Photo of smiling Kenji, Mr.Yasuda and Eri taken at the eat-in space of the Kyoto store.
Photo of smiling Kenji, Mr.Yasuda and Eri taken at the eat-in space of the Kyoto store.

Peter Rabbit™ Concept Stores Opening In Karuizawa And Kyoto --Exclusive Items And Highlights[Part2 of 2]


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In our ongoing series “Character Business Tips,” we tap into the insights of industry professionals to uncover essential tips for navigating the character business landscape.

This edition showcases “Peter Rabbit™ SHOP & BAKES,” the first permanent Peter Rabbit™ concept store. Offering an array of items ranging from quintessential British baked goods and teas to exclusive merchandise. The Karuizawa store opened in July 2023, followed by the Ninenzaka store in Kyoto in September. Noteworthy for their regionally inspired exterior and interior designs, as well as limited-edition exclusive items, these stores are captivating attention as new sanctuaries for “Peter Rabbit™.”

In this article, we sit down for an interview with a representative from Sony Creative Products (SCP) who played a pivotal role in the establishment of “Peter Rabbit™ SHOP & BAKES.” And we delve into the intricacies of launching the first Peter Rabbit™ concept store.

In the second part of the interview, we will expand our discussion to the attractiveness of Peter Rabbit™ and on future developments. We also spoke to a representative of Telacoya Co., Ltd., which operates the “Peter Rabbit™ SHOP & BAKES,” on the day before the Kyoto Ninenzaka store opened.

※The original Japanese article appeared on October 30 and 31, 2023.

  • Kenji Harada profile photo

    Kenji Harada

    Sony Creative Products

  • Eri Shikama profile photo

    Eri Shikama

    Sony Creative Products

  • Yasunori Morita profile photo

    Yasunori Morita

    Telacoya Co., Ltd.

A sanctuary is needed to boost the IP

(Continued from Part 1)
──Two “Peter Rabbit™ SHOP & BAKES” stores have opened: the Karuizawa store and the Ninegnzaka store in Kyoto. Will there be more stores in the future?

Harada: We don't have any concrete plans yet, but I am personally fantasizing about opening stores in various tourist destinations if possible (laughs). Peter Rabbit has fans all over Japan, so we receive comments on social media saying, “I hope you would open a store in my area.” For the sake of those who are waiting, I would like to make it happen one day.

Kenji with blue shirt

──In the character business, shops, cafes and museums are like “sacred places” to the fans. What effects do concept stores like this one have in boosting an IP?

Harada: For example, “Peanuts” has various types of facilities and shops, including “SNOOPY MUSEUM TOKYO” and “SNOOPY Chocolat,” where visitors can enjoy and feel the world of the IP throughout the country. Peter Rabbit also has cafes, but in order to convey the brand image more widely, it is necessary for people to experience the IP from various angles, as is the case with “Peanuts.”

In this respect, we believe that the newly opened “Peter Rabbit™ SHOP & BAKES” will create an opportunity for young people, such as students on school trips and couples on vacation, to get to know Peter Rabbit because of its location. We would like to continue to increase the number of touchpoints where many people can experience the world of Peter Rabbit.

──Beatrix Potter™, the author of the original novel, was involved in trust activities (*) to protect nature in the Lake District in the UK. Is the “Peter Rabbit™ SHOP & BAKES” also aware of sustainable initiatives and environmental protection?

Shikama: Although there are no concrete initiatives yet, we would like to gradually increase the number of sustainable items in the future. I believe the use of eco-bags is becoming more common throughout the world, so I would like to work on what we can do, even in the smallest details, such as reconsidering the materials used to create the products.

*Trust activities
Trust activities are activities aimed at protecting and conserving the natural environment and historical buildings for future generations. This initiative was started by the British National Trust, a non-profit organization established in the UK in 1895. Beatrix Potter agreed with its philosophy and participated in its activities.

I hope many people can experience a British sense of humor

──Once again, is the original picture book the first experience of Peter Rabbit for many people?

Shikama: I think so. We often hear people say, "My grandma gave me the picture book as a present" or "I read it at the library." In fact, the Peter Rabbit picture books are smaller in size than many others. This was the idea by Beatrix Potter, where she made it in a size that is easy for children to pick up. Because they are small, they seem to catch people’s attention at libraries, and many children borrow them because they are unique.

Eri dressed in a border

Harada: Recently, we hear some people saying they found out about it from the movies Peter Rabbit, which were released in 2018 and 2021. With more content, awareness has increased, hasn't it? Some said they had seen the characters before, but only found out about the story after watching the movie.

