Character merchandising gains steam

Adults seem to be taking cartoons more seriously than kids. Especially since cartoon characters are a huge business opportunity.

Adults seem to be taking cartoons more seriously than kids. Especially since cartoon characters are a huge business opportunity. Consumer companies to television channels are getting into the character merchandising business that is growing at an annual rate of 30-35%. Character merchandising is a $2.5-billion annual business in India, says Arun Sirdeshmukh, chief executive of Reliance Trends, the apparel selling unit of Reliance Retail.

According to Gaurav Brar, director for Cartoon Network Enterprises, South Asia, the share of children in all India TV viewership has trebled to 6% from 2% in 2003-04 thanks to proliferation of global kids? channels.

?An entire generation of kids exposed to Ben 10, Powerpuff Girls and Dexter can relate to a pencil, T-shirt, or cup with those characters. They ask their parents to buy it. Or parents who know that their kids love these characters end up picking up a licensed pencil or lunch box instead of an unbranded one,? says Brar.

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Future Group, through its venture fund, has acquired a 56% stake in ACK Media that owns Amar Chitra Katha. The owner of country?s largest retail network plans to set up theme parks to merchandise the characters from Amar Chitra Katha.

Over the years, companies like Colgate Palmolive, Hindustan Unilever and Dabur have launched a host of personal care products with cartoon characters emblazoned on them. Now host of small and medium level companies are getting into retailing of such products. ?It?s not just about fashion, there is a strong consumer trend,? says Sirdeshmukh.

Natrajan Subramanian, who represents Warner Brothers Consumer Products in India, says the cartoon characters products retailed through organised retail channel generated about R1,000 crore business, which is expected to more than double in the next three years. ?The demand is so large that it?s just a matter of time that we see exclusive stores in tier-II and tier-III cities,? he adds.

Warner Bros has tied up with about 20 companies in India including retailers such as Tata group?s Trent and Primus Retail for selling merchandises of cartoon characters including Batman, Superman, Tom and Jerry and Scooby-Doo.

New Delhi-based chemical firm Crystal Phosphates forayed into retailing last year with kids store chain ?Toonz? that primarily sold merchandises based on popular cartoons.

Retailers are doing their bit to grow the market. Reliance Trends has been organising a Toon Fest by conducting model shows of cartoon characters including Spiderman, Ben 10, and Chhota Bheem in 35 of its stores nationwide. This is part of its campaign to double sales of merchandises based on cartoon characters in September.

Hyderabad-based Green Gold Animation, which produces the popular Chhota Bheem serial for Pogo channel, opened a store in Hyderabad in April and received tremendous response, says Hema Nagpal, who handles franchisee opportunities for Green Gold.

The company plans to open 10 franchised stores across cities, including Kolkata, New Delhi, Chennai and Pune. It plans to have 50-100 stores in the next two years. The company saw its online merchandise sales, started in 2008, jump from just R4 lakh in 2008-09 to R2.88 crore in the financial year ended March 31.

Without giving numbers, Cartoon Network Enterprises says its sales have doubled over the last one year as the company added more than 500 stock keeping units and increased its nationwide retail partners to more than 5,000.

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First published on: 29-09-2011 at 02:53 IST