Yoshikitty and the character’s creator Yoshiki.

CHANGES AHEAD: As a reminder that branding is everything, the Sanrio Character Ranking has determined that Cinnamoroll has defeated Pompompurin, Hello Kitty and others for the number-one international spot.

For the first time, the 2020 ranking allowed fans around the globe to vote based on a field of Sanrio’s 80 most popular characters. Cinnamoroll received 1.38 million votes, ahead of Pompompurin, Pochacco, My Melody and Hello Kitty. In addition to online voting, other voting included purchases at Sanrio shops. That demand led to sold-out merchandise for favorite characters like Yoshikitty, according to the company.

Like many global conglomerates with a myriad of entities including licensed apparel, accessories, appliances, toys, cosmetics, live events and theme parks, Sanrio has been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic shutdown. The long-term temporary shutdown of theme parks and live events were among the factors. Sanrio also cited unexpected sluggish consumption due to U.S.-China trade friction.

Last week the company reported that sales declined 6.5 percent for the fiscal year 2019. The consolidated forecast for fiscal 2020, which ended March 31, will be released after “careful evaluation of the economic impact of COVID-19 on the domestic and overseas economies,” the company said. With health and wellness becoming more of a priority for many consumers, such products as the Yoshikitty digital health meter is being developed, as well as pedometers.

For the first time in 60 years, leadership of Sanrio will soon be changing. Founder and chief executive officer Shintaro Tsuji, 92, will step aside on July 1, and his grandson Tomokuni will take on the role. The Japanese company typically churns out 400 new products each month and sells its goods in 130 countries.

By his own account, Tsuji fled his hometown of Kofu City during World War II with his little sister strapped to his back as incendiary bombs fell like rain. “Barely escaping“ with their lives, Tsuji said, “That experience inspired me to crate a business in which the world lives in peace without war.”

Sixty years later, Tsuji wrote in his recent annual letter that he finds it odd that there aren’t more companies imitating Sanrio’s way of business.

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