Q&A: Star Wars Know-It-Alls, Galaxy's Edge, and Finding Stuff, Finally

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, September 6, 2020

1. Over the last 3-4 weeks, I have found more & more "new" Star Wars items in stores than I have in a long time

Wave #1, 2, 3 of the ESB 40th Anniversary 6"
The last 2 waves of Vintage (Mondo & Commander Wolff)
The Child 6" figure
Probe Droid & Yoda/Luke on Dagobah
Retro Wave #2 @ Walmart
My question, is it just a mis-nomer on our part as a collector that this stuff never reaches retail and it truly does but we just miss it? OR was there truly a back-log in the system due to COVID-19 and the priority of "essential" items being sent out first that now the stuff we should have seen before is coming in?

Black Friday can not occur the way it has in the past; do you think retailors will abandon the idea of "line up at 1201am and rush into the store for a $100.00 TV" for "Buy everything online and have it shipped to your home" and if so, does that cause a lack of new product being shipped to stores for the holiday season? i.e Toys?

While not all stores stock at the same time, a lot of (not necessarily all these days) collector stuff does ship to stores and fans miss it. It used to be everything, but a lot of fans don't necessarily realize that if a store gets one or two cases of new figures, a single collector can easily wipe all that out. One of the stories I love to tell is that when the Power of the Jedi Aurra Sing wave hit, I visited a Walmart three days in a row - day one, nothing. Day two, lots of that entire wave. Day three, nothing again. That's how this works - the stuff doesn't wait for you, it sells.

In the last couple of years, some Vintage waves don't necessarily get shipped to stores - that is not something Hasbro always shares. Also some items are meant as shared exclusives/online exclusives, so you'll never see those particular items in stores. The items you specifically mentioned are indeed set to show up in stores and it sounds like you had a great run.

I wouldn't say it's necessarily a backlog, but some stores wait for their holiday/fall reset to put out some new stuff - that usually takes place in August. I've been on very few toy runs but I've been consistently surprised at home much new (and less common) stuff I see when making my rounds at the stores lately.

Black Friday is changing drastically - we don't necessarily know who's doing what, or why, beyond a more or less widespread domestic end of Thanksgiving day in-person shopping. I would not anticipate as many crazy deals, and the way toys in particular are selling right now I don't know if there's really any reason to mark them down at all. Usually there are special, sometimes exclusive items like unique LEGO or Play-Doh sets or toy bundles, and those are probably things nobody can stop producing given the lead times. It wouldn't surprise me if there were a bunch of special items, but it also wouldn't surprise me if more of those moved on line because it doesn't seem like a responsible time to line up in (or in front of) stores for hours to save $10 on a Switch game.



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2. Before the new Galaxy's Edge Falcon shipped, collectors had 2 questions about the toy that Target couldn't honestly answer: would it ship in an outer cardboard box, and could we pick it up in the store.

I emailed and chatted with both Hasbro and Target a few weeks before the release, and could not get a definitive answer. On launch day, surprise, both questions are yes, it comes in a shipper box and we can order online and do store pickup.

Why wasn't Target honest with us? I find it hard to believe they didn't know how they would handle this item. Or was it that they wanted to boost their online sales and avoid having it shipped to stores?

If a store doesn't specialize in a kind of product - like if their entire reason for being isn't collectible delivery - it's possible they have no idea how to consistently ship a thing, given the tens (or hundreds) of thousands of items that may pass through. It's just one more thing - they're not giving it any special thought.

I don't know Target's corporate structure, or if people are allowed or able to swim from one department to another to get answers to unusual questions. (Seeing how Amazon actually inconsistently ships things loose, in SIOC, in baggies, or double-boxed, it's possible they and Target don't actually have a policy.) With different people on different shifts with different training, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the people who handle customer service inquiries not only don't know, but can't know.

Weird retail experiences, like a "midnight madness," cause problems because not everybody sits there to train people with all the variables. Do things launch on time? Do things ship a special way? Is there a list of everything being sold? Are the customers picky? There are a bunch of issues that I wouldn't assign any monolithic corporate malice to, most likely their team saw the questions and were probably not informed as to what was going to happen. With the reports of Falcon deliveries both with and without the box, how could they know?

