It super pays to be super cute. How much, you ask? About $6.5 billion per year. According to CNN, mega-franchise (and super duper cute) Hello Kitty helped parent company Sanrio claw in that much in retail licensing sales last year alone, with 50,000 products in 15,000 shops worldwide. The company is now the sixth-biggest licensor, falling just behind Disney and Mattel. That's quite the leap from the days Hello Kitty first appeared on a tiny vinyl coin purse some forty years ago (somewhat ironically, she literally had her eye on the money).
The mommy's meow
Today, there are few places you can look without landing an eye on the Hello Kitty trademark. She even has her own Hello Kitty themed maternity hospital, where babies and staff alike are swaddled in Hello Kitty branded blankets and uniforms as mothers rest in rooms teeming with Hello Kitty decor. Stricken with envy? Not to worry - there are still plenty of opportunities throughout the day to enjoy the Hello Kitty branded experience.
Kitten's in the kitchen
For instance, you can now look forward to eating with Hello Kitty - as long as you don't mind waiting three times as long for your order. Sanrio opened the doors to the first-ever Hello Kitty themed restaurant this year in Hong Kong. According to CBS, dishes take triple the time to cook in order to "give them the perfect Hello Kitty touch." Clear the schedule, Miss Hathaway.
While you wait, expect to soon see Hello Kitty's face emerge on a new high-tech toilet seat, complete with seat heating capabilities and other, erm, hygienically-advantageous technologies. Ugh - so cute. Meanwhile, down in Florida's Universal Studios, you can catch a glimpse of Hello Kitty gobbling up the Lucille Tribute ball as she makes way for her own tribute building, slated to offer an "enhanced interactive retail experience" for guests.
Landing on her feet
And if it seems like Hello Kitty is on the face of a load of new ventures all around the world and all at once right now, that's because it is. But it's certainly no coincidence. Back in 2007, Hello Kitty's image was adorned on about 22,000 products across several categories, according to a report by Branding Strategy Insider. That number has since more than doubled. Then, in 2009, year-over-year sales plunged 25.9 percent, a Shared Research report shows. To put that into perspective, the prior year saw sales slip just 2.8 percent year-over-year.
Sanrio launched a massive push in Hello Kitty licensing deals that aimed to have the character's image licensed on e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g to tighten the gap. You might say it worked. As a recent Shared Research report shows, by 2014, the company managed to post a gain in year-over-year sales of 3.7 percent.
Last year, as Sanrio repositioned its Hello Kitty brand strategy yet again, shares experienced a 19-year record drop of 16 percent to wipe out $450 million off the company's market value in a single day, according to Bloomberg. Year-over-year sales for fiscal year ending March 2015 slipped modestly by 3.2 percent - though still up from 2013. However, Hello Kitty now accounts for 75 percent of the company's annual operating profit of $142 million - up from about half in 2001.
Hello Kitty has fans in the stock market, too. Shares in Sanrio are up 33 percent so far this year - paces ahead of the Tokyo Stock Exchange's Nikkei index, which has gained 13 percent for the year.
Dividends are super cute.