We have an anonymous writer (i.e., NOT me) who gives his thoughts on Hasbro’s case assortments: what’s wrong, what’s right and what needs to change. This guy has years of experience in the selling industry and knows his stuff. (more….)
Written by Anonymous
I rant and moan a lot towards Hasbro, especially regarding their case assortments for the Star Wars 6 inch line, so I think it’s only right once in a while to put over my views on how I would solve the issue. After ten years and selling well over a million action figures, I feel that experience gives me a fair platform to express my opinions. While no one can expect anyone to be able to get every last case assortment spot on, it would be nice to see them get it right more than once a year. And in the previous year or so, I think they have only got it right once: Wave 9 – the Princess Leia (ANH), Darth Revan, Obi-Wan Kenobi (ANH) wave. Every other one I could pull out multiple issues with; I kid you not. I think it’s that bad. This is a long article, so please stick with it! It does end at some point shortly!
In the past few years, the 6-inch line has gone from strength to weakness. Even to the point, when Hasbro does hit on a money printing idea (40th Anniversary repacks), they underproduce the figures so badly, they probably ended up selling only 50% of what the market demanded. So why do they get it so wrong, and what can they do to make thing better?
In two words, forward-planning.
Back in April 2017 before the 40th Anniversary wave 2 assortment was announced, I predicted that the second wave would be grossly undersupplied. Scalpers (people who buy hard to find figures to sell them straight away on the secondary market at substantial markups) would have a field day at collectors expense, and Hasbro would end up reissuing the wave, months after everyone wanted them. But not just that, they would arrive months after the people who wanted them, had paid 2 or 3 times the figures original RRP to a scalper on the secondary markets. It’s hard to argue that I wasn’t correct with that prediction. I am not trying to show off and say I told you so, because frankly any collector with even a passing interest in the hobby, would have come to the same conclusion. We all saw it coming, except of course the powers that be at Hasbro. They got their numbers so severely wrong yet again. How many people paid over $50 for a 40th Anniversary figure, only to see them reissued months later. It turns people sharply against Hasbro. To be fair to Hasbro, I don’t think anyone could foresee just how popular that line would be (because after all they were mainly just repacks), but even so, had they offered them for pre-order in good time, they could have been prepared for it. Nearly every other action figure producer provides items for pre-order before they start the production run. It’s only Hasbro who seem hell-bent on producing figures and then putting them to the public, with ZERO or little notice.
Have you ever walked into Toys R Us, or a supermarket, and wonder why the pegs are full of characters like Director Krennic, Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, Rey, Kylo Ren? It’s not because these figures are rubbish and no one wants them. It’s because Hasbro reissues them assortment after assortment after assortment. The market is drowning in them. With Toys R Us going under, in the UK, most stores cannot clear out the masses of Reys and Kylo Rens for £6.
Take Cassian, Jyn, and Krennic. All released in their initial wave (7 or 8 and as solid cases, and then repacked twice more. So in wave 10 when we have the much sought after Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwe released in the 6-inch format, that comes with FOUR repacks that were already sitting on the pegs. So all that happens people pick up the two new figures, and leave the other four behind. Cassian and Jyn are already available from TWO previous waves and then are packed AGAIN with two high in-demand figures. The net result is they sit on the pegs because no one needs them. How many people saw Baze & Chirrut in the wild. Then along comes wave 11, containing three highly collectible figures, Emperors Royal Guard, Tusken Raider, and Lando Calrissian. So Hasbro released these figures (The Royal Guard probably the most in-demand figure yet) with two repacks figures; K2SO and Krennic, who at time of release were both available at BELOW TRADE COST, with shipping included, on Amazon.com. Someone at Hasbro signed off on releasing THREE TIMES more Krennic’s, Jyn, Cassian’s, as they did The Emperor’s Royal Guard. Whoever had a say over case assortments, thought the market needed three times more Krennic’s than Royal Guards. Think about that for a second…… Hasbro felt the market needed three times more Director Krennic figures than Emperor’s Royal Guards? You have to keep repeating that so that you believe it. A character that in nearly every scene they are in are seen in pairs!!! And there is the answer, in my opinion, is why distribution is in the mess it is. Hasbro can blame retailers all they want, but if pegs are full of non-selling figures, retailers are not going to order more (newer) stock to fill them up those pegs, as the shelves are already full.
