More than two months before the consumer rush of Black Friday this year, another equally cutthroat holiday took over toy aisles and electronics departments: the inaugural Force Friday. A Disney brainchild, the September 4 event was developed to drum up buzz for merchandise related to the upcoming film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It featured the release of never-before-seen toys and gadgets and launched a three-month span of promotions leading up to the movie’s debut. On Force Friday, retailers across the country, including Target, Toys ‘R’ Us, and, of course, Disney Stores, opened their doors at midnight to eager shoppers, many of whom had been waiting for hours to get access to items such as the Millennium Falcon Lego set, the Furbacca (a Chewbacca-inspired Furby), and a BB-8 app-enabled droid.
That day alone Star Wars merchandise sales are estimated to have neared $1 billion. Following the movie’s release date on December 18, those sales are projected to grow to a potential $5 billion in its “first year of release,” according to Macquarie Securities analyst Tim Nollen. He notes that this could translate to $500 million in licensing and retail revenue for Disney, which purchased Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012. Other more conservative estimates have placed the total merchandise sales following the new film at a slightly less impressive $3 billion. In 2014, entertainment-based licensing generated total global retail sales of $107 billion, a value that Star Wars sales are expected to significantly contribute to in 2015 and beyond.