Tonight is going to be a busy one for the nation’s merchandisers, for tomorrow is Force Friday.

For those not in the know – and presumably not among those who will be busy assembling FSDUs while most of us are asleep – tomorrow is the day retailers across the globe begin milking the cash cow (or should that be bantha – eh geeks?) that is the new Star Wars movie.

Action figures, plastic lightsabers and model spaceships – and enough other licensed product to fill a Death Star – are going to be lining shelves despite Star Wars: The Force Awakens not being released until 18 December.

Brand owner Disney has been busy building excitement, understandably keen to ensure it makes the most of the $4.05bn it paid George Lucas for the Star Wars property three years ago.

Today, it had a trio of Imperial Stormtroopers standing guard outside its flagship Disney Store in London’s Oxford Street to raise awareness of Force Friday.

And it has leapt on the growing interest in unboxing videos – when a film-maker opens and demonstrates a new gadget or toy – with an 18-hour global livestream event on YouTube. Kicking off last night in Australia, it has spanned 15 cities in 12 countries – the UK segment was 11.30am today – and as you read this the grand finale (Disney’s words) has just taken place in San Francisco.

As a proud and enthusiastic geek, I watched some of the livestream this morning over a bowl of Kellogg’s Star Wars cereal (while The Force Awakens product go on sale tomorrow many suppliers are already embracing the build-up by launching generically branded Star Wars lines). The livestream was a strange experience, like watching the Shopping Channel being hosted by people who know the difference between an X-Wing and a Y-Wing.

But the level of excitement was undeniable, and if even a little of that carries over to stores – many of which will be opening at midnight tonight – then retailers will also have reason to be excited about the return of Luke, Han and Princess Leia.

While it remains to be seen whether new goodies Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron (delighted to see the Star Wars movies continuing the tradition of dodgy names) generate the same loyalty, my pick for standout character of the new movie – and likely to be in big demand as a toy – is Captain Phasma, who looks as if the hosts of Pimp My Ride were let loose on a suit of Stormtrooper armour.

Clearly I’ve already got the Star Wars bug, as have staff at the Asda store in Great Yarmouth, who put The Force Awakens goodies on sale early.

Asda tells me it apologises for breaking the embargo, adding: “Our colleagues are massive Star Wars fans and the Force took over. The stock has been removed and will be back out for the midnight launch.”

Only a few more hours to wait – may the Force Friday be with you.