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“In China, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, Japanese characters are becoming more popular”

Fumihiko “Pochi” Kusama, Managing Director, LIMA Japan Office


Fumihiko “Pochi” Kusama is the managing director of the Japanese office of the International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association (LIMA). The association recently collaborated with the organization of Licensing Japan, show held in Tokio from July 7th to 9th.

What is your view on the first edition of Licensing Japan?

Shifting from previous show, Creative Market Tokyo to the new Licensing Japan this year, LIMA Japan as a official educational provider for the show is very glad that the show and the seminars were very successful.

Licensing Japan was held in parallel with Tokyo Book Fair and Digital Publishing Fair. The three shows had more than 75,000 visitors in three days. All booths were busy and the exhibitors expressed their satisfaction with the show. Also, the five seminars that LIMA directed were all full and some needed extra space for the attendees. Average numbers of attendees was of 120. The size of Licensing Japan next year will surely be 4-5 times as big as this year, because more than 150 units of the show space were already booked by the end of this year show.

What do you think are the main trends in the licensing business in Japan? And in the rest of Asia?

The retail sales of the licensed products in Japan is estimated in $20 billion, creating about $1 billion royalties. This has been quite flat for last couple of years, but the entertainment category has increased relatively, while trademarks have decreased. In other countries such as China, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, Japanese characters are becoming more popular, and sales of their licensed products are increasing. This is because there is no more limits to the broadcasting time of Japanese TV programs in Korea and China, and now and the kids are more familiar to Japanese properties.

What licenses are currently the most important in the Japanese market?
So-called Non-Media Characters are remarkably strong in the market. They are not in TV series, nor movies, comic or magazines, but products just started selling. Hello Kitty is the representative property in this area. Rirakkuma and Tarepanda are also non-media characters.

What product categories are most successful in Japanese licensing?
Toys and video games shares nearly 50% of the licensing market in Japan. But video games business is somewhat saturated, and has been slightly decreasing in last three years. Stationery items are relatively very strong in Japan market, and shares 7-8%. Most of kids have lots of licensed stationery products.

Do you think the country is recovering from the earthquake tragedy? How is this affecting the licensing industry?
The March 3 earthquake and tsunami impacted Japanese economy quite a lot and affected all markets. Gross Domestic Product of Japan for this year will be 3-5% less than in 2010. Our licensing market, especially character apparel products, suffered soft sales from March to May, as wearing such apparel products was considered indiscreet towards victims and families. But as time passes, sales are coming back. Kids who lost their toys and clothes are starting to purchase new ones. So I think the licensing industry in Japan will be back to its normal situation and sales level by the end of this year.

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