Star Wars 'Last Jedi' Toy Shipments Down Sharply From 'Force Awakens'

Retailers are trying to gain a sense of "what the steady state" of product for the franchise is, an analyst says.
Courtesy of Legos

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a hit, but The Force may not be as strong for Disney when it comes to merchandise sales this year.

Panjiva, a data company that tracks the giant shipping containers that arrive at U.S. ports, says 6,587 of them with Star Wars gear were shipped in the seven months leading up to The Last Jedi, but that’s down 47 percent from the seven months leading to Rogue One in 2016 and off 56  percent from the same time period ahead of The Force Awakens in 2015. Once the containers land in the U.S., these products go to Walmart, Amazon.com and every other retailer.

Panjiva research analyst Chris Rogers says that part of the problem is the recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed by Toys R Us, which not only  has the giant retailer ordering less product but has spooked the industry. Also, retailers are trying to gain a sense of “what the steady state” of Star Wars product is, as 2015’s The Force Awakens was the first, and therefore a curiosity, after a 10-year hiatus since Revenge of the Sith.

Consumer Products and Interactive Media is Disney’s smallest segment, but it can little afford another disappointment after reporting operating income of $373  million, a 12 percent decline, in the most recent quarter because of weak sales of Cars 3 toys.

Nearly 80 percent of this year’s Star Wars haul hails from China. The containers are about half the size of a big semitruck, and each one can hold about 6,000 Stormtrooper action figures, which happen to be among the biggest products this year. Adds Rogers, “Hasbro ships Stormtroopers by the container-full.”

Other product, according to the bills of lading, include: “Star Wars Space Punch” (a drink); “Star Wars Handbags” from Loungefly; “Star Wars Chewbacca Pillows” (mostly headed for Kohls); and, for Disney theme parks, “Star Wars Glow Ears.”

And, of course, there are lots of Legos, including the $800 Millennium Falcon. Legos, in fact, might be the only Star Wars-related toy that ships as much this year as in previous ones, as Panjiva’s data doesn’t include Lego shipments driven in from Mexico, which is increasingly common for that particular product.

Sometimes, says Rogers, it takes a little investigative work to glean exactly what’s inside the shipping containers. For example, the Sphero BB8 electronic toy that has been popular since the droid was introduced in The Force Awakens is labeled: “Robotic Ball.”

While sales of the merchandise may not stack up compared with those of the past few Christmases, the movie will do its traditional massive business. Eric Wold of B. Riley FBR estimates The Last Jedi will generate domestic box office of $785 million, off a respectable 16 percent from the $937 million generated by The Force Awakens two years ago.

“Merchandise is falling back, but it doesn’t mean Disney won’t make a killing,” says Rogers.



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