──Can you also tell us about your encounters with Peter Rabbit?

Harada: My first encounter was a Peter Rabbit mug at my grandmother's house.

Shikama: For me, it was the animation on TV when I was a child. The unique artistic touch of Peter Rabbit is depicted – I thought it was a work that can be enjoyed even as an adult.

──How do you see the appeal of Peter Rabbit?

Harada: I think the characters' personalities are what makes it so appealing. The animals look realistic and cute, but in the stories, they play tricks, run shops, play games and are full of human-like personalities. The more you know about the stories, the more profound and fascinating they are. Also, in 2022, to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the publication, we held the exhibitions “120th Anniversary Exhibition: Happy Birthday! Peter Rabbit™” at museums across the country, where I was impressed again by the beauty of the pictures when I saw the original drawings. Even those of us who work on Peter Rabbit have few opportunities to see Beatrix Potter's original drawings, and so there is definitely an unwavering charm to them.

Shikama: In my case, I knew the characters from the animation, but the first time I properly read the original story was after I joined this company. I didn't know about the episode where Peter's father is turned into a pie, so I was surprised and thought, "Oh, it's a pretty dark story" and "Wow, they’d go so far" and I also found the humor in it interesting.

Even after the first picture book, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” there are quite a few cynical aspects, and those elements are also scattered throughout “Peter Rabbit” the movie. If you read the original picture book, I think you will understand the uniqueness of the world of Peter Rabbit. I hope many people will get to know it and experience the British sense of humor.

Eri in a border dress who speaks with a smile

──When designing the interior and products for “Peter Rabbit™ SHOP & BAKES,” do you also incorporate the essence of these original stories?

Shikama: Yes, we try, because Peter is “mischievous” so we sometimes sneak in that kind of vibe somewhere. At the Karuizawa store, we used text from the original story to give a sense of Peter's mischievous nature, and at the Kyoto Ninenzaka store, we placed an image of Peter jumping up and down, and sometimes we put scenes of Peter and his cousin Benjamin hiding away. We tried to use the artwork which we wouldn’t usually use for merchandise.

──Are there any tricks that visitors can discover and enjoy?

Harada: There are. We have illustrations placed around the cashier, in the hallway leading to the backyard, and the Kyoto store, even in the toilet. So, we want our customers to take a look at every corner and enjoy discovering them.

Taking various measures in anticipation of the 160th anniversary of the birth of the author

──In Japan, there are places like this concept store and cafe where you can experience the world of “Peter Rabbit,” but are there any museums in the UK, where Peter Rabbit was born?

Harada: In the Lake District, where Beatrix Potter lived and where the “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” series is set, there is an attraction facility called “The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction”. This is a facility where visitors can walk around and experience the world of Peter Rabbit. Scenes from the picture books are recreated with large figures. It is a true “sanctuary” that must be visited when visiting the Lake District.

Kenji with a serious gaze

──Since the beginning of this year, initiatives related to Peter Rabbit have become more active, such as the opening of concept stores and “Friend to Nature: Peter Rabbit™” exhibitions with toy museums across the country. In developing the Peter Rabbit IP, you have conveyed the message "Friend to Nature - May the nature where Peter Rabbit lives be protected forever." What kind of initiatives do you have in mind for the future?

Harada: We will continue to promote our project with the toy museums, and we are also planning events to tour department stores from next year onwards. In this context, we would like to more actively communicate the message of “Friend to Nature.”

Additionally, the Tokyo Metro Stamp Rally with the theme of "Friend to Nature" will start in November. The rally is an opportunity for people to learn about Peter Rabbit and Beatrix Potter's message, to think about the importance of nature as they visit the various stations.

Key visual for Tokyo Metro's stamp rally held in November

Of course, we will continue to organise events on a nationwide scale in the coming year and beyond. I can't talk about specifics yet, but we have decided on some unique collaborations, and you will be able to experience Peter Rabbit in many more places next year.

Looking further into the future, 2026 will mark the 160th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth. We are currently planning to gradually expand our efforts from around 2025. 2022 marked the 120th anniversary of the publication of the picture book "The Tale of Peter Rabbit," so we focused on the stories. We are now hoping to focus on Beatrix Potter, the author of the book, and go “back to basics” with her paintings and nature conservation activities. Please look forward to future developments.

Traditional image of Peter Rabbit with a modern Japanese twist

We also asked Mr. Yasunori Morita, the prepresentative from Telacoya Co., Ltd., who is involved in the planning and operation of the “Peter Rabbit™ SHOP & BAKES” together with SCP, about his thoughts on the stores.

