Disney Adds Diamonds to Mickey Mouse Collection

Walt Disney Inc., for the first time, has targeted the high-end watch segment for its 75-year-old Mickey Mouse character by launching the Retro Mickey Diamond Watch Collection.

The watches are produced and hand-decorated with 26 diamonds weighing 0.5 carats each in Switzerland, and come in four color schemes: Black and white, red and blue, pink, and brown, and sell for (between $550 and $1,350) THB20,000-THB50,000 and more.

Dannis Wu, managing director of Sun Tronic Co Ltd, a Hong Kong merchandise company authorized to handle Mickey Mouse products, said last week the collection was designed to interest both men and women of 20-years of age and older in the middle-high to high-end income brackets.

Sun Tronic considers the collection the new competitor of other high-end watches selling in Thailand. Wu said the collection blended luxury features with the classic "fun and love."

The target customers have grown up with Mickey Mouse, and a lot of them are his fans, he said. He could not provided an exact figure for the grown-up fans, but said there were 200,000 to 300,000 in Thailand from toddlers into the teenager category.

Thailand is one of the top five markets for Mickey Mouse merchandise in Asia, according to Wu, partly because it attracts tourists who like to shop.

Thailand was chosen as the first country in Asia to launch the collection. Of the 999 models in the collection, the Thai market will get 200. Marketing for the collection is budgeted at THB4 million to THB5 million during six months, he said.

Mickey Mouse merchandise performed strongly in 2005, thanks mainly to the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland, he said. Mickey Mouse always pops up in people's heads when they think of the place, and many promotions and activities of Walt Disney, owner of the character, have been held in Thailand.

Wu could not remember the share of Mickey Mouse merchandise in the whole merchandise market here but said it was one of the few characters that was always recognised as an all-time classic with an appeal that was passed on from generation to generation.

In the domestic watch market, character models represent 5 percent by value. The segment seems small, but it grew 20 percent last year and is large by volume, he said.

The exclusive local distributor of Sun Tronic's Mickey Mouse watches, Thai Times Asia Pacific, has opened the first Mickey Mouse watch shop in Southeast Asia at the Siam Paragon shopping complex.

Wu expects it to open more branches in other middle and upper-class department stores and shopping malls.

Sun Tronic has been handling Mickey Mouse watches for eight years, in addition to all the other Mickey Mouse merchandise. Mickey Mouse accounts for 40 percent of the company's total business, second to its Hello Kitty merchandise.

Its Mickey Mouse business gained 25 percent in sales last year.

Sun Tronic expects to see at least 20 percent sales growth from its overall Mickey Mouse watch business in 2006.


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