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A Plea From An Online Retailer To Save The Star Wars Collecting Hobby

Posted by Paul | May 18, 2017 at 10:32 AM ET

Online etailer Star Action Toys has put together a well-written op-ed focusing on bad case assortments and how it affect distribution. We highly suggest checking it out. Click through for more.

It's a bit long winded and goes on a bit, but if you get bored fast forward to the final paragraph. Please comment, but please don't ask about when is this or that arriving in this thread. I would be interested to know how people feel about Hasbro. And keep it clean. They are likely to see this!!

For those who read my post/rants about Hasbro will know that I am highly critical of the way Hasbro handle the Star Wars action figure line. I thought though, rather than continuously criticise Hasbro, I should explain where I think the problem lies, and suggest what I believe would improve the situation we find ourselves in. I have been selling action figures online for over 10 years, and although there have been good times, the past few years have been very poor in relation to distribution of Star Wars figures, and I think the problem is completely Hasbro’s own doing, and until they take steps to change the way they supply these figures, then I don’t see any change, and more and more collectors will be driven from the hobby never to return.

I think I can sum up all of Hasbro’s distribution issues with two words. CASE ASSORTMENTS. For years now, Hasbro have not been able to get this basic issue correct. I could have wrote this at any point in the past few years, and brought up numerous recent examples during that period, so I will keep examples to the past few months or so.

Whenever Hasbro get a case assortment wrong, it will leave a lot of unsold figures on the pegs, which in turn stops stores reordering. It’s the same for online sellers. If Hasbro releases a poor assortment, with ill thought out repacks, retailers will have to limit what they order, as they cannot be left with a lot of unsellable figures, in the same way a bricks and mortar store will not reorder future waves because their pegs are full of the same slow moving figures. So that is why a lot of online stores sell out within hour or days of a new preorder becoming available, because they cannot afford to be left with all the full priced repacks that customer already have.

For example, when Hasbro released Wave 7 of the 6 inch figures, Jyn, Cassian, Death Trooper, K2SO, Rey and Kylo Ren, most people who collect figures brought one of each, with the possible expectation of Rey who was a carry over from TFA. Hasbro also offered the elusive solid packed figures, although most never arrived at distributors, except Jyn, Cassian who can still be found on mass today. So when wave 8 landed, and Hasbro had repacked Jyn, Cassian and Death Trooper, the problems started, just as they did for the Force Awakens. Substitute Jyn and Cassian, for Flametrooper and Snowtrooper, and those pegs where jammed in the same way. Try and find a Flametrooper or Snowtrooper and you will have change out of a tenner! So when wave 9 arrived, with 6 all new figures, hardly anyone could find them, as pegs were already clogged with Jyn’s and Cassains. Websites were reducing those repacked figures prices trying to clear them, and then Hasbro then released wave 10, once again packing in more Jyn’s and Cassians, this time with more Death Troopers and Director Krennic. Of course the other two figures, Churitt and Baze, were snapped up instantly, so the pegs began to strain under more repacked figures, that had already sold all they were going to sell, in large numbers that warranted a place in a case.

Fast forward to wave 11, and Hasbro are once again packing Director Krennic (for the third time, Wave 8,10 and 11) in with four new figures, one of which the Emperor’s Royal Guard (ERG) which will be most likely the most sought after figure ever from of the 6 inch range (prepare to extend your mortgage to afford this one of eBay!!). With the late cancellation of Hera Syndulla, Hasbro had a spare space to fill, so instead of doubling up on the ERG, or even reissuing the much sought after Scariff Trooper, who is currently fetching silly prices on the secondary market, they reissue K-2SO again, whilst a great figure, is still rather easy to find at normal RRP. So it appears whoever picks the case assortments at Hasbro, thinks that the market needs three times more Krennic’s than Scariff Troopers and ERG. And there is the issue. Hasbro cannot pick a case assortment. They claim its not an exact science, but its not that difficult to do much better than they are doing. In fact I think it would be quite difficult to do any worse. That is just not my opinion, you only have to check after market values, of figures released in the past few months. Whilst Jyn, Cassian, and soon Krennic are only worth their scrap plastic value, Revan, R2-D2, Scariff Trooper to name but a few, are now fetching more than two to three times their original RRP. Something is clearly is badly wrong with how Hasbro pick case assortments, and moving to 8 per case is only going to make is worse. Imagine the carnage if Hasbro packed two Cassains and two Jyn’s per case over two or three 8 figure assortments.

