China’s mysterious toy unicorn Pop Mart opens first European flagship store in London

China’s blind box toymaker Pop Mart has hit the streets in London, by opening its first European store on Shaftesbury Avenue in the UK’s capital city, bringing its most beloved toy IPs (Intellectual Properties), including Dimoo, Skullpanda, Pucky, and Hirono to overseas toy collectors.

The move came one year after the brand dropped a pop-up store at Westfield’s Stratford in London, welcoming visitors between late 2020 and early 2021. The launch of this flagship store has created a buzz at the heart of the city, which is just a stone’s throw away from Chinatown, leveraging the enormous international footfalls in this district, while exporting the hype of blind boxes and designer toys at home to global consumers.

Founded in 2010, the Beijing-based company has grown into a toy tycoon, with its expertise in creating blind boxes, lucky-dip-like marketing where consumers buy a gift without knowing what would be inside. The strategy has soon grown in popularity in China as consumers enjoy the sense of surprise, becoming a major selling point for the company.

The domestic hype has also driven the emerging brand of art toys to seek global expansion, as heavy social media traction shows the huge interest in foreign shores. So far, the brand has expanded into 52 countries and regions, with products already made available in countries outside China, such as South Korea, Japan, the US, and Canada, and now another stretch in its reach in Europe, with the UK being the first stop. The success across multiple regions suggests that Europe will be the next in a long line, but Pop Mart will naturally need to brand and market properly in order to gain the foothold they desire.

Alongside the opening of the UK store, it also launched the brand’s latest art toy product: Skullpanda Dark Maids and Mega Collection 1000% Space Molly x Cipher, which has fuelled the local excitement, drawing many queuing up in front of the store, as seen in a video posted online by visitors. The enthusiasm among foreign consumers so far has shown the potential of a new market for this Chinese brand in the continent.

Several brands’ collections with these popular toy IPs, such as Moncler x Mega Collection 1000% Space Molly, and KFC x Dimoo, have sparked buying frenzies in China. The final arrival of Pop Mart, while being another step up by the brand as part of its global ambition, also brings an opportunity for global brands to leverage the hype towards those art toys as their popularity grows internationally.

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