LINE considers opening first character shop in US

A group of women pose for photos with a giant bear at a 'Line' store in the popular Myeongdong shopping district of Seoul on October 27, 2016.
Photo: AFP

LINE Friends, the character business unit of LINE, the immensely popular mobile messenger owned by Korean internet giant Naver, is considering opening its first flagship store in the US.

According to news reports on December 20, the company is looking into possible venues in big cities and hiring local marketing and sales staff from last month.

"With a new store opening, LINE would gauge its marketability in the untapped US market," said an industry source on condition of anonymity.

The new store's opening comes after LINE's highly publicised stock debut in New York and Tokyo in July this year.

The dual listing was also part of the Japan-based mobile messenger operator's ambition to expand into global markets. Despite its huge popularity in Asia, it has almost no presence in the US and Europe.

The LINE characters that started as virtual stickers used on the messenger app have become a burgeoning merchandising business that now covers stationery, toys, household goods and food.

Currently, LINE Friends operates 26 flagship stores around the world, including 13 in Korea, six in China, three in Japan, two in Hong Kong and two in Taiwan. The stores posted a combined 31.4 billion won (S$38 million) in revenue last year.

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