Over the past few years it has been tough for me to decide where to start with Star Wars Weekends. Do you start with trying to get fast passes for meeting the celebrities or as a collector do you go for the exclusive merchandise? In the past I've looked over the list and made a plan with my wife to divide and conquer. Because of that I was able to make sure that the merchandise items that I had labled as 'MUST HAVE' were obtained or at least that we were in position to get them unless we had a change of heart. In 2005 this was absolutely necessary to come away with some exclusive items that sold out quickly.
For the past two years we conintued that plan of divide and conquer only to find that in most cases the items were selling well, but not selling out. For instance you might want to make sure that you are in position to get a limited edition piece by getting in line EARLY on that first Friday morning. That line will keep you tied up for several hours (not that the others aren't equally long), but in all likely hood you will get the merchandise you are hoping for. In 2005 people putting this off would certainly miss out on several items. Things that year were absolutely crazy. Any number of things sold out from pins to beanies. But the last few years haven't been quite that bad.
As a matter of fact those putting off the merchandise line entirely have found that if you come back later that day, say after 2 or 3 pm, the line is substantially shorter to get into the merchadise area (Jabba's Hutt, or Wicket's Warehouse depending on year, theme, host, etc). The result being that if you put off going into ther merchandise line until later, you saved time and in most likelyhood still came away with the items that you wanted. Now, if you are big on the merchandise and have an item you MUST HAVE, then you still need to make the merchandise line your priority. Nothing will make you more ill than missing out on that one big item. If I had missed out on the Jedi Mickey Big Fig that first year I would have been miserable. But if you can risk missing a limited pin set and still settle a framed coin set or something else then this year I can't reccomend getting hung up in the merchandise line right off the bat.
This year I really think that the merchandise will be more available. The items I've seen look excellent and I have a list of things I want to have, but I just don't have that sense that things are going to sell out quickly this year. Aside from an item or two, the past two years things haven't sold out fast at all. There have been a things that have gone out of stock quickly only to reappear the next morning or the next weekend. T'shirts and such that are not "limited edition" items sometimes suprise by selling quickly and they don't always have enough on had, instead having to wait to restock those items within a day or so. While I am sure there will be an item or two that will go fast, this year I don't see the merchandise line as being worth getting tied up with right off the bat. If you are a fan who knows you are going to purchase merchandise, but don't have things that you must come away with at all costs, pick a different starting point like autographs, characters, events and come back to this later. I do think your patience will pay off.
Disclaimer note: Again, if you have those "MUST HAVE" type of items on your merchandise list, then stick with the merchandise line. Something will sell out quickly. I do suspect that some items like the Donald & Mickey Big Figs and limited pins will be popular. The phone preorder on the Big Figs could further complicate that. But I also suspect that if you wait for hours in that line, and then come back at 5pm you will kick yourself for how easy it is to get into the shop and how much time you lost. So take a moment to really consider if the time is worth anything to you because that line will be long Friday morning. I am sure of that. Of course you could bring a friend to divide and conquer.
The Dark Lord of the Sith accepts no responsiblity for any items you fail to get by taking this advice and skipping the merchandise line first thing. I'm just tired of putting someone in this line only to come back hours later and find all the items I wanted available with no wait involved!