• Kyodo

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Line Corp. has opened its first permanent U.S. store in New York that sells merchandise featuring the characters popularized by its messaging app.

Located in Times Square, the 430-sq.-meter store has proven popular with tourists since its official opening Aug. 1.

A ceiling-high stuffed toy bear depicting the character Brown stands at the entrance to the store, which sells Line-branded shirts, toys, mugs, stationery and other items.

Line already has stores in such cities as Tokyo, Shanghai and Seoul. In 2014, it opened a pop-up store in New York that attracted 300,000 people in just three weeks.

Creating a presence in New York is part of the company’s global expansion strategy after it went public on the New York Stock Exchange last year.

“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,” Line said in a press release.

Line’s chat app has over 200 million active users worldwide, with its core base in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.

But it still lags far behind messaging app rivals Whatsapp and Facebook’s Messenger, which were each reported to have more than 1 billion users in 2016.

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