On Tuesday morning, people waited in line to get into the Line Friends store in Times Square in New York City. There, visitors were greeted by a larger-than-life-size emotionless stuffed bear and an exuberant rabbit.
This was the scene at the first U.S. store opened by Line, which is known as the hottest messaging app in Japan. The 4,628-square-foot space contains toys, cushions, stationery and other items featuring the bear, the rabbit and their cartoon compatriots, like a bright-yellow chicken. People can purchase an iPhone case for $25, a luggage tag for $13 and a coin bank for $23, for instance.
Visitors who use Line often would know the characters in the store appear on popular stickers within Line messenger: The bear is named Brown, and he has a sister, Choco, and a rabbit girlfriend called Cony; the chicken, Sally, is a third wheel with a crush on Brown. For most U.S. consumers who don’t use Line for messaging, however, the storyline and those characters’ personalities lose their importance. But the lack of knowledge about the Line app doesn’t prevent people from making a purchase at Line Friends, said James Kim, CEO of Line Friends and chief creative officer for Line Corporation.