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Moscow Multiplex Set to Welcome Russia's First Ever Marvel Mug Store

The long wait to make in-cinema purchases of Captain America cafetières or Harry Potter jotters is finally over.

Photo: Stark reminders: The Marvellous movie mementoes Muscovites have long been craving.
Stark reminders: The Marvellous movie mementoes Muscovites have long been craving.
Photo: Stark reminders: The Marvellous movie mementoes Muscovites have long been craving.
Stark reminders: The Marvellous movie mementoes Muscovites have long been craving.

Although popcorn, cola, nachos, hotdogs, as well as a range of other snacks and beverages have long been just as familiar to Russian cinemagoers as to their North American and Western European counterparts, another staple of the global multiplex experience – licensed movie merchandise – has remained bewilderingly absent. At least, until now.

Presumably, previously judged to be something of an alien notion to Russia's cinema-bound consumers, the country's movie houses notably lacked shelves creaking with Marvel mugs, Toy Story T-shirts or Star Wars socks. With the collapse of the Soviet Union just two years off its 30th anniversary, however, the country's citizens have now been deemed just about ready to enjoy such delights.

The lead here is being taken by the Inventive Retail Group (IRG), the Moscow-headquartered retail operator that runs several single-brand chains across the country, including 86 Apple resellers, 84 Lego outlets and 96 Samsung-branded stores. In partnership with Kino Okko, Russia's largest cinema chain, its first in-movie house merchandise sales point will open shortly within the Moscow Khimki MEGA Shopping Mall multiplex.

With monetising moviegoers' interest in big screen idols and the most popular celluloid characters the clear priority, licensed toys and accessories will account for the majority of the inventory. While much of it will be dedicated to current releases, the operator has also promised that classic movies and franchises will also be well represented.

As such sales points will need to be squeezed into existing cinema lobbies, it is anticipated that few will be larger than 50 sq m. While toys and kid-friendly merchandise will take up much of this space, room will also be reserved for cinema-related books and other memorabilia with more mature appeal. This latter consideration is largely down to the desire to target the 20-30-year-olds that account for a substantial proportion of the country's film fans, with many such veterans also keen participants in several existing cinema loyalty schemes.

Before the end of the year, IRG's plan is to open five trial outlets in prime cinema sites across Moscow and St Petersburg, with this number likely to be revised upwards should sales targets be met or exceeded. Overall, each store will have a three- to six-month period to prove its viability prior to a decision on its long-term future being made.

Although all these initial sales points will be on the sites of Okko cinemas, IRG is believed to have already begun discussions with a number of Russia's other multiplex operators – including Karo and Kronverk – with regard to extending the concept to their theatres. It is thought that the participation of a wider number of cinema chains will increase the retailer's leverage when it comes to negotiating with movie property licence holders.

With confidence high as to the success of this venture, there are already rumours that three other major retail players are considering launching rival operations, with a number of announcements expected in the coming months. Despite their own interest in the licensed-character sector, however, it is not thought that Detsky Mir or Deti, two of Russia's leading toy chain retailers, are planning any imminent move in the sector on their own part.

Given that the operators of these in-cinema stores will have to source appropriate licensed merchandise on an on-going basis in order to keep in step with the latest releases, there is a clear opportunity here for suitably experienced Hong Kong manufacturers / distributors to get in on the ground floor and establish a lasting relationship. Interested companies – especially those with track records in consumer electronics, licensed ceramics, clothing and other property-driven merchandise – are advised to approach the prime retail movers in this emerging sector at the earliest opportunity.

Leonid Orlov, Moscow Consultant

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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