Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

The Jedi Effect: How Star Wars Is Boosting U.S. Toy Imports

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The Force is strong with Asian toy makers, offering a new hope for the region's struggling exporters. 

Shipments to the U.S. of lightsabers, action figures, and other paraphernalia spawned by the forthcoming Star Wars film will help drive a 10.9 percent jump in American toy imports in 2015, according to an analysis by Mario Moreno, senior economist at JOC Insights, IHS Maritime & Trade. 

That's good news for Asian manufacturers, especially those in China and Vietnam, as well as U.S. retailers, he said.

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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.

Asian exports have been hit by fragile global demand this year. In China, overseas shipments have declined in eight of the last ten months, while in Vietnam export growth has held below 10 percent all year.  

The movie series that began in 1977 returns to theaters this December with the Disney-produced "The Force Awakens." It's also spawning hundreds of new toys including a Jedi Master Lightsaber, the Millennium Falcon, and Disney Infinity 3.0, which combines a video game with Star Wars action figures.

For American consumers and retailers, a strong U.S. dollar is helping spark demand for the products, Moreno said. 

"Demand for 'Star Wars' toys, which are said to be bulky, taking a lot of space in a 20-foot container, is very strong as the market waits for the release of the new Star Wars movie,"  he wrote in a note.

 

 

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