Star Wars Boost U.S. Toy Imports

The latest installment in the Star Wars franchise not only smash box-office records and burnished Disney‘s reputation as a media giant with a keen eye for acquisitions. The blockbuster also provided a fillip to the otherwise sluggish toy industry, U.S. demand for Star Wars toys from action figures to lightsabers is forecast to help raise total containerized toy imports 10.9 percent year-over-year, according to an analysis by Mario Moreno, senior economist.

China is already the biggest supplier of toys to the U.S., and made up 83.9 percent of the market year-to-date through September by TEU volume, a standard cargo measure. But because of the Star Wars effect, shipments of Chinese-made toys to the U.S. are up 13 percent for the same period. Vietnam is also feeling the benefits. Toy shipments to the U.S. are up 28 percent year to date after growing by 17 percent in 2014. Manufacturers in China are forecasted to produce the majority of the toys to be imported ahead of – and following – the release of the latest Star Wars film.

Shipments to the U.S. of lightsabers, action figures, and other paraphernalia spawned by the “Star Wars” film will help drive a 10.9% jump in American toy imports in 2015. That’s an equivalent of 581,053 20-feet long shipping containers worth of toys, boosted by demand for Star Wars merchandise. Part of the reason that toy imports from China especially will receive a big boost is due to the strength of the U.S. dollar against the Chinese currency. The renminbi has experienced a 5.2 percent decline against the dollar since 2014. This makes imports from China – including Star Wars toys – substantially cheaper.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” became the biggest opening in movie history over the weekend, bringing in an estimated $248 million in North America. The Force Awakens” now holds the box office records for biggest Thursday night opening, biggest one day gross, biggest December debut, and biggest opening weekend of all time. According to CNN Money, Star Wars The Force Awakens claimed the highest-grossing second weekend of all time, the fastest $1 billion gross, both mantels claimed from Universal’s nostalgic blockbuster, Jurassic World. With the highly anticipated release in China still looming, analysts predict that Star Wars: The Force Awakens could cross the $2 billion mark, a feat accomplished only twice before.

After falling three straight years, U.S. containerized imports of toys began to rebound in the second half of 2014 partly because of strong demand for Disney’s “Frozen” gear, which generated $531 million in sales in the U.S. Licensed toys are usually attached to mega franchises. One example is Disney’s 2013 animated film Frozen, which was one of the most sought-after licensed properties for toys and games. Though the film was released towards the end of 2013, the demand for Frozen merchandise remained strong into 2014. U.S. containerized imports of toys began to rebound in the second half of 2014, partly because of strong demand for Disney’s ‘Frozen’ gear.

Demand for all sorts of toys such as lightsabers and action figures is fast-rising in the U.S., which is giving importers a substantial boost. Data compiled by Euromonitor forecasts traditional toys and games in the U.S. will reach a retail value of $22.4 billion by end of 2015. By 2019, it will increase to a modest $23.4 billion. Sales of Star Wars-licensed toys are expected to remain strong throughout 2016, with sales in the second half of the year supported by the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.