Hasbro then released the 40th Anniversary collection, which in fairness to Hasbro, I think caught everyone of guard with how well it sold. But why oh why did Hasbro choose this of all collections to move to 8 figures per case. If they had do this, they had to get the assortment spot on, and releasing the recently issued Princess Leia, and Ben Kenobi as two per case, whilst reissuing one of the most highly priced (on secondary market) early figures like R2-D2 as one per case, was only going to end one way. Why could the person not picking the case assortment see this? Everyone else could. The end result; R2-D2 price trebled on the secondary market before he was even released.

So now Hasbro will reissue R2-D2, and Han Solo to catch up with demand, but these figures are unlikely to arrive until October, by which time most collectors will have moved on. The saving grace for Hasbro here, is these are core characters and will sell though, but Hasbro have tried this in the past when they underproduced wave 1 and wave 4 of the Force Awakens figures, and these waves ended up in clearance bins around the world, because by the time HAsbro got them back into production, and back into the market, people had moved on and no longer wanted secondary characters, or more Finns, Stormtroopers and Kylo Rens. It never helped when a new $19.99 figure is released when it has already been in clearance bins for months. Thankfully this will not happen with the reissued R2-D2’s and Han Solo’s as these two characters, will fill a lot of holes in collections, and will sell well as they are not currently being cleared out at low prices, which is why the reissues of wave 1 and 4 of the Force Awaken crashed and burned in the way that they did, and why Finn, TFASnowtrooper/Flametrooper and all are still blocking pegs.

So, there is the problem. Anyone can see that.

So how do you solve it?

Well there are two things Hasbro can do, which I believe to stop poor distribution and peg warming in a short period of time. First one I have been crying out for years, is solid cases. ERG will outsell the likes of Qui Gon Jinn by about 4 or 5 to one. So why do Hasbro release them both one per case?All that will happen is ERG will be snapped up by Scalpers and collectors will be held to ransom, something Hasbro claims its against, yet with releases like Luke X-Wing and R5-D4 together with short packed figures like R2-D2 and Revan, appears to be positively encouraging. So why not offer solid cases, so retailers can order what they want? If every store had ERG at regular RRP, then the shortages would not be there. People wouldn’t hang around waiting for a box to open, to snap up the rare figure. So the pegs would not become rammed with K2SO, Krennic, Jyn’s and Cassians, because those figures would not be forced upon retailers, who have in many cases already had to reduce them cost of those figures from previous waves to clear them. Allow retailers to order 5 times more ERG than Director Krennic, rather than force 3 times more DIrector Krennic than ERG onto the market. It worked back in the blue box days, when Boba Fett, IG88, Bossk, Emperor etc all got solid case releases. I honestly if online retailers could pick (and be sure of getting) solid cases, there orders would go up at least 50%, probably more, based on the fact they would not be forced to take figures which will no sell at cost price, and be able to keep the sought after figures on sale longer.

What’s that? We are getting solid cases of ERG I hear you shout. Are we? Maybe someone could tell the distributors that, because so far they have offered Lando Calrission and Tusken Raider. No sign of Qui Gon or ERG. Why Hasbro? Why?

Are we at war? Do you need to keep this information secret from the enemy? Why are you not informing your “retail partners” just what exactly is going on with wave 11? As of today, 15th May, Hasbro have still not openly offered wave 11, but have supplied two of the figures as solid cases and these are reaching stores! How does this help anyone, including Hasbro themselves?

