Forget “Tickle Me Elmo,” when it comes to holiday shopping this year, the biggest releases are tapping into the passionate fandom of TV, video game and movie franchises.
From traditional sellers like Walmart and GameStop, to online retailers eBay and Amazon, analysts say some of the most popular gifts this holiday season cater to nostalgia, exclusivity, and a personal and cultural attachment to particular characters and shows.
“We predict toys to have a big moment this holiday season, from the retro, to right now, and super special,” says Sam Bright, VP of Merchandising, for eBay North America. “As we continue to see box office hits and beloved franchise characters dominate the cultural conversation, it’s no surprise this demand translates to the most-wanted items for the season.”
Bright cites the success of “Black Panther” and the 20th anniversary of “Harry Potter” as two examples of a franchise whose buzz has extended beyond the headlines and into sales. According to Bright, there have been more than 200,000 searches on eBay for “Black Panther” since the film hit theaters in February, while shoppers picked up one Harry Potter item every minute in 2018, including more than 47,000 Harry Potter Lego sets and 37,000 Harry Potter Funko Pop figures.
Other franchises who made eBay’s “50 Hottest Toys of the Season” list include “Aquaman” figurines, Marvel’s Spider-Man collector’s edition for PlayStation 4, and the “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” action hero.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is expected to open to big numbers later this month, and if advance ticket sales are any indication, the “Harry Potter” spin-off is likely to move units on store shelves as well. Funko Pop, the Washington-based collectible toy company, has an entire collection dedicated to the film, offering everything from plush toys, to fashion accessories, to figurines.
It isn’t just movie franchises that are attracting big business this season. GameStop is offering a complete lineup of officially-licensed merchandise from several popular gaming franchises, including “Fortnite,” “Red Dead Redemption II,” “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” and “Fallout.” The offerings include collectibles, like character action figures and replica props, to unisex apparel and accessories.
The Virginia-based company ThinkGeek, which positions itself as a fan enthusiasts site, routinely does well with its “Game of Thrones” merchandise. They also offer toys and gifting items from cult favorite shows like “Rick and Morty” and “Doctor Who” as well. Wary of knock-offs and cheaper options online, ThinkGeek makes a point to stress that all the products they sell are officially-licensed for sale through their site. Many of them are also ThinkGeek exclusives.
Research from Adobe Analytics says it expects U.S. online sales to total more than $124 billion in the last two months of the year – an increase of 14.8 percent over 2017. Traditional “off-line” retail spending is expected to increase as well, though at a significantly lower rate of 2.7 percent. The biggest shopping day of the year: Cyber Monday, with Adobe forecasting more than $7 billion in sales on November 26.
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