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What’s in the box? Toy store Pop Mart pops up at South Coast Plaza

Pop Mart at South Coast Plaza.
Pop Mart is a pioneer in bringing art toy designs from two dimensions to three on a mass production basis. It recently opened a location at South Coast Plaza.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Pop Mart’s first U.S. location popped up at South Coast Plaza on June 18.

“A lot of people were here when we first opened,” sales associate Emily Enriquez said of opening day. “Just lines and lines.”

Founded in China in 2010 by Wang Ning, the global sensation offers toys and collectibles created by independent artists and designers in limited quantities. The company operates more that 350 stores and 1,800 vending machines, called Robo Shops, worldwide.

Generally priced between $12.90 and $14.90, though costs vary, the toys at Pop Mart are packaged in blind boxes, making it impossible to tell which toy is inside each box.

Various Duckoo collectibles at Pop Mart at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“On the side of the box, they show what you could get and often they have one or two characters that are secrets, which are usually our rare ones,” Enriquez said.

At Pop Mart, roughly one in 114 boxes end up being secrets, but the mystery is part of what contributes to the brand’s popularity.

“I think about it as a game,” Enriquez said. “So far, we’ve gotten a lot of secrets.”

Blind boxes and bags have gained traction in the toy and candy market with similar offerings from Disney, Funko and L.O.L Surprise! YouTube is filled with channels dedicated to unboxing blind bags and boxes. YouTubers are known to open entire cases of collectibles on camera and some even offer tips on how to successfully choose the box with your desired toy.

Shoppers explore trendy collectable art toys at Pop Mart at South Coast Plaza.
Shoppers explore trendy collectable art toys at Pop Mart, a pioneer in bringing art toy designs from 2D to 3D on a mass production basis, at South Coast Plaza on Tuesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“There are YouTubers who show their techniques,” Enriquez said, “ Like if you shake a box, if it is this heavy, which one it is.”

Pop Mart collaborates with the creators and owners of pop culture characters for different collections.

“Pop Mart has done collaborations with Yves Saint Laurent, Sephora, Moncler, Disney, Universal Studios, Warner Bros., Sanrio, Naruto, Keith Haring and more,” said Qevin Leung, regional business development manager at Pop Mart.

The Costa Mesa store features series that include well-known franchises like Minions, Harry Potter, SpongeBob SquarePants and Garfield.

“You may come in not knowing what the store is, but we also have some things that you might be familiar with,” Enriquez said.

Pop Mart’s most popular character is Molly, a wide-eyed little girl who is usually blonde but is sometimes featured with black or candy-colored hair depending on the series. She was created by Hong Kong artist Kenny Wong in 2006, the founder of KENNYSWORK.

“Pop Mart maintains close relationships with over 350 global artists and collaborates with 25 of these talented artists through licensing or collaborative arrangements,” Leung said.

The Molly Car Car series features Molly in different vehicles, and the Molly Steampunk Animal series features her dressed in an array of animal costumes with a steampunk edge.

Pop Mart has opened its first U.S. location at South Coast Plaza.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Although the boxes are blind, displays of each series line the shelves, giving shoppers a closer look at the possibilities.

“We have everything out for display, so you can actually see the quality of the figures.” said Enriquez.

Yufei Hou shopped on a recent Tuesday morning with his 8-year-old daughter, Ocean, in tow.

“She saw something about the store locally,” Hou said. “So we did some research online.”

Ocean left with a shopping bag full of blind boxes and a smile.

Ocean Hou and her father, Yufei, look on as employee Roman Rivera rings up a total at Pop Mart.
Ocean Hou, 8, of Irvine, and her father, Yufei, look on as employee Roman Rivera, left, rings up a total at Pop Mart on Tuesday, June 28 at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“I would say a lot of kids like to come in, but it is usually the parents that stock up,” said Enriquez.

Enriquez believes the appeal of the mystery resonates at any age.

“Honestly, I think it is kind of a little rush,” said Enriquez. “You pick one, you don’t get the one you want and you are like, should I get another one?”

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