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Baby Yoda: How retailers are capitalising on the meme sensation

By Huw Hughes

Jan. 17, 2020


Whether you’ve seen the Disney+ flagship television series The Mandalorian or not, chances are you’ve still seen or heard of its breakout character, Baby Yoda, who has quickly become a meme sensation thanks to social media.

The character has risen to the strange and often unexplainable world of internet fame, bringing with it, as often is the case, a perfect merchandising opportunity for brands to capitalise on. After all, where there is internet buzz, there are often sales to be made.

Meme sensation drives fashion sales

Since the first episode of the Star Wars spin-off show aired in the US on 12 November - conveniently just ahead of the festive shopping period - 103 Baby Yoda products across womenswear arrived online in the US, predominantly on t-shirts, sweaters and hoodies - that’s according to retail data company Edited. In that same period, 257 menswear products described as 'Baby Yoda' arrived online in the US, with Kohl's, BoxLunch, Walmart and Hot Topic investing the most in the products. Sell-outs and replenishment of Baby Yoda t-shirts and sweaters have already been recorded at Kohl’s and Target.

Image: Merchandise Jets (left), Kohl’s (centre) and Walmart, courtesy of Edited

The show has so far only been aired in the US, meaning UK retailers have a head start to prepare for the launch on 31 March and have stock to promote on Star Wars Day on 4 May, according to Edited. In the UK, fast-fashion retailers Primark - which is known for keeping a finger firmly on the pulse of pop-culture and release related products accordingly - and Missguided are the only UK retailers so far to capitalize on the Baby Yoda hype.

Baby Yoda merch is predominantly being sold in three different ways by retailers: graphic T-shirts - which Edited highlights is the easiest and most popular way to capitalize on the character if you have a license for it; costumes, such as full-body Halloween outfits, hoodies, hats and wearable ears; and nightwear, including onesies, graphic pyjama sets, bathrobes and slippers.

Déjà vu

A similar meme sensation from the Guardian’s of the Galaxy Vol 2, called Baby Groot, created a spike in products when the film was released in 2017, and then again in December 2017 during the Christmas period. The US was the main market to capitalise on the character’s viral success, with Walmart in particular stocking up on related items. T-shirts made up 73 percent of arrivals, while nightwear was the second most invested in category at 15 percent. Edited also noted that almost no retailers capitalized on Baby Groot’s hype for communications, with Hot Topic the only retailer featuring the character in emails around the movie release.

Main article image: Baby Yoda, courtesy of Edited