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Netflix, Walmart team up to sell merch from “Squid Game” and other shows

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A woman walks past a shopping cart in the parking lot of a Walmart Supercenter in Rosemead, California on May 23, 2019.

Walmart will be pairing with Netflix to launch a merchandise e-commerce hub. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

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“Squid Game” is everywhere right now. If you’re not caught up with the viral Netflix show, it’s a dystopian Korean thriller about people battling to the death in a series of traditional children’s games — while wearing a lot of brightly colored tracksuits.

It’s taken over TV screens and has become a top Halloween costume. And now it’s going to Walmart.

The country’s biggest retailer is launching a dedicated e-commerce hub with Netflix to sell branded merchandise for its most popular shows.

You can’t buy the “Squid Game” tracksuits or the freaky beekeeper-looking masks at Walmart; just a T-shirt for now. But perhaps you’d like a “Stranger Things” cassette player — that’s available. Or maybe a T-shirt from the cult Spanish show “Money Heist.”

“It’s odd,” said Forrester analyst Sucharita Kodali. She said Netflix’s portfolio doesn’t exactly lend itself to Disney-style fly-off-the-shelf merchandise. After all, Joe Exotic from “Tiger King” is no Baby Yoda.

“Are they trying to go after, like, the eBay collectible crowd? Like, you know, the ‘[The] 40 Year Old Virgin’ crowd? Like, I don’t know,” Kodali said.

But Netflix doesn’t need galactic-sized profits to benefit from a bigger merchandising footprint, according to Ross Benes of eMarketer.

“When you see people wearing ‘Squid Game’ hoodies or shirts with ‘Stranger Things,’ that is a free ad, essentially,” Benes said. 

It also gives Walmart the opportunity to attract die-hard fans, who may transfer some of the fond feelings they have about the shows onto the retailer, said Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

“That is obviously not just about the transaction,” she said, “it’s about the overall experience … about creating community around these brands.”

Walmart’s Netflix store will include a feature called “Netflix Fan Select” to crowdsource merchandise ideas from fans.

How about an official “The Queen’s Gambit” chess set or some “Russian Doll” Russian dolls?

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