Character in red as Star Wars force fades

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The Independent Online

The character Group yesterday became the latest company to experience The Dark Side of retailing as overexposure to the Star Wars range of merchandise obliterated half-year profits.

The character Group yesterday became the latest company to experience The Dark Side of retailing as overexposure to the Star Wars range of merchandise obliterated half-year profits.

Character, which promotes products such as stationery, watches and gifts tied to Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, failed to defend itself against the film's negative forces and suffered pre-tax losses of £6m for the six months to 29 February. That compared with profits of £5m the previous year. Turnover for the period fell £3.6m to £45.4m.

Shares in the company closed down 6.5p to 62.5p as investors fled from the enemy forces, which had blown away their interim dividend. Richard King, Character's chairman, said: "Basically, we overestimated the marketplace. We committed to too much stock throughout the group and because the numbers were big, it hit us very badly." Mr King estimated that the Star Wars "hiccup" cost Character about £6m, blaming the other £5m of profit reduction on generally weak trading conditions and write-offs in the group's computer accessories business.

The company now plans to concentrate on the Pokémon range of goods as well as products branded under the T oy Story 2, Cartoon Network and Purple Ronnie banners.

Character's experience mirrors that of Dorling Kindersley, the children's book publisher, which was left with 10 million unsold Star Wars books and a £25m half-year loss. Dorling was subsequently taken over by Pearson, publisher of the Financial Times.

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