There was a time when stationery and gift items had become increasingly visible in the urban market, with new dedicated stores opening for them even as several old ones diversified to include multiple arrays of such products. Now, it seems like merchandise connected with TV shows, comics, music, movies is becoming more and more popular.
As you walk into Calypso, the Jayanagar-based music store, and hear bhajans playing in background, you might be surprised to spot T-shirts, figurines, posters featuring Batman, Tintin and Chota Bheem.
A couple of years ago, when the music market started shrinking, proprietor Vikas Mahesh started looking around for more options and zeroed in on books and merchandise. Although it’s been a mere three weeks since these were introduced, he says that they have already become popular. “They’re doing much better than books, which we introduced recently as well, but music still gives us our best turnout; after all it’s our bread and butter,” he says.
Among the collection that the store has to offer, T-shirts are the fastest moving, with Tintin leading the pack. When it comes to competition, Vikas is fairly unperturbed. “There’s no other store on this side of town for either merchandise or music,” he says.
And true enough, the two other older stores for merchandise in the city are located on Church Street — Hysteria, which was the sole stop for merchandise for three years in Bangalore and the year-old The Entertainment Store.
A collector’s paradise, The Entertainment Store has two floors of posters, mugs, T-shirts, figurines, maps, key-chains and other show-pieces. One of the first things that catch your eye as soon as you enter, is 50 Years of Friendship — a piece priced at a lakh and a half featuring all the Asterix characters and the two writers in a brawl.
“I don’t know if any Indian collectors have brought it back from a trip abroad. Otherwise, I’m guessing this is the only piece in the country,” says Satish Khemchandani, partner, Radical Enterprises, which runs the store.
But limited edition products such as this also have a very limited market. “It’s mostly collectors,” says Satish, adding that products that range from hundreds to a few thousands — T-shirts, key-chains, posters and the like — have a larger market.
“For the rest we have customers despite competition from Hysteria for merchandise and Blossoms and Flipkart for comics,” he says confidently. “But the demand for these niche products might increase once we go online, hopefully by the end of this month to mark our first anniversary.
“All of these are original, licensed. So the artistes get a share whenever we sell a piece. It’s our job to present merchandise in a way that is acceptable to the people,” he explains.
Apart from music, TV series and comics, the range here also covers sports -- football posters, cups et al. Another fascinating product is the sorting hat from the Harry Potter series, with a button that on being pressed, actually ‘sorts’ you into one of the four houses: Griffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. They also have the Marauders’ Map, also from the same series and another from The Lord of the Rings.
“Since the fourth season of Game of Thrones released a few months ago, the array of products featuring them are the most popular. But we have dedicated fans seeking out The Beatles, Pink Floyd and classic superheroes, like Superman and Batman,” Satish says.
Hysteria, earlier a purely music based merchandise store, over time had to start catering to a larger clientele once they introduced movie and pop culture paraphernalia. The first of its kind to open doors in Bangalore almost four years ago, the store is now riddled with competition and other issues.
“With us, it’s mostly comics and movie merchandise that’s doing well right now. Music sales have gone down a bit. Maybe we’re catering to a different crowd now. We were importing a lot of merchandise before.
Because of the dollar hike, we’ve stopped some of that. And music fans are particular about what they want,” says Rakesh Kumar, logistics manager, Hysteria. “There’s a company in India called BioWorld that’s taken up license to sell merchandise, so we get our merchandise from them,” he informs.
Hysteria at one point used to be famous for the niche indie music CDs they used to put up for sale. They had to stop in between as procuring CDs directly from bands requires more hands and the store is currently tied up, what with heavy competition stemming from the Entertainment Store, located down the road from Hysteria, on Church Street. They plan to resume sale of music CDs shortly, and are also opening up a brand new store in Delhi in less than a month.