So that the second thing I think needs to change, is information and preorder dates. Hasbro like to keep things secret, but information is out there for those who want to dig online a little. After all, the case assortment containing ERG, Lando, Tusken Raider is not officially published yet, but Hasbro showed off these figures nearly a year ago. So why the big secret?

Take the 40th Anniversary. These arrived in early April, so more than likely produced in January. So had Hasbro announced and offered preorders in January, they would have known very very early on in production, that R2-D2 was being massively under-produced. Solution, adjust the case assortments, or offer a solid case. The result would have been the solid cases of R2-D2 would be arriving NOW, rather than October. They would also have known that the whole 40th Anniversary wave 1 set was under produced, because preorders would have proved this to them, so they could have increase production as they were being made. The result there would be no shortages, and Hasbro would not be having to allocate stock, because they under produced it, thus Hasbro would have sold a lot more than they did. Collectors would know more in advance that these figure are coming, thus building up anticipation for them, and more importantly they would have been available to everyone, and people would not have to resort to eBay and paying three times RRP for R2-D2, something Hasbro claims to be against.

The same would be the case for Wave 11. Had Hasbro announced wave 11 back in February when they were making it, and offered solid cases then, they would have a great idea of how many they need to produce of each figure. They could still make case assortments for those who want them, but they would have exacting information on how to pack these, and we would lose the repacks of figures no one wants anymore, action figures we are only getting because Hasbro cannot judge what the market wants. Hasbro would no longer need to guess the numbers, if they offered preorders shortly before production starts, HASBRO WOULD KNOW what the market wants, thus eliminating a lot of the peg warmers. Remember Cassian and Jyn where peg warming, when Hasbro force a lot more on retailers in wave 10, just as they did previously with the likes of TFA Snowtrooper, Finn and Flametrooper. Solid cases do not harm secondary market value. The Emperor, Boussh, Bossk, IG-88. Boba Fett to name but a few proves this.

Now, I fully understand in some cases, Hasbro cannot announce an assortment early, for example The Force Awakens. But look at the mess we saw with Force Friday last year with shortages. Hasbro are going to repeat Force Friday this this year. They will treat the wave line up like a military operation, when anyone who has a passing interest already knows the line up through internet leaks.

So if Hasbro offered preorders for September, now, in May, they would have in place exactly what they need for release. We all know that Darth Vader, Stormtrooper, Luke, Rey, Snoke, Thrawn and maybe Hera through information readily available on line, are likely to make up wave 1, so why not offer preorders now, and if Luke outsells Rey by 3-1, then prepare for that in advance, instead of releasing Rey & Luke in the same numbers, and seeing one of those figures after market price rocket on eBay and the other peg warm. If they don’t want, to or allowed to, then don’t release images straight away, it won’t effect sales, but people know Rey is coming, they know Luke is coming, Snoke has been leaked online as well, so why all the secrecy. They could do the same with wave 2 a month later (I won’t spoil it yet!), so when Wave 3 comes around in December, all the repacks Hasbro have planned for wave 3, they will know if they are needed, or know the likely hood that they will be adding additional peg warmers of the same character to those already peg warming.

This is not meant to be an attack on Hasbro. It’s meant to be a positive solution, because whether you or they agree with it or not, Hasbro have been completely messing up case assortments, since they destroyed the Vintage Collection many years ago, with you’ve guessed it, repacked reissued peg warming Phantom menace figures, and unless they tackle this issue now, more and more collectors will desert the market, The Vintage Collection will struggle from the start, forcing more and more collectors away, and Hasbro will go down as the company who took the most sought after action figure franchise in the world, and completely screwed it up.

So to sum up, offer (and deliver) solid cases at the same time or before assortments, offer much longer lead (preorder) times, and supply the market with the figures it needs, not just keep reissuing the same peg warming figures over and over again. OR alternately hope that they big chains are happy to continue clearing out figures at below cost, only to supply them more of the same figures at full cost. It can not go on like this forever, and Hasbro needs to do something radical now, before its too late.

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