Thursday, June 28, 2012

Editorial: Hasbro Case Packs and Distribution Issues



If you’re a toy collector, chances are you know the frustrations of empty retail aisles. Particularly at the “big three”, distribution can be spotty, and your most common “recent acquisition” is frustration and an empty gas tank. Particularly with Hasbro lines like the Star Wars Vintage Collection, some figures can be a pain to track down if you don’t want to pay eBay prices. The problem seems to be two-fold. Distribution (the stores don’t get figure) and case packs (and when they do, they get one each of the “hot” figures). But what do you think a good solution would be? Time for the obligatory rant. 

Start with distribution. Honestly, I don’t have any magic bullet answers. On Hasbro’s end, don’t make your figures look the same. This was particularly a problem when Star Wars had a very similar look to their basic line, greatest hits and Clone Wars. To the average retail worker, they all look the same, and therefore get mixed up on the pegs. The problem is, if the pegs look full, nothing gets reordered. When the pegs are all full of greatest hits, we get no new basic figures or Clone Wars. Currently, the Clone Wars and Movie Heroes lines look similar, but at least the Vintage Collection has a distinct look. Going over to the Avengers line, apparently Target has now integrated the Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America lines into the Avengers SKU. This means we won’t be seeing new Avengers figures at most Targets for quite some time. Bad move, Target.

When it comes to case packs, to me, the problem is a little easier to address. Hasbro has become a big fan of revision cases. So here’s my answer. To start off, balance out waves. Instead of having waves of anywhere from 3-9 figures, make each wave contain 6 figures. The original assortment simply packs each figure at two per case. Revision assortments can be used to handle extras of troop builders and other figures with a higher demand. Having a solid pack of two per case handles two types of collectors, people who want a carded figure and opener of each, and people who want one of each and can split the case with a fellow collector. From what I’ve seen, this takes care of a significant chunk of the collecting population. Yes, this means people may still need to purchase cases online, but it seems that online cases are becoming more and more of an inevitability. Even Hasbro Toy Shop rarely sells single figures any more. Given that, online cases are a much easier pill to swallow when you don’t end up with a bunch of unwanted leftovers.

As collectors, we all know this is an issue, and it feels like it has been for a long time. As someone who is fortunate enough to be able to go hunting fairly often and someone with a good network of local collectors, sooner or later I'm able to get a hold of just about any figure I'm looking for. I can't imagine being a child or parent and trying to track a figure down. From what I understand, in most places, being an overseas collector isn't any better. But Hasbro is making money, right? So what's their incentive to improve? I would argue that, from a business standpoint, this issue needs to be addressed. There are collectors out there eager to fork over their money with nowhere to spend it. I don’t claim that my solution is ideal, or that it will satisfy everyone’s needs, but I do think it would lead to an improvement over what we have now. 

How do you think toy companies can do a better job of making figures available to collectors?

13 comments:

  1. Good rant, Brett. I echo these sentiments completely.

    I can't, as a business man, understand why or how Hasbro can let themselves make some of the mistakes they do with case packs and distribution. They just seem so obvious. You'd think anyone with even the most basic understanding of the action figure/toy/collectibles business would understand these errors.

    Unfortunately, I don't see the retail experience getting a whole lot better any time soon. I think, for me at least, ordering by the case or set online is going to continue to be the easiest and least expensive way to feed my habit. And that's sad, because I really enjoy the thrill of the hunt and finding new figures at retail.

