Yesterday was Force Friday, the day that Disney and friends unleashed their first wave of merchandise for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It meant that a lot of Star Wars fans were much poorer by the end of the day. I certainly wasn’t immune to the hype – I had trouble sleeping the night before. But it sounds like quite a few fans were disappointed with their Force Friday experiences, with many complaining that retailers were understocked on the popular items. They’ve even nicknamed it Farce Friday. Since being disappointed with a retail experience is something of a tradition in Perth, I thought I’d offer a quick reflection of my own Force Friday experience.
Unlike most major cities, there were no midnight openings for Force Friday in Perth. We’re a sleepy little town on the far western edge of Australia, sandwiched between desert and sea, so the retailers (quite sensibly) decided there wasn’t the demand to warrant a midnight celebration. But some shops did open early the next morning. (A little consolation, if I cared about such things – even a morning opening in Perth is still ahead of most of the United States.) I arrived at my local Toys “R” Us in Cannington just before 8am, where I joined the gathered fans in the warm morning sunshine. There were about 20 of us, a big crowd by Perth standards.
When the doors opened, we surged inside. Some of the Toys “R” Us staff has dressed as Star Wars characters for the occasion – they seemed more excited for the day than we were. I dove straight into the action figures, grabbing one of the Black Series Stormtroopers. But then I became aware that the majority of the crowd were hanging back. “Where’s the Lego?” one of them asked. “It hasn’t arrived yet,” a staff member replied. And with those simple words, most of the crowd shook their heads and walked back out the door. They’d been in the shop less than two minutes.
The news that certain products have been delayed is typical of Perth. Sometimes it takes a few weeks for items to cross the Nullarbor, so we’re accustomed to waiting. Apparently the Lego sets were still about a fortnight away. I was surprised to learn later in the day that even some fans in the US were told that stock hadn’t arrived on schedule. But my experience in Toys “R” Us was a strange contrast with reports I’d seen on the internet, where shops in the US had been cleaned out of action figures within minutes. The fans in my Toys “R” Us barely glanced at the other toys – they were there simply for the Lego. I spent a few more minutes browsing the merchandise, and in this time the Black Series Stormtroopers were snapped up. I was chasing two items in particular – the Lego Millennium Falcon and the Sphero BB-8. Neither of them were available, so I decided to head to my local Target before heading to work.
I was out of luck at Target, too – no Lego, no Sphero BB-8. I’d already read that the BB-8 was proving incredibly popular, with some reviews predicting it would dominate Christmas lists, so I knew it might be a bit of a battle to find one. No worries. Most of my childhood had been spent chasing down rare Star Wars merchandise – I’m pretty much Indiana Jones when it comes to this shit.
I texted one of my friends when I got to work and asked how he’d fared in the morning’s excitements. He rang me back straight away to tell me that all of the Lego sets were available in the Myer store at Morley Galleria, and there was – inexplicably – no one there to buy them. Typical Perth. Everyone gathers at the toy shops and ignores the other retailers. So I made a quick dash up to Morley over my lunch break and managed to get the Millennium Falcon. I was pretty pleased at this point, even though I’d had to do a fair bit of driving around the city. But that’s Perth.
That afternoon, another friend texted me with news that the Sphero BB-8 was being sold in JB Hi-fi shops. I immediately rang my local branch and got them to put one under the counter for me. Victory!! Once work had finished, I drove over there and picked it up. It had taken nearly the entire day, but I’d finally found my BB-8.
My Force Friday was quite an adventure. I’m a big fan of all things science fiction – I love reading books, I love checking out new films, and I’m happy to buy the occasional Lego set. But nothing can get me excited like Star Wars. I have a real connection to the franchise. Yesterday reminded me so much of my childhood – the giddy excitement, the sense of adventure. It really felt like I was returning to that galaxy far, far away. And I think that sense of nostalgia might’ve been the very best part of my Force Friday experience. It was Disney’s way of making an announcement: Star Wars is back in our lives.