Rovio recently announced plans for a series of Disneyland-style mini-theme parks around the world. Now the company is taking that branding plan in an even more aggressive direction with the launch of a chain of Angry Birds theme stores.
The new Angry Birds store, which opened in Shanghai, China earlier this week, is just the first in a chain of 25 scheduled to open in the country by the end of the year, according to a report in the Shanghai Daily. This is the first official Angry Birds store outside of Finland, where Rovio has its headquarters. The flagship store in Helsinki opened its doors in November to much fanfare with shoppers camping outside in the tradition of Apple fans.
The stores sell a wide variety of Angry Birds gear including plush toys, iPhone cases, shirts, bags and, of course, games. Before the launch of the Shanghai store, the first apparel to go on sale in China was a line of a line of Angry Birds shoes, sold on Letao, China's answer to the online shoe sales giant Zappos.
According to Rovio, China is its second largest market; the company estimated that roughly 100 million Angry Birds downloads occurred in China in 2011. Last year, when Rovio opened its Shanghai office, Peter Vesterbacka, the company's global chief marketing officer, said "we are delighted to be fully operational in China. China has great potential for growth, but just as exciting is the opportunity to build a creative franchise, a marriage of virtual and real life, that is special for China and exciting for our Chinese fans."
Rovio's Shanghai store launch will be quickly followed up with another store opening next month in Beijing. As for the Angry Birds theme parks, the first China-based park is scheduled to debut in October in Haining, Zhejiang Province, with another 10 to 20 planned for other locales throughout the country.
Although China has a reputation for widespread intellectual property violations of major brands and largely unchecked sales of counterfeit merchandise, Rovio's push to ramp up its presence in the country could help to stem any losses the company might be suffering from local sales of unauthorised merchandise. Paul Chen, Rovio China's general manager, told the paper, "We are opening the stores to provide our fans with the easiest way to get authorised Angry Birds products."