New craze set to stick
STICKERS, long overshadowed by the trading card fever that has gripped Hong Kong youngsters, are back with a vengeance. Their return is being marked by a special attraction - albums that can be filled with all sorts of special facts and figures, and, of course, the stickers.
These albums are full-colour, lavishly illustrated books and follow the trend of movies and toys, featuring blockbusters like Batman, Nintendo, Mighty Max, Robocop, Jurassic Park, Home Alone II and James Bond Jr - anything that is proving to be a hit.
The albums are matched by stickers of all sizes, some of them three-dimensional.
The collectables have another lure. They cost only a fraction of the price of many trading cards that youngsters trade for cash.
Two albums and their accompanying stickers will kick off the sticker challenge to trading cards in Hong Kong: Premier League 95 and Super Street Fighter II, which is based on the TV video game so fiercely popular with locals.
Premier League is the smash hit among Merlin Publishing's 35 titles in Britain, Europe and the United States.
The 80-page album contains comprehensive profiles of the teams in the English Premier Division, individual players, clubs and club programmes.
More than 60 million packets of the league stickers were sold last year in Britain, where now one in seven children is collecting them.
Reception for sticker albums in Asia, however, has been mixed since they were introduced three years ago.
Premier League was well received in Thailand, and last year Singaporeans snapped up 40,000 albums. But not even an album titled World Wrestling Federation could stir much interest in Japan.
But Panimex International, which distributes Merlin's stickers products in Hong Kong, is optimistic.
Trevor Hughes, Panimex director, said: 'It is hard to know what response our English-language collectible albums would generate among Chinese-speaking children.
'But we would not be attempting it if we don't believe in their market potential here.' In Britain, stickers and albums were still hot property. There, people preferred the more reasonably-priced stick-ons to better-quality but costly trading cards, Mr Hughes said.
Merlin sells many different collectables that attract children from as young as five, with the fanciful Polly Pocket, to adults, who are diehard fans of football or rugby league.
Locally, Premier League 95 and Super Street Fighter II will soon be sold at $20 for an album and $4 for a packet of six stickers at 1,700 toy, book and stationery retailers.
If they prove popular, a Chinese version of Sailor Moon, a favourite of local children, may be next on the market.
'Our purpose is to create 'an Asian feel' for the collections to increase the local appeal,' Mr Hughes said.
'We're also considering bilingual versions for Power Rangers, Batman and possibly NBA Basketball and distributing them in elsewhere in Asia as well.' Those can't get enough stickers, but keep getting doubles, need not worry. Panimex will operate a local children's mail service and swap-shop.
In today's Sunday Young Post, Panimex is giving you the chance to pick up free either a Premier League 95 or a Super Street Fighter II and a complementary packet of six stickers.
Fill in and bring the coupon on page 3 to any South China Morning Post Family Book Shop for your album. Be quick - it's first come, first served.