Thanks to a well-orchestrated rollout that began in early September with a live-streamed, 18-hour unboxing event in 15 cities worldwide, Star Wars is becoming such a juggernaut in retailers’ toys departments this year that it’s blowing away competitors’ offerings even though “The Force Awakens” doesn’t open until a week before Christmas.
Another venerable franchise, Peanuts, may be the hardest hit, Paul Ziobro reports in a story about the Star Wars effect in the Wall Street Journal. Despite its more cuddly fare and opening to mostly favorable reviews six weeks ahead of the latest Star Wars installment, merchandise riding on “The Peanuts Movie” is no match for the likes of lightsabers and electronic Yodas.
“Iconix Brand Group, which controls the license to the newest animated Charlie Brown movie, this month cut its sales outlook from ‘Peanuts’ licenses by $24 million for the year largely because it miscalculated how many Snoopy dolls and other ‘Peanuts’ products retailers would buy,” Ziobro writes. “Iconix chairman Peter Cuneo said retailers devoted much more space than expected to the ‘Star Wars’ brand, rather than gamble on an older property such as ‘Peanuts’ that is being reintroduced to a younger crowd.”
“If they have to make a choice between the new guy on the block, ‘Peanuts’ and ‘Star Wars,’ they’re going to choose, and they have chosen, ‘Star Wars,’ ” says Cuneo.
The good news, however, is that the toy tide is rising.
“The U.S. toy industry is expected to have its strongest year in at least a decade after several years of kids choosing video games and mobile apps over Barbie and stuffed bears,” reports the AP’s Anne D’Innocenzio. “Annual toy sales are projected to rise 6.2% to $19.9 billion in 2015, according to The NPD Group. ... That’s up from a 4% increase last year, and the biggest increase in at least 10 years.”
Of course, gamers of all ages can have their Star Wars and their video games, too. Electronic Arts’ “Star Wars Battlefront” videogame will hit the shelves on Tuesday.
“While ‘Star Wars’ games have a checkered reputation for quality and sales, the new game … has created a buzz with its photorealistic graphics. The game allows players to engage in pivotal battle scenes depicted in the three original ‘Star Wars’ movies,” writes Nick Wingfield for the New York Times. EA now expects to sell 13 million units in the fiscal year, up from a previous estimate of 9 million to 10 million.
Not that there isn’t room for expanding the market for more traditional Stars Wars toys big time — and making some amends in the process — by creating strong female figurines.
“Currently causing consternation: The omission of female Rey from a Star Warsgift set being sold at Target, which has spawned the hashtag #WheresRey. It’s the latest in a long line of complaints about the franchise forgetting women are fans, too. A really long line,” blogs Kelly Faircloth on Jezebel.
Her post is accompanied by a copy of a 1983 letter to the editor of the [Prescott, Ariz.] Courier by Susan Mills complaining about the lack of Princess Leia among shelves filled with “Strawberry Shortcake, Tinkerbell cosmetics and Care Bears.”
CNET, meanwhile, does no favors to all those moms already bearing a sullied reputation for throwing out billions of dollars worth of baseball cards (and 100 times more Mickey Mantle rookie cards than were ever printed). It has a slide show of the “16 super-collectible Star Wars toys your mom probably threw out,” including one that “fired real rockets” and didn’t get into too many kiddies’ hands before it was recalled.
Indeed, Richard Fenton-Smith, who started collecting Star Wars toys as a 5-year-old in 1977, rues the day he sold his collection to buy a Sinclair 48 K ZX Spectrum computer.
“I am not alone in having made this awful decision,” Fenton-Smith writes for the BBC News Magazine. “My brother-in-law did the same, as did friends. We all regret it. In fact, the topic comes up in conversation quite a bit. It's made worse when you're in the company of that one friend who smugly informs you that they still have all theirs, in the original boxes. Mine were in their boxes, too.”
Somewhere around 2065, as Gen Zers clear their cluttered attics and ride off to their retirement pods in self-driving automobiles, we’ll no doubt be writing about the glut of boxed Star Wars toys — fueled by the unboxing craze of the Twentyteens — in “everything must go” lawn sales across the republic.