Smiley bets big on merchandise market

Priyanka Pani Mumbai | Updated on January 20, 2014 Published on January 20, 2014


Smiley, the cute little emoticon which we use in texts and chats every day, is set to bring more smiles among Indian consumers. The happy face, created in France in 1971, is owned by London-based The Smiley Company. It has presence in the Indian market through Lifestyle department stores with SmileyWorld since the last two years.

The company plans to ramp up its presence with exclusive outlets, mobile games, applications, eBooks and an animation channel on YouTube this year with its ‘original’ Smiley. It plans to open 5-6 large standalone stores through the franchise route this year.

Nicolas Loufrani, the company’s CEO and founder, said that he is very optimistic about the growing character merchandise market, which is dominated by companies such as Disney, Dreamworks, Warner Brothers, Rovio’s Angry Birds and Hello Kitty.

Smiley is a comparatively smaller player with presence in over 60 countries. “The original Smiley is a vintage and signature brand,” he added.

Created by Loufrani’s grandfather in France, it was meant to be a part of positive articles in newspapers and magazines then. However, in 1996, Loufrani created a company with Smiley as its trademark. The company has so far created 3,000 emoticons and every day comes out with a new graphic or expression. “We are not a media company like them (referring to Disney and others). We started with a logo and now we are expanding to other segments. We want to build on that one logo. For us India is the top focus market with 4.6 billion Facebook fans. We want to double our current sales with this expansion,” Loufrani said. The company’s current revenue in the Indian market is pegged at $1 million that comes from the sale of Smiley men’s wear and women’s wear.

The company will soon add products for kids and babies to its portfolio. It plans to retail apparel, jewellery, food, lifestyle and home décor products in the Indian market.

The company, which recently won a battle against the world’s largest retailer Walmart in the US over the Smiley trademark, is now keen to expand in that market as well. Walmart had claimed that the bright yellow smiling face was its trademark and had for long personified its price-reducing policy. “We will enter the US in a big way now that the legal battle is over,” Loufrani said.

Published on January 20, 2014
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