signature bow and meet the character.
“Our partnership with Universal brings Sanrio’s experiential entertainment presence to a new level,” said Janet Hsu, president and chief operating officer of Sanrio Inc. “We look forward to this introduction into Universal theme parks to offer new connection points to Sanrio fans of all ages.”
Sanrio’s deal with Universal Parks & Resorts is the latest initiative aimed at making its prized character more entertaining. Building on the success of “Hello Kitty Con,” a convention for diehard fans, and “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty,” a record-breaking museum exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, Sanrio recently launched Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival, a live entertainment show and interactive fan festival. The festival, which includes a fashion show, is currently touring the U.S. and Canada.
In time for its 40th anniversary last year, EVA Air with Star Alliance co-branded a plane covered with Hello Kitty images and staffed with flight attendants wielding Hello Kitty memorabilia. EVA plans to start flying the plane between Houston and Taipei later this month. A Hello Kitty amusement park also opened earlier this year in China’s Zhejiang province — though that property is not affiliated with Universal Parks & Resorts, a Sanrio spokeswoman said.