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Line Friends goes Hollywood — and pop — in latest store opening

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Line Friends, a fast-growing Asian brand based on characters from popular Japanese messaging app Line, created a customer frenzy on Saturday at the opening of its second U.S. store.

Located on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, Calif., the store featured its signature character merchandise. But the biggest draw on opening day was a merchandise collection from K-pop sensation BTS. Fans of the boy band formed a mile-long line, with many camping out overnight. (Line Friends launched its "BT21" line of characters, which are based on group’s seven members, two years ago.)

Line Friends opened its first store in the U.S. in 2017, in Manhattan’s Times Square, which was followed by a Hollywood pop-up last year. Similar to the Times Square location, the Hollywood outpost is packed with Instagram-ready displays, interactive photo zones, and several unique experiences. A mega-sized replica of its Tata character is situated at the entry. Unique to the new location are framed handprints of the members of BTS.

Line Friends’ characters started out as “stickers” (a form of an emoji) within the messaging app Line, the most popular instant messenger in Japan, and is also widely used in Taiwan, Thailand, and a few other countries. The cute-looking characters, all with their own personalities, were embraced by users and are credited with driving the app’s growth.

The company went on to expand the characters to branded merchandise. Opening its first store in Seoul in 2013, Line Friends now operates some 140 global stores, with products ranging from plush toys and stationery to mugs and jewelry. The characters also star in their own TV show

In addition to its collaboration with BTS, Line Friends has expanded beyond its original character base to partner on merchandise with such other brands as Converse, Beats by Dr. Dre, Bang&Olufsen, and Hot Topic, to strengthen its brand presence outside the Asian community. The Hollywood store will serve as a springboard for continued expansion and partnerships with media and entertainment companies based in North America to develop original content, the company said.

"As part of Line Friends growing global presence, the Hollywood store is a key milestone for the company in diversifying its business, aiming to be a global creative studio and continuing to expand into the U.S. market,” the company stated.
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