Gifts Today magazine

And...relax

Rilakkuma, the relaxed kawaii bear, inspires a new range from Blueprint

Independent agency Sagoo, which represents the licensing and merchandising rights in Europe for the hit Japanese character brand Rilakkuma, has announced the imminent arrival at retail of a stationery, accessories, bags and gift range inspired by the internationally famous bear. The range was developed in partnership with Blueprint Collections Ltd, a leading UK designer and distributor of licensed stationery and bag collections.

The range comprises a varied selection of stationery items, including notebooks, pads, pencils, pens, pencil cases, highlighters, stickers and a stationery set, as well as many wonderful bags, accessories and gifts, including water bottles, travel mugs, plush purses, bags and backpacks.

All will be illustrated with pictures of the very relaxed bear, often in one of its well-known reclining poses. Some will even make use of the famous zipper that appears on the bear’s back.

The agreement with Blueprint was signed in late 2018. Product will reach retail in spring 2020. It will be available at gift shops, department stores, specialist independents and high street retailers in a number of key European markets including the UK, Eire, France, Spain, Portugal, Benelux, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Rilakkuma is a kawaii – or ‘cute’ – teddy bear character, created in 2003 by San-X, one of the largest character manufacturing companies in Japan, which has created and marketed a number of successful kawaii characters.

Rilakkuma’s name – a combination of the word ‘relax’ and the Japanese word for ‘bear’ – sums up this cool character. Rilakkuma loves music, watching TV, hot baths, food and being lazy. This bear is a stress-free zone with a 100 per cent positive outlook on life. But is it a boy or girl bear? In fact is it really a bear? In a rather ingenious touch, Rilakkuma has a zipper on its back. The bear look, it seems, is a costume. But what’s underneath? No one knows…

The character’s relaxed approach to life has made Rilakkuma and its friends, such as Korilakkuma and Kiiroitori, stand out among kawaii brands. In fact today Rilakkuma is today one of the most popular characters in Japan. Its core market in Japan is women from 20 to 40 years old. In Europe, there will be a wide target market, including parents with young children, 8-14-year-old girls, and all fans of Japanese culture.

This gentle, good-humoured and exceptionally relaxed character has already inspired numerous licenses, collaborations and character cafes across Japan, the US and Asian countries. Supported by a comprehensive style guide, Sagoo now aims to emulate this success with Rilakkuma in Europe, where plush (from Cijep Plush), a blackboard book and activity boxes (from Larousse) and a baby album (from Editions First) are now available in a number of markets.

This popularity is expected to grow, especially with the recent arrival of a stop motion animated 13x11’ show called Rilakkuma and Kaoru as a Netflix original series in more than 190 countries around the world.

Lisa Shand, Managing Director, Blueprint Collections, says: 'The continuing growth of Rilakkuma in European markets comes as no surprise. This is a charming, funny and unique kawaii character with enormous market potential. We are thrilled to be working with Rilakkuma on this collection.'

Veronique Pichon, President, Sagoo, says: 'Awareness of Rilakkuma is building fast across European licensees and consumers. This is an ideal time to highlight the character and its enormous potential at retail – and Blueprint is an ideal partner to bring Rilakkuma to the key stationery, accessories, bags and gift category.'


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