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Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, a.k.a. The Great Gender Divide

Yes, we know it will be the biggest event pic to hit the cosmos in, well, the last 20 years, but retailers who think girls will show anywhere near the gotta-have enthusiasm for the new Phantom Menace merchandise that boys are...
May 1, 1999

Yes, we know it will be the biggest event pic to hit the cosmos in, well, the last 20 years, but retailers who think girls will show anywhere near the gotta-have enthusiasm for the new Phantom Menace merchandise that boys are expected to exhibit could be in for a big surprise. A recent toy recipient study conducted by the NPD Group (first presented at the KidScreen-sponsored Retailing to Kids Conference in Scotsdale, Arizona in March) found that of the Star Wars licensed products purchased in 1997-the year Lucasfilm rereleased the Star Wars movie trilogy-87% were bought for males. Girls’ disinterest in acquiring Star Wars product in the past, however, has not motivated many retailers to tweak their product mixes this time around, but that’s mainly because this year’s roster of feature film releases lacks any strong girl appeal, says Michael Tabakin, director of trend merchandising at Toys `R’ Us.

He adds: ‘Trying to sell licensed product based on a theatrical release to girls has always been a challenge, but with Star Wars being the only major film coming out in the first half of this year, it’s going to be even tougher. I just don’t see a great number of girls wanting to play with [Star Wars] action figures.’

Rich Brady, CEO and president of southern California-based toy chain Play Co. Toys, is more upbeat about the chances of Star Wars toys to attract girls; it’s a belief, he says, that stems from the presence of the main female character Queen Naberrie Amidala, who assumes a much greater role in Phantom than her predecessor Princess Leia did in any of the trilogy pics. Brady is betting that the more prominent female lead will compel girls to want all of the merchandise featuring the character’s likeness, including dolls from Hasbro, role-play costumes from Rubies Costume Co., as well as licensed apparel, lunchboxes and watches. In the event the Phantom product fizzles with girls, Brady says he’s stocking up on Playmates’ friend.link, a pager-like e-mail device, released in late March, that allows girls to send messages to each other, and Furby Babies (US$29.99), the latest extension in the Furby franchise from Tiger Electronics that are due out this month. Brady expects both products will sell well with girls.

Movies to go

Looking for a way to promote your videos, but you have no floor space to spare? Worry no longer. Objectsoft’s video kiosk, Fasttake, provides retailers with the ability to offer consumers comprehensive info on home video titles, without having to hire new staff or tear up their old floor plans. The Fasttake module comes with its own shelving, signage, database and touch-screen monitor, allowing customers to check out reviews and trailers of up to 500 movies. Fasttake also enables consumers to search for titles by rating, genre, director and actor. For a cost of US$400 per month, less a one-time installation fee of US$500, Objectsoft will provide retailers who rent the kiosks with monthly updates for trailers of current top-20 home video titles and 12-hour-a-day help desk support. Fasttake can also be incorporated into a retailer’s POS system and comes installed with a 56K modem, giving retailers the opportunity to make their kiosks e-commerce-ready, if they so choose. Objectsoft is currently modifying Fasttake to include info and video snippets on video games and books. For more information on Fasttake, you can visit www.fasttake.com.

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