――The Karuizawa store opened in July, prior to the Kyoto store opening. How has the response been from customers?

Morita: It has been very well received, and we are very pleased with the response from students on school trips, the elderly and even foreign tourists. We are very happy that we were able to open it successfully,as the project was halted once due to the pandemic.

――Is there anything that stands out to you amongst the reactions and impressions from visitors to the store?

Morita: We've often heard people say they were surprised by the variety of items available. We are confident in the variety and quality of our products, including exclusive items, so we believe this is a shop worth visiting at least once, for fans.

――Telacoya has developed stores featuring characters other than Peter Rabbit, but what was the concept behind the development of “Peter Rabbit™ SHOP & BAKES”?

Morita: After discussions with Mr. Harada and Ms.Shikama of SCP, we first decided on the concept of a store to be inspired by the Lake District in England, home to Peter Rabbit. So we wanted to offer our customers typical British baked goods, tea and coffee, and limited-edition items, based on an image of the rich nature depicted in Peter Rabbit but harmonized with a Japanese twist.

Mr.Yasuda with a serious gaze

――What was the most important factor during the planning of the store?

Morita: Peter Rabbit is a classic IP with a long history of over 120 years since the picture book was first published, so we were particularly conscious of how to blend it in with a contemporary Japanese feel. On top of that, we worked on the store and product development together with SCP, so I think we have achieved a quality that includes the perspective of the rights holders, as well as our own viewpoint. I hope that people can actually see the store and feel the space created by this fusion.

――You have paid particular attention to the product design and not just the stores. What items and menu are of interest at the Karuizawa store? Also, please tell us your recommendations and highlights of the Kyoto store.

Morita: At the Karuizawa shop, handmade baked goods by the pastry chef, such as our exclusive scones and cookies, and accessories made with Liberty fabrics are very popular. The wall art on the store wall is also very popular as a photo spot.

The Kyoto Ninenzaka store features a courtyard eat-in space set up inside the store. We invite you to enjoy coffee, tea, lattes and most of all, baked goods handmade by Kyoto's pastry chef in this courtyard. Ninenzaka is a street leading to Kiyomizu-dera Temple and a sightseeing area with many shops, so please use it as a place to relax when you need a break from walking around.

Eat-in space at Kyoto store

――It's a nice, calm space where Peter Rabbit is not only emphasized, but where they seem to be existing naturally. We asked you about the response to the Karuizawa shop earlier - did you find any differences in customer response or sales of merchandise compared to the other character stores operated by Telacoya? Also, what did you think of the Peter Rabbit as a character now, after being involved in the launch of the “Peter Rabbit™ SHOP & BAKES”?

Morita: Although it is difficult to make simple comparisons, we got the impression that customers take their time to enjoy shopping, holding the items in their hands and examining them carefully. Also, there is a wide range of items, so I think it is characteristic that they buy a lot of them.

In addition, I felt the depth of the brand Peter Rabbit because of the countless number of fascinating design artworks and through the approval process that goes into product development for the IP.

I am hesitant to say this, but I had never really read the Peter Rabbit picture books. However, when I was put in charge of this project, I had a chance to read them and realized that they are very rich stories. So, I feel honored to be a part of such wonderful work through these concept stores.

――Telacoya have opened a wide variety of shops, including souvenir shops in tourist areas. This would not be possible without solid connections with the respective regions. How did you come up with the business idea to expand the scale of your shops with using characters?

Morita: We have many shops at famous tourist attractions all over Japan, from Hokkaido to Kyushu, and we believe that this kind of development is proof that the characters loved in Japan are also loved by people all over the world. We thought characters, loved by many people, have a chance to develop business in various forms and situations, such as category shops and souvenir shops.

Mr.Yasuda using his hands to explain

We also feel that through actually opening these shops, we can achieve more active communication with the whole area. Through close communication with the local people, we are able to get an idea of what is needed in the area, so I feel we are expanding our business with the help of the local people.

――Finally, please give a message to the fans of Peter Rabbit.

Morita: At “Peter Rabbit™ SHOP & BAKES,” we would like to share the historical and wonderful world of Peter Rabbit with people all over the world through the tourist attractions in Japan. Please stop by when you visit Karuizawa or Kyoto. All our staff look forward to welcoming you.

Photo of Kenji, Mr.Yasuda and Eri taken at Gonenzaka, where the Kyoto store is located.

Text by Yuki Nomoto
Photos by Osamu Hoshikawa
Translated by Yumi Hasegawa