Hasbro CEO: The Force Is Strong With Our Star Wars Holiday Inventory

November 19, 2015, 10:07 PM UTC
Figure models called First Order's Stormtrooper from the film "Star Wars" are displayed at Loft Variety Store in Shibuya shopping district in Tokyo
Figure models called First Order's Stormtrooper from the film "Star Wars" are displayed at Loft Variety Store in Shibuya shopping district in Tokyo, September 4, 2015. New "Star Wars" toys and other merchandise were released in stores across Japan just after midnight local time during a global rollout of the popular products. REUTERS/Toru Hanai - RTX1QYPN
Photograph by Toru Hanai — Reuters

Fear not, young Padawans and Jedi Masters, alike. Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner has brought about a new hope, saying there will be “plenty of Star Wars merchandise in time for [The Force Awakens] on December 18.”

Acknowledging that the massive demand for new Star Wars Toys had even beaten Hasbro’s highest expectations, Goldner declared, “We have fundamentally caught up with demand.”

“Over the past few weeks, we had seen some shortage of products that were selling exceedingly well,” he said in an interview with Fortune yesterday. But the company picked up the slack, and empty store shelves should soon be filled.

“We will not miss sales in the upcoming weeks and months,” said Goldner.

Hasbro’s current agility is a stark contrast with the early days of Star Wars toys. For instance, following the first film’s 1977 release, the original action figure licensee, Kenner, didn’t even have toys ready to sell. Instead, they sold an empty “early bird” box which included a certificate that children could mail in to redeem for toys when they finally became available—in 1978. At the time, there was even speculation that the shortages were artificial, engineered to stoke fan anxiety and keep demand going long-term. By comparison, Goldner’s reassurances seemed almost humanitarian.

Goldner said Hasbro (which acquired Kenner through its 1991 purchase of Tonka) is now more responsive for two reasons: nearly instant sales data, and production agility.

Thanks to direct data from retailers, Goldner said Hasbro knew its demand projections were short within “the first hours of the first day” of Force Friday, the coordinated Sept. 4 launch of toys and merchandise affiliated with the newest Star Wars film. Using that data, the company was able to act quickly to get more inventory where it will be needed.

“Through many years of energy and work, we have reduced our supply chain timing, particularly from the Orient, down to just eight weeks,” said Goldner. “[That’s] a major improvement from where we were a decade ago.”

Goldner, who was instrumental in the cinematic rejuvenation of Hasbro brands like Transformers and G.I. Joe, said that strong storytelling is the main driver for toy lines like Star Wars. “[Star Wars’] storytelling has permeated all age demographics and psychographics, from kids all the way to adults, collectors, parents,” he said.

The Star Wars surge is also part of a surprising trend for the broader toy industry. Despite the popularity of tablets and gaming consoles, the toys are on a tear. According to the retail research group NPD, American toymakers had already experienced 7.3% growth in 2015, an impressive figure that was measured before Force Friday.

This helps debunk the narrative that toys are being edged out by apps and electronic games, said Goldner. According to him, millennial parents—who themselves grew up in a world of screens—have become skeptical of children overusing technology. “We’re hearing concerns about the amount of screen time versus social time young people spend,” he said.

Though he was generally optimistic, Goldner did have one mild note of caution for retail shoppers. “I’m not sure that at every store and every location they’ll find everything they want,” he said. “I don’t want to put out an unconditional guarantee.”

In other words, if you’re searching for something specific—like any one of the dozen Hasbro lightsabers blazing away on store shelves—you may have to shop around (or order online) to find the toys you’re looking for.

What are the big Star Wars toys this year? Watch this Fortune video to find out:

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