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Let's Talk About HasLab For a Moment, What It Should Be and What It Really Is

What is the goal and purpose of Hasbro’s crowdfunding platform HasLab? To give fans the opportunity to get items that could never succeed at retail? That is the basic idea. But is HasLab really just that? A platform that gives hardcore collectors things they would never get otherwise? Or is HasLab something else entirely? I believe HasLab is evolving into something very different from what it is intended to be. Why? Click through for a  discussion!

That’s what Hasbro is saying

Let’s look at all the HasLab campaigns so far

  • Star Wars Sail Barge
  • Sesame Street Cookie Monster
  • Transformers Unicron
  • Marvel Legends Sentinel
  • Hero Quest board game
  • Star Wars Razor Crest

I would argue that while the barge was most likely something that would not have succeeded at retail – remember, Hasbro can only make what retailers/etailers actually order and want from them – and that Unicron is also something that probably would have had a very hard time, I think a Cookie Monster (even if the HasLab campaign failed), the Sentinel, especially Hero Quest and absolutely the Razor Crest could have been mass distributed items.

So the question is if HasLab is indeed giving collectors items that would simply be impossible as mass produced items which are available from retailers or etailers. And even if brick and mortar retailers would decline to order or stock something, because shelf space is precious and very limited, sales for adult collectibles are moving online at a rapid pace. So even though Walmart or Target may decline to stock a giant box all the various specialty etailers and Amazon don’t have these issues. So I argue that even if brick and mortar may shy away from huge toys, etailers won’t.

So what is HasLab then? I argue that HasLab has very quickly transformed into a “profit margin protection scheme”. After years and years and years of conditioning collectors to wait for discounts Hasbro is apparently no longer willing to mass distribute somewhat more expensive toys. The $300 electronic AT-ACT, one of the last really expensive new Star Wars toys (not exclusive rereleases like the Falcon) that saw mass distribution, was a complete failure. The BB-8 playset could be had for cheap as well. The discounts for the Black Series TIE Fighter are legendary. But even smaller vehicles, more affordable vehicles, get their inevitable discounts, substantial discounts even.

And these huge discounts do diminish Hasbro’s profits. How much depends on the vendor agreement with their retail partners, places like Walmart, Target or Amazon have considerable power and are in a much stronger position than Hasbro (they don’t need Star Wars at all), whereas specialty etailers are more of a junior partner (they DO need Star Wars). The big players will almost certainly all have agreements that will pay Hasbro less money if items need to be discounted to clear shelves. Or maybe their wholesale prices are much lower than what a specialty etailer has to pay Hasbro to begin with (which is quite likely).

Along comes HasLab… a platform that guarantees that collectors are forced to buy a toy at full MSRP. No discounts. No waiting for clearance. Buy it at full price or don’t buy it at all. So there is much temptation for Hasbro to use HasLab not as the platform that gives collectors the otherwise impossible dream toy… but to use it as their own distribution channel for items they don’t want discounted by places by Walmart, Amazon or Ollie’s.

So the question is if HasLab is a boon to or the bane of collectors. Do collectors really get something that would otherwise not be possible? Or is it just a scheme to make sure everyone has to pay full price? Making sure collectors pay more than they would otherwise have to?

As things are now a hypothetical never made before Millennium Falcon (the BMF) would be a HasLab item, not something you can buy for $100 at any retailer. HasLab may be the reason why there won’t ever be any mass distributed larger scale vehicles, figures or playsets again. Instead of actual playsets it’s all modular diorama pieces now that are extremely cheap to produce and come in a reasonably small box.
It’s somewhat ironic that Hasbro and their retail partners are responsible for the very issues that HasLab is trying to solve: collectors who know things will end up with a 50% or even higher discount. 15,000 Razor Crests sold at $350 mean much more profit than Hasbro could ever get from selling it through the usual retail channels. Because on top of not offering any discounts, Hasbro can charge the full MSRP instead of the wholesale price that they get from retailers and etailers and thus enjoy the extra profit from collectors who happily back the Sentinel, Hero Quest or the Razor Crest.

So I wonder if HasLab is maybe something like a poisoned apple, more of a bane than a boon. Would Hasbro really not have made a Razor Crest for TVC if there was no HasLab? The hero vehicle from the single most popular piece of Star Wars entertainment right now? Would they really not have updated and rereleased Hero Quest, a fantasy board game with a fan community? Would a Sentinel really have never been made for one of the hottest IPs we currently have? When huge Jakks Pacific figures used to be a thing at retail until recently?

So what do you think? Do you consider HasLab to be a real boon to collectors who can get toys that would simply be impossible otherwise… or do you think Hasbro is using HasLab to simply maximize profits and to protect certain items from inevitable discounts? Thus robbing the mass distributed mainline of any larger scale vehicles, playsets or figures? Is HasLab therefore not really the platform to bring dream products into the hands of fans, but rather a distribution channel to guarantee maximum profits for items that would otherwise end up clearanced out like almost any other toy these days?

Are you generally happy with HasLab and the various projects? Or do you wish they would not use it for toys that could probably succeed at retail?

Leave your own thoughts and opinions in the comments!

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