Most of those figures ended up in clearance warehouses, and a lot remains there today (April 2018). Wholesalers, distributors are still trying to shift these figures. It’s almost getting to a point where the only option is going to be to give them away.
But this was last year. Why are we speaking about it now?
Alas, it seems Hasbro has not learned anything from this. They have just released an assortment of 2x Solo Movie Han, 2x Range Trooper, 1x Moff Tarkin, Lando, Jawa & DSC, along with.a case containing one each of Solo Movie Han, Range Trooper, Lando, Qi-Ra, 4-LOM, DJ, Darth Vader and Rey at the same time! So Hasbro is putting 3 Young Han, 3 Range Trooper, for every Tarkin and 4-Lom. They think Han will outsell Tarkin by 3-1, yet in reality, Tarkin exceeds Han 12-1 in sales. They have learned nothing from last year’s issues.
Now if this is not bad enough wave 18 contains three new figures (Bespin Han, Rebel Fleet Trooper and Tobis Beckett (yes someone at Hasbro thinks Rebel Fleet Trooper and Han Bespin will sell the same as a secondary character from the Solo Movie)) and five more repacks. Those repacks? Another Range Trooper, Lando, and Rey (all seeing their THIRD case assortment out of four), along with second time packed Qi-Ra and Tarkin. So it’s not hard to work out, this year’s Cassian’s, Jyn’s, Krennics, will be Young Han, Lando, Rey and of course DJ. The clearance warehouses will be rubbing their hands together as they have a load more Star Wars figures coming their way, as these figures will block pegs and stop replenishments coming. For the record Wave 19 contains three new Solo Movie figures and Wave 20 three classic trilogy figures, and along with the five repacks a case, waves 16-18 is just the tip of the iceberg, as we seem to have a steady supply of peg warmers, whoops, I mean repacks coming.
What makes this even more frustrating is Hasbro have the back catalog to stop these peg jams. Anakin Skywalker, Bossk, IG-88, Emperor, Yoda, Boba Fett, X Wing Luke, R2-D2, Cody, Leia (Boushh), and the list goes on and on. Surely reissuing these instead of the figures they are currently selecting would not only allow new collectors to obtain these figures at retail cost but would also let stores to clear through cases quicker, thus speeding up replenishment, which results in more sales.
They did this with the Jawa and Death Squad Commander, Stormtrooper, Tusken Raider, so they are willing and able to so this, so why do they keep releasing figures that no one wants other than clearance wholesalers? It beggars belief. If the vintage collection last year taught us anything, it was there IS a high demand for older reissued figures. Surely that cannot be denied can it?
What sells faster? Hasbro’s wave 18 selection, or say this assortment plucked out of the air, Han (Bespin) x 2, Rebel Fleet Trooper x 2, 1x Tobis Beckett, Boba Fett, Tusken Raider and Bossk. Only two of the many back catalog used, and there is a case selection, that will outsell Hasbro’s pick at a canter. The molds are done, no extra tooling to make, the only differences are these figures are in updated packaging, in demand, and will sell.
To keep the originals collectible, update the packaging every couple of years. This will make the original releases even more collectible for mint in box collectors, as well as serve new collectors, rather than make them spend $80 a figure on eBay. It worked in the 70s and 80s when they update the packaging every three years, so why not now? Would the original figures have been so popular if Luke, Han, Leia not been available for kids to buy as soon as the Empire Strikes Back was released? They updated the cards, and the originals Star Wars cards are more collectible than the Empire Card, just as the Empire are more collectible then Jedi cards and so on.
