Recently, POP MART, a leading Art Toy brand in China, has been making news here, as the organizers behind the Beijing Toy Show (BTS) which debuted last September, the upcoming Shanghai Toy Show (STS) which will be held from April 4th to April 7th, and as the producers of the brand-new Satyr Rory blind-box series from Seulgie. But, who is POP MART? It turns out that they are one of the premiere art toy brands in mainland China focused on three main areas—Retail, Toy Production, and Events.
Founded in 2010 by then 23-year old CEO Wang Ning, POP MART describes itself as the largest art toy retailer in China with a 400+ location retail network, primarily in larger cities including Beijing and Shanghai. The stores offer a mix of gift items and art toys with an emphasis on blind-box minis. Supplementing their conventional shops, the brand operates a quickly expanding number of Robo Shops—high-tech vending machines that dispense mini figures in both blind boxes and full cases! Fans can walk up to one of these machines, at a mall or other convenient location, browse what’s available via the screen or the display case on the side of the machine, and quickly select and pay for it right on their phone. We’d love to see something similar stateside.
In addition to their stores, POP MART produces a growing line of licensed art toys, primarily minis. Collectors have fallen in love with Pop Mart’s extensive line of Molly mini figures from Kenny Wong, lining up to buy the newest toys and meet the artist at events such as the 2017 Christmas Exhibition in Beijing.
Molly is one of the best-selling art toy in China, with over two million Molly toys sold yearly across the line including blind-box series—eight per year, with 100+ designs—and special releases such as this year’s Chinese New Year Zodiac series.
Beyond the blond cutie, POP MART has released and plans to release minis from an impressive list of artists/properties including art toy standouts Coarse, Fluffy House, Kasing Lung, Mame Moyashi, Pucky, and Seulgie as well as beloved pop culture standouts including Disney, Gudetama, Hello Kitty, Naruto and tokidoki.
Currently, POP MART’s production is focused on the Chinese market with distribution extending to Southeast Asia. That said, resourceful collectors will find several of their releases available stateside from forward-looking art toy boutiques.
As part of its efforts to grow the Art Toy market in China, Pop Mart has greatly expanded the reach of their events from focused product releases to large-scale conventions, beginning with the first Beijing Toy Show (BTS) last September and continuing with the upcoming inaugural Shanghai Toy Show (April 5th – April 7th). With an expected 50,000 attendees and 130,000 Square Feet of exhibition space, STS will be roughly double the size of the first BTS.
The conventions offer a strong and extensive mix of vendors. Indie artists and established brands are well represented as are the various leading art toy hubs, both Eastern and Western. Several people mentioned to me that the Beijing Toy show was one of the best art toy shows they’d ever attended, in part thanks to POP MART’s focus on streamlining the convention experience for collectors and exhibitors. POP MART’s staff managed lining up, placing of orders, and paying at the booths, making it an orderly process.
In addition to their twin conventions, POP MART has launched PAQU, a social network mobile app for toy lovers. Developed in-house, PAQU lets collectors stay up on the latest news, show off their latest buys, and immerse themselves in the art toy community.
While Pop Mart is currently focused on their home market, expect to see more and more from the brand as they expand the range of artists they work with, both toy production and convention-wise.