When Japanese lifestyle department store Tokyu Hands opened its first outlet here last month, it was predicted that its wide array of beauty products and quirky crockware would score with customers.
But it is the humble sticker that has become an unexpected sleeper hit, as consumers flock to get their hands on the fancy, colourful adhesives, which cost between $3.60 and $14.20.
Imported from Shibuya, Japan, the stickers feature hallmarks of Japanese culture such as kawaii (Japanese for cute) animals, salarymen and manga characters.
They are popular with youth below 30 years of age and families with kids, says Mr Takuya Furumaki, a vice-manager at the store, located at Westgate shopping mall in Jurong East.
"We've sold about 1,900 stickers, or about 270 on average a day in the first week. Most stickers were sold out in the opening week," he adds.
The encouraging sales also signal a return of sticker fever, which first hit Singapore in the 1970s and continued through the next two decades, largely thanks to Italian collectibles company Panini, whose assorted, colourful sticker sets were well-loved by children and collectors alike. The trend receded in recent years as millennial youths swopped their sticker books for Game Boys and PlayStations.
Leading the trend now is popular chat application Line, which allows users to express themselves through an ever-growing array of virtual stickers. Choices run the gamut from Disney princesses such as Snow White to K-pop stars.
While Line declined to disclose figures for its user or sticker downloads here, more than 250 users in Singapore have submitted their own designs to be sold on the app since August, says a spokesman.
Two years back, the sticker landed in the eye of controversy when local artist Samantha Lo, 28, ran afoul of the law for pasting them on lamp posts and traffic lights. They were emblazoned with tongue-in-cheek Singlish slogans such as "Press Once Can Already" and "Anyhow Paste Kena Fine". She was given 240 hours of community service and had to report for supervision and counselling.
Ms Lo, known to most as Sticker Lady, has started selling the same "Street Pack" stickers online since last August and says she has seen increased demand for them. "These are Singaporean, they're meant to reflect local culture, and I hope they remind people of our identity," she tells SundayLife! of her collection.
Stickers are also returning at a time when popular culture is rife with nostalgia.
At last month's London Fashion Week, British designer Anya Hindmarch debuted a collection of handbags embossed with outlandish sticker designs, such as the thumbs-up and peace signs, as well as Frosties' Tony the Tiger.
Distributors here who import and sell stickers have also seen an upswing in demand.
Married couple Nick Cheng, 33, and Yvonne Ho, 37, who have run online sticker business Luvsimplicity since 2004, now sell about 40 to 50 sheets of stickers daily during peak periods such as Children's Day, up from about 20 sheets four years ago.
Each sheet contains 50 to 96 stickers depending on size and costs $2.90.
Mr Cheng and Ms Ho's store on online shopping website Qoo10 sells close to 200 types of designs and customers can personalise stickers by having their names printed on them.
"People want to personalise everything they have. These stickers are a handy way of labelling their things," he says.
Entrepreneur Mathilda Tan, 36, who sells stationery goods online at welovezakka.com, receives about 25 orders for sticker packs a month now, down from 45 in 2011.
"Overall, sales is still good, but we're getting competition as more blogshops stock up on such stickers," she notes.
Mr Tan Jian Hao, 21, who makes YouTube videos, owns a suitcase plastered with more than 100 stickers ranging from those of his favourite football team (Portugal) to celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber.
"I wanted to personalise my luggage and make it look better, so I went out and grabbed as many as I could," says Mr Tan, who has spent more than $100 on stickers.
He bought his collection from local entrepreneur Benjamin Ang, 25, who opened his first shop, The Little Badge Store, at *Scape last year and a second one at JCube in August this year. The shops sell stickers adorned with snappy catchphrases, such as "Sad But Rad" and "Too Sassy For You", and blown-up versions of Emojis, the emoticons popular with smartphone users.
"Some customers choose from our selection, others tell us what they want so we design or order for them," says Mr Ang, who also designs stickers.
"Many people paste them on their laptops, skateboards and motorbikes to mark their belongings. Me? I plaster them all over my car, of course."
This article was first published on Oct 26, 2014.
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