Force Friday at 12:00 Noon, September 4, 2015

September 4, 2015 – Heeding our own advice, we skipped the midnight madness of Force Friday. We waited until about 12:00 noon to see what carnage and mayhem awaited us on this first day launch of The Force Awakens merchandise. First stop: a Target store in Orlando.

The sign next to the First Order's stormtrooper says "Use the Force to open the base doors."

The sign next to the First Order’s stormtrooper says “Use the Force to open the base doors.”

You can’t help but smile to see two First Order stormtroopers guarding the entrance to the store. Well done, Target!

Step inside, and a giant cardboard Chewbacca greets you.

Beneath Chewbacca's bowcaster, the caption invites you to "Take a selfie doing your best Chewie roar."  Did anyone take selfies at the last Midnight Madness in 2008? Did that word even exist then?

Beneath Chewbacca’s bowcaster, the caption invites you to “Take a selfie doing your best Chewie roar.” Did anyone take selfies at the last Midnight Madness in 2008? Did that word even exist then?

Hovering behind Chewie, overhead, is an Imperial TIE fighter beckoning you to the toy section. Target-090415-Entrance6

A quick stroll later, we are greeted by a very impressive life-sized BB-8 droid. He lights up, his head turns a bit, and he electronically chirps.

Many customers stopped to gawk at the BB-8 droid display. Most impressive.

Many customers stopped to gawk at the BB-8 droid display. Most impressive.

Not to be outdone, this humongous plush Chewbacca with the largest oversized head we had ever seen, sat on a shelf beneath BB-8. Target-090415-D

The new marquee for The Force Awakens product line was a sight to behold.

The faces of Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac)  will become as familiar to us as are Luke, Han and Leia in the months and years ahead.

The faces of Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) will become as familiar to us as are Luke, Han and Leia in the months and years ahead.

But the biggest surprise was how well stocked and orderly all the new merchandise was – even slightly after 12:00 o’clock noon on this Force Friday, September 4th. Perhaps Target employees had straightened the aisle up or refreshed it, just before we arrived?

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Notice, too, the attention to detail. The pegboards, for instance, are covered with a starfield backing. And we certainly appreciate Target’s $10 Off/$25 Off coupons. We haven’t seen so varied and so much new Star Wars merchandise in years. Is the Star Wars drought finally over?

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Target deserves an “A+” grade for all this thought, design layout and inventory.

So next, we headed to a Walmart in Altamonte Springs, Florida (just north of Orlando). They must have had one hell of a Force Friday blowout, because the lower shelves were largely picked clean of the most desireable items.

Force Friday aftermath at a Walmart, September 4, 2015, around 1:00 P.M.

Force Friday aftermath at a Walmart, September 4, 2015, around 1:00 P.M.

Compared to Target, the Walmart display for Force Friday was sorely lacking. Same blue pegboards. No marquee. No attempt to promote The Force Awakens product launch beyond stocking the shelves with whatever Hasbro had just sent Walmart’s way. Walmart-090415-B

In one of the main traffic aisles, Walmart did have a row of TFA cardboard shelf displays offering items such as the miniature titanium vehicles (pictured here) and lesser items nobody was really looking for today (Star Wars DVDs, light sabers, etc.) Walmart-090415-A

We are hopeful that another shipment or two will replenish Walmart’s Star Wars aisles. Significantly, Walmart has also just announced that it will now be the exclusive retailer for the Star Wars: The Black Series 3-and-3/4-inch toy line.

As for ToysRUs, the Disney Store and other merchants, we haven’t had a chance to visit them yet. But based on our mid-day visits today, we’re feeling pretty confident that over the next three to four months, most every collector will be satisfied with the volume and variety of product now hitting store shelves.

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