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August 2005 | Vol. IV - No. 8




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Selling Kitty … or Not


The most common dealer complaint is that stores cannot choose which products they carry.
With licensed products ranging from stationery to bed sheets to electronics devices, it seems safe to say that Hello Kitty fever continues to rise. Yet, while Sanrio dealers should be happy to sell the popular product, some are grumbling.

Carol Knight, owner of Toy Store in Ketchum, Idaho, has been selling Hello Kitty for the past 20 years. She claims the more Hello Kitty product she has in stock, the more she sells. She has difficulties, though, getting enough product into her store.

"My rep lives in Spokane and keeps in touch just twice a year. By the time I place the order, half of the items are out of stock, and then the order is cancelled. So right now my selection´s looking grim," Knight says.

Nakajima USA Inc. handles the Sanrio order placement process. The company was placed under contract last year to manage Sanrio´s U.S. wholesale gift business, including distribution.

Nakajima USA has "127 sales representatives across the country. It´s up to the representative to manage the area they represent," says Amanda O´Connell, the Nakajima USA national sales manager.

From Knight´s perspective, too often a store´s Hello Kitty sales performance depends on the vigilance of the Nakajima USA sales representative. The most common dealer complaint is that stores cannot choose which products they carry.

"Sales are slow," says Cindy Min, owner of a Los Angeles-area Sanrio Surprises boutique. "We don´t have a choice in characters."

As much as Min might prefer to stock her store with characters she knows are popular with her customers, "you can´t pick and choose," says Amanda O´Connell, the Nakajima USA national sales manager. "If your store wants to carry Sanrio, you can´t dabble."

Yet each store has different demographic needs. Min´s store is located in an area where Chinese language signs are common. "Chinese only want to buy red Hello Kitty," says Min. Red represents celebration in Chinese culture. Her store at the time was overflowing with pink ballerina Hello Kitty products.

Whereas Min´s customers prefer red, Idaho retailer Knight says that, "for me, pink sells the best. Red has been tried, but really, it´s whatever pink they have sells the best."

Store owners cannot, for the most part, tailor the Sanrio line to fit their needs. And some face hegemonic sales representatives. Yet, consumer reaction to the Hello Kitty character brand of Sanrio Co., Ltd., remains strong.

"I have a favorite Hello Kitty doll. I like her because she´s cute and pretty and has a little pink dress on it," declares 5-year-old Naomi Daniel of Crystal Lake, Ill.

Who wouldn´t put up with a bit of inefficiency to keep this little girl happy?




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Leigh AuWriter's Bio: Leigh Au grew up in Pittsburgh and went to school in Champaign, Ill. She loves living in different cities, including Chicago and Montgomery, Ala. Currently she lives in Los Angeles with her little brown dog, Chloe. Read more articles by this author

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