LINE FRIENDS Shanghai stores closed Mainland stores are afraid to close

LINE FRIENDS is closing its China stores. (Taken from Weibo)

LINE FRIENDS, the original cartoon brand of South Korean instant messaging LINE, is closing its stores in China. The company recently closed its flagship store on Huaihai Road in Shanghai, announcing that the store was officially closed at 10 p.m. on the 5th, leaving no LINE FRIENDS offline stores in Shanghai. In fact, LINE FRIENDS has previously closed stores in Hangzhou, Chongqing, Beijing and other places one after another.

Interface News reported that the flagship store of LINE FRIENDS on Huaihai Road, which officially opened in November 2016, was the first boutique in Shanghai with the theme of CHOCO, the big bear sister, and had LINE FRIENDS CAFé inside, and the CHOCO sitting on the eaves outside the store was quite eye-catching, once attracting many consumers to take photos and go shopping.

After the closure of the store, for consumers who purchased products during the Huaihai Road store and need to deal with after-sales service after the closure of the store, LINE FRIENDS said it will properly deal with the relevant issues, consumers can contact the customer service number indicated on the product packaging to consult the relevant services.

In fact, Shanghai is not the first city from which the brand’s offline stores have been withdrawn, and has previously been closed in Hangzhou, Chongqing, Beijing and many other places. At its peak, the brand operated 12 stores in China, according to LINE FRIENDS’ WeChat public number. A search of public information reveals that as of May 14, only two LINE FRIENDS stores in China remain open, in Taiyang Taikoo Li in Chengdu and Catherine Plaza in Nanjing.

LINE FRIENDS confirmed that all traditional offline stores will be closed one by one, inferring that the only two stores currently available will also be closed in the future.

In response, LINE FRIENDS explained that this is in line with the brand’s overall strategy. Due to the overall strategic layout, the brand will no longer focus on offline stores as a business priority, but will develop digital assets with content as the core, focusing more on online and platforms. For offline stores, LINE FRIENDS is also gradually adjusting in a phased and planned manner, first from authorized stores to directly operated stores to gradually close stores, and then to focus offline space experience on themed space licensing and flash store model in cooperation with commercial properties.

It is understood that in July 2014, LINE China operations were called off and the development of its communication social and game business was hampered, and a few months later, LINE FRIENDS began offline store business.

At that time, there were limited IP (intellectual property) players in the Chinese market, and LINE FRIENDS quickly won the attention of young people, with cartoon scenes for photo-taking and cute peripherals, so that its offline stores always attracted consumers to queue up for cards when they opened. 2016 was the fastest year for LINE FRIENDS offline stores to expand in the Chinese market, and during this time 6 stores were opened in cities such as Guangzhou, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Beijing.

However, over time, the problems of homogenization, low CP value and lack of innovation in LINE FRIENDS store scenes and peripheral merchandise have become increasingly prominent, coupled with the emergence of more and more new IPs in the market, which has further squeezed LINE FRIENDS’ room for survival.