Star Wars and Target Licensing
Star Wars and Target Licensing

Despite the demise of Toys R Us, which rocked sales for Hollywood’s film and TV merchandise, the death of retail stores is exaggerated.

Online commerce only accounts for around 10% of U.S. retail sales, and such brick-and-mortar mass-market retailers as Walmart and Target are still corralling two-thirds of sales in many product categories. But the pursuit of direct-to-consumer sales online by all players in the merchandise ecosystem has unleashed multi-directional competition, and that contributed to Toys R Us shuttering its stores in bankruptcy earlier this year.

“It used to be sacrosanct that studios and television networks not compete with retailers and manufacturers,” says Ira Mayer, a New York-based consultant and co-director of the Institute of Branding & at Long Island U.-Post. “Now the studios and TV networks sell direct to consumers, and the manufacturers sell direct to consumers, competing with their retailer customers. Everybody is competing with everybody. That’s where the real stress in retail is today.”

This “new retail world order” will be the subject of a panel at Nickelodeon’s Partner Summit, moderated by Variety executive editor Debra Birnbaum, on Nov. 13 at Paramount Studios.

As competition comes from every angle, the mantra from licensed-merchandise executives is: They want to stand out by delivering to consumers a uniform purchasing experience across all platforms and, if possible, inject an emotional component to products. The emotional experience is best delivered in brick-and-mortar stores where consumers can be presented with big video screens, costumed characters prowling the aisles and other razzle-dazzle.

“You have to give [shoppers] an experience…