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May the Fourth sets "Star Wars" toysellers to hyperdive

May the Fourth is a special day for "Star Wars" fans, pushing the merchandising market into hyperdrive.

Toys and game sales related to the "Star Wars" franchise adds up to more than $348 million annually, according to market research firm Euromonitor International.

"Star Wars is currently one of the most significant licensed properties in the world, with a fan base that spans generations," Matt Hudak, the toys and games analyst at Euromonitor International said in a note dated May 4.

About $120 million of that demand comes in the United States, followed by Germany and the United Kingdom, he wrote.

The U.K. actually gets the credit for starting Star Wars Day.

In the Wookipedia (the Star Wars version of Wikipedia) the origin story of "May the Fourth" is traced to an unlikely connection. "The phrase dates back to at least 1979, on the day Margaret Thatcher was elected Britain's first woman prime minister. Her party took out a newspaper ad in the London Evening News that said 'May the Fourth be with you, Maggie. Congratulations.'"

Sales of "Star Wars" merchandise started soon after the release of the first film in 1977, according to Hudak. "Demand was actually so great that Kenner Products, which, at the time, was the only toy manufacturer that had struck a licensing deal for Star Wars, had to sell empty boxes with vouchers in them to be used as gifts for the holiday season," he wrote.

Star Wars Day: May the 4th be with you

LEGO is among the toy makers currently benefiting from the likes of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca and Darth Vader.

"In 2014 LEGO Star Wars was among the top 5 best-selling LEGO themes," company spokesman Roar Rude Trangbæk said in an email. "Looking at all time, the best-selling LEGO Star Wars set would probably be the iconic X-wing fighter, which has been launched in several variations since we first introduced the LEGO Star Wars range more than a decade ago."

At StarWars.com, May 4 is treated like a major holiday, with its own list of Star Wars Day deals to be found from the likes of Hallmark, M&Ms, Hasbro, Amazon, Toys 'R' Us and elsewhere.

The success of the franchise has propelled "Star Wars" creator George Lucas to No. 309 on the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest billionaires with an estimated net worth of $5.2 billion. In 2012, he sold his Lucasfilm operations to Walt Disney (DIS) for just over $4 billion.

There is no sign the end is near, as the next film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is in production and "will likely result in a near limitless amount of licensed merchandise," Hudak said.

Though with great success comes the inevitable backlash. "I feel like #StarWarsDay is getting really commercialized and totally just doesn't feel authentic anymore. #MayThe4thBeWithYou," tweeted Caroline McCarthy, who punctuated her criticism with stormtrooper emojis.

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