Retailers look to Star Wars for a boost

Disney StoreAustralian retailers are looking to a galaxy far, far away for a much-needed to boost to their bottom line.

Disney’s Force Friday retail event in 2015 helped Star Wars become the best-selling toy franchise in Australia for 18 consecutive months.

And with Star Wars: The Last Jedi – the sequel to that year’s The Force Awakens – due in cinemas this December, Force Friday II rolls out in Australia and then the rest of the world on September 1.

The new Lego sets, app-controlled droids and programmable robots for budding engineers couldn’t have come at a better time for local retailers.

Myer, Target and Big W are among the six Australian retailers involved in the event, and all have struggled recently to make headway against a backdrop of record household debt and fragile consumer confidence.

JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman are also on board, which Meagan Sanders of brand owner Disney says shows retailers are having to diversify beyond their core lines.

‘These guys don’t traditionally carry toys,” said Sanders, who is general manager for consumer products and retail in Australia and New Zealand.

“One of the good things about challenging retail is people are starting to look for opportunity and they’re saying ‘if I’m not getting the volume of sales or the velocity there, what else could I be doing that makes sense to the shopper that’s walking in to my premises?”

Not even Disney is immune to tough local retail conditions.

“It’s forcing us to re-evaluate the way we approach the market and, instead of just dropping big volumes, we’re being a lot more strategic about the way that we meet consumer needs and where we put the product,” Ms Sanders said.

Disney is also targeting Australian consumers who shop online with overseas retailers to get products that are unavailable locally, or simply cheaper.

In October, Disney will launch its Circle with Disney product in Australia – a small piece of wireless hardware that allows parents to filter and limit connectivity to any of their kids’ internet-enabled devices, even unlocking it in exchange for the completion of chores or as a reward for doing homework.

“A lot of Australian consumers are already buying it from the States or the UK, which is happening a lot in the consumer electronics space,” Ms Sanders said.

“We find we do lose a lot of consumers to overseas retailers but, with Star Wars having the power that it does, it’s convincing a lot of the local retailers to take a bet.”

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