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Force Friday Frenzy? A Conspiracy Theory On What Really Went Down

Posted by Paul | September 05, 2015 at 10:36 PM ET

JTA reader Dan D. wrote in to us to ask if he could share his thoughts on Force Friday, Hasbro and the basic state of collecting. Click through to read his thoughts and be sure to let him know your own opinions on the matter in our comments....

Force Frenzy?
by Dan from Chicago

So Force Friday came and went and for many of us it was a complete letdown. Those of us who were (not unreasonably) expecting pallets upon pallets of merchandise at Midnight Madness were sorely letdown by the utter lack of product quantities. Yes, there were an abundance of SKU's across many licensees, but 10 or less of each SKU is simply not enough to satisfy basic demand, let alone support a heavily marketed midnight launch of Star Wars merchandise. Disney and their licensees had plenty of time to prepare and stock up, and the complete lack of inventory at most retail establishments was simply baffling. Or was it?

A few years back there was a phenomenon called the "Frozen Frenzy". The story goes that Disney had produced a very limited number of products for the movie Frozen, and soon after the release of the movie the product completely sold out nationwide. Dresses and dolls were going for absurd amounts of money on the secondary, and lines were forming outside of retail establishments nationwide as shoppers were clearing the shelves of anything Frozen faster than they could stock. Disney was allegedly blindsided by the popularity and demand, and they promised to make more available as fast and their underpaid workers in Asia could make them. The frenzy/shortage lasted well over a year after the movie was released, and while the frenzy has calmed, you can't set foot in a retail establishment without finding Frozen-related product all over the place and the merchandise continues to sell very well over two years later. So what does this have to do with Star Wars?

Disney are masters of merchandise. The only company that rivals Disney with respect to merchandising their properties is Lucasfilm (and we all know how that relationship turned out). So when these two juggernauts of merchandising got together to figure out how to market and merchandise Star Wars, you'd have to expect they were going to do whatever they could not to replicate The Phantom Menace. Those of us who are old enough to remember, the months after the release of Episode 1 saw a glut of day one merchandise still clogging the pegs and retailers were forced to heavily slash prices on everything. Midnight Madness for Episode 1 saw pallets upon pallets of the first waves of merchandise, and retailers couldn't give the stuff away just weeks after the movie was released. Enter the Frozen Method.

The scarcity of product available at Force Friday was a deliberate move by Disney/Lucasfilm to ensure the demand for everything Star Wars remains through the roof well through the release in December. The best way to ensure product is going to sell well is to manufacture a scarcity and drive demand. It's basic economics. I'm sure they hoping the media (which they control) will pick up on the story that Star Wars merchandise is selling out at retailers across the world driving even the most casual of Star Wars fans to the store and thus creating a "Force Frenzy". I simply refuse to accept "sorry, we didn't know it was going to be that popular" as an excuse for retailers not having adequate stock for Force Friday. Make no mistake that Lego, Hasbro, Mattel etc. are manufacturing the bejeezus out of merchandise for The Force Awakens backed by Disney/Lucasfilm's 30+ years of marketing and sales forecasting data.

As for me? After 25 years of collecting I've finally stepped away from the collecting game. Star Wars under Disney is already turning out to a very different beast than it was when George was in charge. Gone are the days of product quality and limited licensing. And while some may not mind the direction that things are going, I'm stepping aside and letting the new generation enjoy Star Wars under the new regime. After all, isn't that what Disney is trying to do in the first place? But that's a different op-ed piece for another time.

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