Disney goods lure grownups

Step aside kids, adults need Goofy fix too

Kyodo

Disney-themed merchandise is becoming more popular with adults as products from handbags and wallets to curtains featuring Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and other trademark figures proliferate in boutiques and other stores.

Demand is growing on nostalgia for the characters, which have been around since the adult consumers were children. In addition, chic goods developed by designer fashion houses are apparently capturing the hearts of women.

Sales of Disney-themed merchandise to adults are growing as fast as those to children. Samantha Thavasa Japan Ltd., a women’s fashion brand with more than 200 shops nationwide, has established a section for handbags and accessories with stuffed Disney characters at its outlet in the posh Omotesando district in Tokyo.

The stuffed toys do not come in red, yellow or any of the other vivid primary colors used on the original characters, but sport relatively subdued hues intended to appeal to mature customers.

“Mothers in their 40s visit us with their young daughters and buy one for them to share,” one manager said. The Samantha Thavasa label, known for producing handbags popular with women of all ages, has been selling Disney products since 2008.

“We have been experiencing solid sales as Disney fans have joined our customer base,” a public relations official said.

Samantha Thavasa is just one of around 350 companies that have partnered with Walt Disney Co. (Japan) Ltd. in designing and commercializing character goods targeting people from their 20s to 40s under the Disney-for-adults concept in the past few years.

They include makers of clothing, stationery, cosmetics and sundry goods.

Kazuo Nakazawa, general manager for consumer products at the Japanese unit of Walt Disney Co., said the trend is Japanese.

“Japan is a unique market where women have a distinct sensibility,” he said.

Nakazawa said nearly half the character goods sold are intended for adults in Japan, while in the United States, the majority of them are for children.

“We would like to step up merchandise development targeting those aged (in their) 50s or older as the elderly population grows and the number of children declines,” he said.

Women’s closets are not the only target of Disney products. An exhibition held in February at Tokyo Big Sight showcased more than 4,000 Disney products from around 100 companies.

An official at Suminoe Textile Co., a major curtain manufacturer that participated in the event, said low-key designs are succeeding. “A subtle design such as characters veiled in tree leaves is favored for living rooms,” the official said.

Panasonic Corp., a leading electronics maker, has become a pioneer by adopting Disney characters in a variety of household appliances.

“We can get the whole house done in Disney, from interior fixtures to the kitchen, lighting and exterior walls,” said Soichiro Ono, an official from Panasonic’s housing system division.