Tue, Oct 07, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Vendors hope to win buyers with a twist on personal figurines

By Lee Wen-Yi  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chen Yu-lun, director of a company that sells custom-made caricature dolls, poses with a figurine modeled on himself and another doll on Sept. 27 in Taipei.

PHOTO: CHIEN JUNG-FONG, TAIPEI TIMES

Customized figurines have been gaining popularity for years, but now some vendors are specializing by offering twists on the same theme, such as figures with changeable clothes or wiggling rear ends.

Chen Yu-lun (陳禹倫), who first introduced customized figurines to Taiwan at his street stall, said that in the past two years the figurines had become very popular thanks to convenience stores offering them as part of promotions.

Now there are a dozen store chains selling customized figures, said Liao Ming-yang (廖敏洋), who sells equipment to manufacture the figurines.

Customized figurines are usually priced between NT$1,400 and NT1,600, he said.

But the market has tough competition. Although the figurines usually sell as gifts, they are expensive compared to other customized gifts, such as photographs printed on notebooks or pillows, which may cost only a couple of hundred NT dollars, Liao said.

Another problem for the industry is the ailing economy, said Chen, who owns more than 15 shops under his chain.

“[Before June], each shop had revenues of about NT$400,000 to NT$500,000 per month, but that has been slashed by 30 percent to about NT$300,000,” he said.

Chen said in the customizing industry, a business needs to continue to evolve to compete.

He plans to start selling figurines that shake their heads or have changeable outfits like dolls.

In the end, do Chen’s figurines really look like the people they aim to imitate?

Chen said his shops’ favorite customers are those with distinctive facial features, which makes the task easier.

But Liao said customers shouldn’t expect too much: “Cartoon figurines are meant to be a cute version. It’s not like a statue of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石).”

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