Funko’s cult following gives fashion retailers the chance to delight customers with more than 1,000 product lines
Andy oddie headshot
A market leader in licensing and pop culture, lifestyle business Funko is expanding its reach in the UK in 2020. Alongside its Pop! figurines and character-based collectables, Funko is set to expand its tie-up with high street giant Primark and step further into the wider fashion industry. It has an even split of shoppers (51% female), and the European Union and EMEA region is the fastest growing for the company, so it believes the opportunities here are vast.
Launched in the late 1990s, Funko began life making “bobblehead” figurines. Today, it has more than 1,000 licences that it uses in creating a vast and diverse product range.
“We cover everything from historic figures, presidential leaders and sports personalities to Disney princesses, cartoons, manga, films, video games and TV shows – there is no stone unturned,” says managing director of EMEA Andy Oddie.
“Funko is built on the principle that everyone is a fan of something. Funko services their fandom. For a customer base that felt, to a certain extent, outside the norm, now they’ve found a company they can align with.”
With 100 new items added every week, Funko keeps its finger on the pulse of pop culture trends. Its most successful products at the moment sit within the Marvel film franchise, thanks to what Oddie refers to as “box office hit after box office hit”.
Funko’s speed to market allows it to capitalise on pop culture happenings and customer demand. For example, it took the licence for video game Fortnite in July 2018 and began shipping new products by September the same year.
“Speed is key,” says Oddie.
Funko’s big-headed Pop! figurines, which feature a “stylised and whimsical” take on pop culture characters, will add a host of new lines. This will include the Pop! and Tees packages: exclusive figurines and matching T-shirts printed with corresponding graphics. There will also be expansion of sub-brands, such as the Loungefly accessories range.
Funko Home & Gift will also add fresh items via Cinderella, Mickey Mouse and Star Wars licences, alongside the introduction of the Funkoverse board games.
This year, Funko will launch “Paka Paka” across Europe. This pays homage to Japanese “gashapon” culture. Small, mystery figures are available in capsules through coin-operated machines across Japan – “gashapon” refers to the sound the machine makes. Shoppers do not know which character they have bought until they open the packaging.
In the UK, Funko’s Paka Paka machines will feature eye-catching digital elements, created by Funko’s in-house animation team, and the mystery purchases create a “thrill of the chase” collector mentality.
“It’s kitsch and cool, and something that one doesn’t often see in Europe,” says Oddie. “The machine adds an experiential element, too. And people love collecting things – Paka Paka are very collectable.”
In 2019, a dedicated Funko space opened in the John Lewis Oxford Street flagship store, and Funko’s Wetmore Forest collection was also launched exclusively in John Lewis.
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Funko will also further expand into the fashion industry throughout 2020 and beyond.
When Primark opened its 160,000 sq ft Birmingham mega-shop in April 2019 – the world’s largest fashion retail store – it partnered with Funko on a 450 sq ft shop-in-shop. It stocks Funko’s full offering, as well as exclusive products only available within Primark.
“Funko speaks to people who like fast-moving environments and newness, and Primark is all about newness,” says Oddie. “Aligning ourselves with a retailer such as Primark has been interesting, appealing directly to our core customer base, but also lots of new fans. It’s doing extremely well. More shop-in-shops will open up across the region.”
Oddie reveals that the “softlines” clothing element featuring Funko art will also play a “big part” in Funko’s growth: “There will be more breadth in clothing – this is a huge opportunity for us.”
A wholly owned, state-of-the-art 300,000 sq ft distribution centre in Coventry is set to open this year, which will further boost speed to market.
“This will transform the way we are able to bring new items into retail environments,” says Oddie. “We’re very committed to bringing cutting edge products across all our categories for our audience across all sectors of product. There will be a lot more opportunities for collecting and experiencing Funko this year.”
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