This weekend for giggles I went on my first toy run probably since the “Solo” product launch. (For the record, I found nothing of importance on Wookiee Weekend either.) What I found on shelves this weekend disappointingly didn’t surprise me. I am so used to a letdown in the toy aisles of my local TARGET and Walmart stores that if I did find something of interest I might need a defibrillator. I couldn’t even muster up enough energy to take the cell phone from my pocket to snap a picture of the shelves so I could post an article about how badly the state of Star Wars retail is in this current era of collecting. Maybe I don’t have to do that anyway. I get plenty of reports from our readers. But if you post too much truth, you get a reputation for always posting “the sky is falling” and that your site doesn’t post “positive” stories. (more….)
But month after month, year after year, the decline in Star Wars collecting is real. I may never fully understand why we’ve arrived at the place we are now. But my head shakes in disbelief. The Force Awakens breathed new life into the hobby initially, and I thought it would be enough to bring back those who left the hobby when things began going south in 2013. But instead, despite a new surge of new collectors, it then started to fizzle. TFA didn’t meet everyone’s expectations. But Rogue One was a palatable to a very satisfying story for those who couldn’t appreciate The Force Awakens. So we had a new blip of interest to collect once again. But the Rogue One line provided by Hasbro continued in the kid-oriented vein, and collectors had very few figures to purchase. Of course, we all know what happened when The Last Jedi was released. Toy sales weren’t great and more people lost interest. And not even Solo could serve as a replacement for those who loathed Episode VIII. In fact, those that didn’t hate TLJ weren’t necessarily the toy-buying type of fan. I am generally speaking here and not conclusively applying this to everyone. In short, the community didn’t gain enough new collectors to make up the difference for those continually walking away from the hobby altogether.
Sure. There are inconsistent signs of life at retail. If you live in specific areas, your stores get more products than the rest of us. But I can tell you that from 2005 through 2012, the Philly area was the place to be when it came to finding the latest and most significant Star Wars products on store shelves. The antithesis of this is true today. Friends from my collectors’ group resort to getting figures from The Black Series 6” line from Asian retailers and resellers because they know it is next to impossible to find stuff in their local stores. The constant pattern of seeing a ton of new and excellent Star Wars products announced at conventions that never appear at retail has become cyclically dispiriting. Star Wars collecting doesn’t bring true happiness (nor did it ever), but for many, it supplements our lifestyles because it does bring enjoyment and helps us to billow the passion that’s burned in all of us for years. I can’t help but be saddened to see one retailer die after another. I know that online retailers like Amazon are hugely responsible for so many brick and mortar declines. But that doesn’t take away the sting that there are no more toy stores for future generations. They won’t be able to experience toy shopping in a way that we did, or our parents did, or even your children did anymore. It’s eye-opening. And it creates a very melancholy feeling inside.
I have talked to high profile people in this hobby. The most zealous of collectors have nearly checked out of their long-running Hasbro Star Wars hobby. Some have left to pick up other toy lines (mostly high-end stuff), but others have withdrawn entirely. People I know that have collected the modern line for 23 years are gone. They’ve sold it all and have moved on completely from buying action figures. And they walked away not because they wanted to, but because the frustration of trying to get the stuff they wanted had become so painful that it lost its enjoyment. The lack of products that interested them also played a huge role in the walk away. So, I have to ask. Where do you stand with Star Wars collecting today? Have you decided to accept that you likely won’t find the toys you want through their intended channels? Have you acclimated to the “back door” methods we often need to take to secure the figures we want? Or are you so full of luck that you don’t have any trouble finding the new products announced at your local stores? I feel that too many of us are reaching a disenfranchised, disengaged or a completely indifferent attitude about Star Wars collecting. The latter is very dangerous for the brand. Because once you “don’t care” anymore, not even things you desperately wanted to see made, should they arrive at some point down the line, will have a strong enough pull to sway you back.
Let me know in the comments how you feel about all of this.
The turning from light to shadows
From burning to indifference
The turning of heart to granite
Of steel hopes to molten fear
And when it turns on me
Don’t let it turn on me
– Leslie Phillips “The Turning”
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