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One of the world's fastest-growing character brands opens Times Square flagship


An Asian brand whose characters were originally created for use as emoticons on a mobile messenger app has opened its first store in North America.

Line Friends, whose characters include whimsical-looking bears, ducks, bunnies and more, has opened a 4,628-sq.-ft. flagship in Manhattan's Times Square as part of the company's global expansion efforts. It currently operates 84 locations in 11 countries around the globe.

Line Friends is owned by Japanese social media giant Line Corp., whose global messenger app provides free messaging, along with video and phone calls. It is used in more than 230 countries and offers free one-to-one and group messaging, along with voice and video calls. The app counts 200 million active worldwide users. Line Friends features 11 characters that were originally created for use as stickers (or emoticons) on the app. It creates a wide variety of products, including dolls and stuffed animals, based on the signature characters.

Line Friends' Times Square outpost was conceived as a character merchandise store and entertainment space. Themed rooms bring out the unique personalities of the brand's main characters, and "Mega Brown," an enormous version of Line's signature bear, sits in the middle of the space. The store offers more than 440 character-branded items for sale, including items exclusive to the New York store, as well as a series of Scandinavian-style collaborations.

"The opening of our New York flagship store commemorates the one-year anniversary of our parent company's [Line Corp.] listing on the New York Stock Exchange, and paves the way for the official start of the next phase of Line Friends' global expansion," stated Line Friends. "We see particular significance in the fact that characters which got their start in digital media, not cinema or TV, are making such a bold entrance into New York City, the world's leader in cultural trends."

In celebration of the store's opening, a large-scale outdoor promotion using Times Square's LED screens filled the surrounding area with the full range of Line characters. In addition to the outdoor advertisements, digital signage on the store's exterior features branded content along with the company's newest products.

Line Friends, which ran a pop-up store in New York City in December 2014.

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