Consumers and toy industry insiders say Marvel Black Panther merchandise is in short supply at stores. Image credit: Hasbro.
Photo: Handout
Photo: Handout

Did the toy industry strike out on Black Panther merchandise?

The movie has been breaking records since its initial release on Feb. 15, but fans looking for licensed merchandise have been disappointed with the offerings in stores.

Hasbro said they made more toys for “Black Panther,’’ than for any other Marvel character in its first full-length movie including “Iron Man.”

Hasbro executives told Bloomberg that they listened to kids who thought the character was “cool.” But toy industry analysts tell a different story suggesting that toy makers may have had lower expectations of Black Panther than they should have. 

In January, the month before the movie was released, Black Panther merchandise was in 87 percent of stores in NPD’s point-of-sale panel, according to Julie Lennett, Senior Vice President, Industry Advisor for Toys at NPD. 

“Black Panther” merchandise was already moving off store shelves pre-release faster than items from any other movies in the last year except “Star Wars” and “Transformers,” Lennett found.  

But a closer look at the stores carrying Black Panther merchandise revealed that only 11 toys on average were in stock -- half the number of toys carried on average for Justice League, one-third of Power Rangers, and one-quarter of Spider-Man.

“Not planning for a broader assortment of Black Panther toys might have been a miss in this case,“ Lennett said.

Fans took to social media to express their frustration with the lack of Black Panther toys and merchandise. 

While some shoppers said Black Panther merchandise is in abundance at their local big box stores, others found empty store shelves or were unable to find product at all. 

Several industry insiders have suggested that Disney is taking extra caution in deciding how to translate the movie into merchandise. 

"They have reached out to influencers of color and wanted to get feedback on, 'Hey, where are we going with this? Do you think this idea for having this costume or this makeup line would be appropriate to market to mass audiences?'"
said Jamie Broadnax, founder of the website Black Girl Nerds and co-founder of the Universal Fan con, a diversity-focused fan convention coming in April,  in an interview with Marketplace.

Disney has made some missteps lately most notably when it pulled a costume based on a character in the film “Moana” after consumer complaints of cultural appropriation

Lennett of NPD is hopeful that the toy industry will turn things around when it comes to Black Panther merchandise.

“With these initial figures coming in for January and several weeks of February, it looks like Black Panther is going to not only be a success at the box office, but will also be a success story for the toy industry, which so badly needs a feel-good story right now,” Lennett said. 

About the Author

Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone
Nedra Rhone has been a features writer for the AJC since 2006 covering people, places, pop culture and news, in and beyond metro Atlanta. She also writes...
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