Meet the 25-year-old behind the pop culture collectibles craze in Dubai

Action figures aren’t just for kids anymore, says Hasan Tamimi



Photos by Shihab
Photos by Shihab
by

Mazhar Farooqui

Published: Fri 2 Sep 2022, 8:27 AM

Last updated: Fri 2 Sep 2022, 2:33 PM

Canadian expat Hassan Tamimi is barely 25 years old, but he has been to Japan more than 30 times already. So why does the Dubai resident travel to the Land of the Rising Sun so often?

Tamimi is on an unlikely mission: To quench the seemingly insatiable thirst for Japanese collectibles in the region.

“Manga and anime are in huge demand here. So I have to fly to Japan every few days to replenish my stock,” says the young managing director of The Little Things – a homegrown chain of stores that has revolutionised the pop culture collectibles industry in the UAE.

A fan of collectibles since he was a child, Tamimi launched a novelty pop culture collectibles store in Dubai while he was still in high school. He hasn’t looked back since.

Today, The Little Things has multiple retail outlets in prime locations such as Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Mercato Mall and Bluewaters Island. They recently expanded to Abu Dhabi as well.

The stores offer a wide selection of anime and superhero figurines as well as model kits and trading card games that cater to the burgeoning community of hardcore comic, gaming and pop culture fans in the UAE and beyond.

“Action figures aren’t for kids anymore. Many adults, including top government officers, buy these toys for the sake of nostalgia as it takes them back to their childhood days. We have nearly 100 brands. All our products are licensed, exported and original,” says Tamimi.

“Many of these items are limited editions or exclusive like the Tsume Black Grendizer, for instance. Also known as the Dubai Wave Black Grendizer, it was the first exclusive high-quality statute (HQS) ever released for a collectible store by renowned art firm Tsume anywhere in the world. The unveiling was attended by the creator of the statue, Tsume artists as well as representatives of the Japanese consulate. It was a proud moment.”

The Black Grendizers were priced at Dh7,499 apiece. Yet they sold off within 48 hours. “Customers from all over the world converged on the store to grab the rare pieces,” Tamimi recalls.

Funko Pop, a plastic figure with a large head and big round eyes, also sells like hot cakes at The Little Things; as does Chucky, a scary killer doll and the main antagonist of the Child Play slasher film franchise.

“It beats me why kids are so enamoured by this creepy thing,” says Tamimi as one child after another stopped by at their MoE store to take pictures with Chucky.

Humble beginnings

The Little Things’ popularity is a far cry from its humble beginnings in 1977, when it just sold home accessories.

Tamimi said he turned things around when the family acquired the business from a friend in 2013.

“I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My grandfather founded the Al Tannan Group in Dubai in 1982, while my father diversified into fast food and kitchenware. I picked up many things growing with them and developed a strong business acumen early in life.”

He opened his first store in Dubai Mall, starting off with low-tech nostalgia themed toys. They were an instant hit. Encouraged by the response, Tamimi expanded their toy lines and partnered with top manufacturers and suppliers from around the world.

Tamimi, who views toy collectibles as fine art rather than playthings, attributes their ever-growing craze to the Middle East Film & Comic Con: the region’s largest pop culture fest held annually in Dubai. Last year, the show was held in Abu Dhabi for the first time.

Since its launch in 2012, the fantasy convention has drawn scores of writers, artists, gamers and celebs from some of the biggest TV, video game and movie franchises around the globe. Actors such as John Rhys Davies of The Lord of the Rings, Laurie Holden of The Walking Dead and Mark Sheppard of Supernatural make personal appearances at the event, where exhibitors display everything from games, T-shirts, comics, posters, original artworks, signed merchandise and action figures.

“Comic Con has been a runaway success here and continues to fuel interest in pop culture,” says Tamimi whose company is a regular fixture at the event, which returns to the Capital in March 2023.

The Pop Culture collectibles market has remained red-hot since it touched dizzying heights in 2020, following a pandemic-driven boom in online sales.

According to a study, the global collectibles market, estimated to be worth $372 billion in 2020, will touch $522 billion by 2028.

“The toy collectibles market is growing fast,” says Tamimi.

“I am glad I am at the right place at the right time.”

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