    I think Hasbro could do a much better job of making it easier for the fans and collectors to fork over their money and get what they want if they'd not only actually fix whatever internal distribution issues they seem to be having, but also enhance the online experience. Make the sought after figures easier to get, even if you have to order them online. I know Hasbro doesn't outright own and control HTS (or so they say), but they need to work closely with that group to better the online store. Go back to selling single figures, pay closer attention to what specific figures sell the most and sell out the quickest, and work to restock those specific figures. Maybe this requires having the factories produce solid case packs of some specific figures just for HTS to stock, or maybe it can be as simple as putting more thought into the case assortments, but either way, they need to find a way to stock choking the virtual and physical retail pegs. And packing in an old Hulk when there's also two new Hulks in the same case is absolutely NOT the way to do it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Poor distribution of Hasbro product has become a fact of life if you're a collector in the UK. It's been such a longstanding issue, that over here, people just put up with it and try to nab figures for good prices online or descend upon well stocked stores like swarms of locusts. I too love "the thrill of the hunt" but it's such a rare occurrence to ever find anything new or worth having, it's becoming a waste of time and more importantly petrol. It's clear even kids are getting bored of how the shelves are looking...
    I'm not really against revision cases, as this gives you the chance to get figures you might have missed from earlier waves (read: Gives me more of a chance to get that Ghost Rider there...).
    I think this is a matter which could continue ad infinitum, Hasbro just think because of all the money they make, that everything's fine, and it's going to be a difficult task to get them to listen to this kind of argument when they seem to lack any kind of customer feedback channels and certainly don't have the wits to pay attention to sites like this.
    Clearly this is an issue caused by the corporate end of the company taking too much control in the distribution of product, rather than the actual development teams who are the only ones who really have their heads in the game and the enthusiasm for that product.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We ALWAYS get shafted in the UK. You have just got to look at the American TRU website and compare it to the UK one. 60+ avengers products on the American one, they even have marvel select figs there! we have to go to comic stores/import to get those. About 20 or so avengers items on the UK site.

      It's not just hasbros fault though, after a marvel movie comes out and they have a special place at the front of the store, TRU then loses interest and we are lucky to even get wave 2.

      Look at those 2-3 waves of cool iron man 2 figs we didn't get. I would have loved to be able to get a silver centurion and ultimate iron man comic figs. But as usual we got shat on.

      Same happens with transformers. There are whole lines that we never see.

      Of course Dc are not any better, the DCU classics figs, DC direct figs etc NON have seen an official UK release.

      Instead we have to buy them from scalpers on ebay. WTF is up with these companies? they seem to suffer from the American thing of not seeing past their own noses.

      Delete
  3. I agree with every thing you said. One thing you missed was exclusives (ex: Walmart Exclusive 6" Avengers.) They make it so that only 1 in 5 Walmarts get them, so you will likely have to resort to eBay where they are at least 2 or 3 times more than retail price.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is another stupid thing. Where are UK exclusives? the whole exclusives culture is bull shit.

      Delete
    2. Exactly, we're lucky for Asda to get Walmart runoff exclusive stock once in a blue moon, but that's all we get here.
      Maybe a couple of Sainsbury's exclusive Transformers and that's it.

      Delete
    3. Hey, HFTD Ravage Infiltration set, you got it, we didn't lol.

      Delete
    4. Really? You didn't get that? I guess that explains how my video review of the set got so many views...

      Delete
    5. Well that's one exclusive UK set vs a few million American exclusives...

      Delete
  4. Okay, I'd like to make a caveat regarding "generic" figures. Not such a big deal with Marvel, but with G.I. Joe and Star Wars... Put an emphasis on army builders! If a wave has Stormtroopers, or battle droids, or Cobra troopers, THEY should be packed to all kingdom come, not the 'Name' characters. Even with all the casual collectors jumping at Luke and Darth Vader (or so the common knowledge goes) no one needs more than one. Stormtroopers? The pegs should be packed with these suckers, ready to be bought.

    Sorry, just felt it needed to be said...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Should make a site for them, pointless filling pegs in all stores with mostly unsellable items.

      Delete
  5. I just started collecting (only 3 figs, marvel universe obviously) and around my town a couple places sell them and even there they have only a few MU figures. I'm only 14, so i can't go hunting whenever i want either.

    ReplyDelete
  6. All stores have been instructed, it seems, to put all of the clearance items on the Avengers pegs. What were $5 figures are now back at $10. Makes now sense because nobody wants these damn things. We want figures from the movie we just saw, not from movies that came out last year.

    ReplyDelete