USA TODAY US Edition
The force will be with you this holiday season,
Retailers are devoting plenty of marketing dollars, floor space to Star Wars
orry Elsa, but Chewie, Yoda and the gang are back and taking over the holiday shopping season.
With the Dec. 18 release of Star Wars: The
Force Awakens, some retailers stand to gain a fourth-quarter sales uptick as they make a major marketing investment and dedicate significant floor space to new toys, apparel, games and even home decor tied to the movie.
Walmart is “planning it bigger than Frozen,” says Anne Marie Kehoe, the company’s vice president of toys.
The Sept. 4 Force Friday events, where Star Wars products were introduced to much fanfare at midnight store openings, were only Round 1. With more toys expected to come out in the next few months, retailers are gearing up for holiday sales aided by the rebirth of one of the most popular franchises in history.
“This is going to be a blockbuster merchandise event,” says Joel Bines, managing director in the retail practice at consulting firm Alix Partners. “You will not be able to avoid Star Wars merchandise. It will be impossible this holiday season.”
For this round of Star Wars merchandise, new technology and increased competition among toymakers have upped the game. There are customizable light sabers, an interactive talking Yoda doll, a BB-8 toy droid and bigger action figures that have lights, sound and movement.
For the toy industry, which does 70% of its sales in the last two months of the year, the new
Star Wars movie is a big deal, says Jim Silver, CEO and editor in chief of TTPM, a website that reviews kids’ products.
Since Force Friday, Toys R Us has indefinitely dedicated twice as much floor space as normal to
Star Wars merchandise, anticipating additional rollouts as more movies are released in the coming years. Walmart has another round of events planned for the weekend of Nov. 15.
“When you look at the next five years and all of the different products, this is a multibilliondollar proposition,” Silver says. “So it’s extremely important. The amount of room given to Star
Wars at retailers is much greater than ever before.” Target posted in its stores life-size Chewbacca cardboard cutouts that growl when you walk past and a dedicated display that compiled everything Star Wars in one place. The Disney Store plans to keep interactive instore “theaters” — 90-inch screens where customers can watch music videos, movie trailers and film clips — set to the new Star Wars movie through December and will keep introducing products even after the movie comes out, says Elissa Margolis, senior vice president of Disney Store North America.
Retailers have a lot on the line. Toys R Us has been working on the new line of products for several years, says Richard Barry, global chief executive of merchandising. Kehoe says given the late-December release, Walmart hopes to see momentum through January, a typically slow sales month, when kids will be armed with gift cards and still excited about the film.
Retailers are also in a position to capitalize on the broader appeal of the latest Star Wars installment as it brings a new generation into its fandom, Kehoe says. Disney has helped with that by going beyond Star Wars nerd culture, striking licensing deals with companies including Pottery Barn, J. Crew and Cover Girl to sell merchandise such as a children’s bed in the shape of the Millennium Falcon cockpit, hipster T-shirts and a makeup line inspired by the movie.
Sales of Star Wars merchandise are expected to generate $3 billion in 2015, according to a Piper Jaffray research note. An estimate by Macquarie Research puts that figure at $5 billion.
“You will not be able to avoid ‘Star Wars’ merchandise. It will be impossible this holiday season.”
Joel Bines of the consulting firm Alix Partners