Make no mistake; these collections are on their knees. They are struggling and in decline. I always said Hasbro would only bring back <em>The Vintage Collection</em> as a last resort, it is the line to save them, and no one can argue that the vintage collection was brought back at a mad rush. Hence the poor repacked selections we will see this year. I have heard many items in the trade, Hasbro Star Wars figures being referred to as a toxic product. Stores are losing interest in that stock they have to continually reduce to clear, only to see the same stuff appear at full price in the next case assortment. It cannot and will not go on much longer, yet Hasbro seems content to push forward in the same way as it has always done.
The release of solid cases has taken some pressure off Hasbro, but it’s no point when the leading big box stores cannot move stock. This line cannot survive without the big box stores, and it’s those who will pull the plug first. Toys R Us decline has rocked the industry, and Hasbro needs to take a look at what they are doing.
So Hasbro, please!
Stop repacking so many recent releases. The market cannot absorb countless reissues of DJ, Rey, Kylo, and new movie characters over and over again. Check the secondary market values. Some are selling for as little as $5 on the likes of Amazon and eBay, yet Hasbro reissues them at full price.
Give a much more extended lead time for preorders, so you can produce what is required and stop clearance houses targeting the brand as toxic.
Drop any ideas for a 6-inch “Greatest Hits” line. PLEASE DONT DO IT! It’s only another line you will struggle to get the assortments correct. Release the back catalog when demand requires it in the regular line.
What else can they do? Pick better repacks for a start. Like it or not, Hasbro has to release repacks to balance their books. It is part of their business model to release some figures more than once. I would imagine someone high up in corporate, is putting pressure on the Star Wars team to get as much use of the molds as they can. So like it or not repacks are part of the business plan. We have to accept that. But with the back catalog, they could produce repacks that would outsell some of the new releases. They seem intent on reissuing figures that DO NOT sell, yet a figure like the OT Stormtrooper is reissued, sells the quickest out of the assortment it was in (12) and was never seen again! The mind boggles.
I could go on with the other lines. The upcoming case assortments have so many bad choices, and we will see a lot of peg warmers. They are doing the same with 5 POA, Kylo Ren and Rey will get a two per case reissues and then carried forward into the next wave. K2SO receives a two per case reissue, and Mimban Stormtrooper is one per case. How did that ever happen? KS2O will peg warm, and the Mimban will be a scalpers dream. Where is the in-demand Emperor figure that got canceled? Surely this would be a better choice than the repacked reissues? Even if it was 1 x Emperor and 1 x K2SO.
Vintage – Wave 2 contains Rey, Kylo, Snoke, Stormtrooper carryforwards and “new” Han Solo, Enfys Nest, Combat Tank Driver and Imperial Death Trooper, Why make Hoth Rebel Soldier one per case with no carry forward. Why carry forward Snoke and Stormtrooper into wave 2, when you packed them two per case in wave 1? Why bring forward Rey and Kylo and only have four new figures in wave 2. Why then carry forward 3 of those new figures into wave 3 (2x Range Trooper, Dr. Aphra, Cassian, Luke, Range Trooper, Enfys Nest, Tank Driver), meaning wave 2 only contains one unique (Death Trooper) figure? Wave 2 is a case of repacks and probably from which all the peg warmers will come.
There is a load of other issues, but these can wait for another day. But one, for example, why do we have so many 6 Inch exclusive this year, eleven in total (there are a few more reveals to come)? We are getting nearly as many exclusives as we are new figures. Surely you have exclusives when the line is doing well, and use secondary characters as choices, not the likes of the Gammorean Guard, or Zuckuss, or high ranking Imperial Officers or iconic princesses in a particular costume! Figures like Kylo Ren, Rey, and Luke, is a better base is one thing, but Gammorean Guard and Zuckuss. These are core characters that will outsell any of the non-OT figures in any regular case assortment.
Without the big box stores backing, Hasbro cannot continue this line. How much longer will those Big Box stores support a line that is continuously on clearance, due to the same figures being released over and over again. Come on Hasbro. The ball is in your court. Help us all out here? Please.
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