Sometimes people just do weird stuff. Most of the records I order online come in a specialized cardboard shipper for added protection. However, once in a while it gets weird - something from the UK was done in a paper envelope, damaging the record. And sometimes Amazon will put the cardboard shipper in a giant box (hey, it shows up perfect) and the last one I ordered came in a plastic bag with zero protection... but still showed up fine. I'd prefer online stores treat everything as if it were a rare collectible, but that results in tons of waste and reduced efficiencies.




3. Having read the store reports from Target's Galaxy's Edge launch on August 30, it makes me wonder if retail stores are even putting forth an effort any more with collectibles. Collectors report arriving at their Targets on launch day, with nothing from the release to be found in toy aisles. Some workers had no idea what was going on with the release. Collectors also tried ordering these store exclusives online from the Target app, only to find them sold out in seconds, or have the items vanish from their cart before completing the order. So, why can't bricks and mortar stores get on the ball with releases? It's not like this is a new thing; it's been going on for years. Second, can't the online store apps do something about people using bots buying up as many items as they can to scalp? I know it goes on with concert tickets and Nikes, and it seems sad that action figures have finally fallen prey.

Ask that question again, but substitute "the new live-action Transformers movie" for "Galaxy's Edge." If it's not important to you specifically, you may not even consider anyone would care. I love toys to death, but I don't know everything about everything we sell at work - if it's not part of my hobby or a segment I'm doing work with, it's kind of off my radar. Barbie and Hot Wheels may be two of the biggest toy brands of all time, but my knowledge of them are pretty limited to mostly licensed properties.

If there was more money and more hardcore collectors left - indeed, if it were May 1999 line-up-around-the-block levels of interest - you can bet they would be catering to us. But that novelty wore off years ago, and until they stop doing these for a few years it can't build up to higher levels again. The fact that it's been going on for years is exactly the problem, because there's no real reason to line up anymore and it isn't necessarily even well-promoted. Target (and Hasbro, and Lucasfilm) didn't go out of their way to even let us know there would be a massive launch other than a graphic on Instagram saying "Come back at 2 AM" which is outright dismissive of the customer base.

While Star Wars is the center of our universe - and the PR people at Disney, Hasbro, and Lucasfilm - it's meaningless to most stores. Sure, they want to make it a big party, but we're long since passed the era of diminishing returns here where this whole thing is silly. It's always been silly - "line up at midnight for toys" started in 1999, and by 2005 people were pretty over it. In 2008 the stores mostly stopped doing it. Hasbro, Lucasfilm, and so forth really want to get lines of people on the local news (and of course, buying stuff) so this narrative keeps getting pushed that this is an important thing and you'll miss out if you don't go.

And it hasn't really ever been true - those "launch day" items have historically been very common in the short-term. (After a few years, sure, anything can be scarce and collectible, especially more expensive vehicles and LEGO sets.)

With this store-within-a-store deal Disney and Target signed, we're probably going to see more experiences like this for other brands. Given that this had to have been in the works for months - maybe a year - it's not a huge surprise that they watered down a big promotion to sell you things which had the bonus purpose of being an advertisement to get you to take your family to a theme park for over $1,000. That's what this is. It's not a celebration of fandom or a launch party, it's an ad that you get to pay for.

As online stores/marketing bots go? Sure. Cart limits can solve a lot of problems. They could use specialized software to see the same credit card or billing address is buying too much of a thing. But that's not their business model - they sell hundreds of thousands of diapers, colas, raisin tubs, enemas, books, and so forth. That one collectible toy that went up today won't make them very much money (a tiny allocation goes to the web, most goes to retail stores) so what we're asking them is to devote time and developer resources to solve a problem that to us, is a huge affront to our way of life. To them, it's just one product, it'll come and go in a couple of days, and it's not even going to generate that much revenue. My hunch is it won't get changed because sometimes collectible items don't actually sell out if you impose limits and stop people from ordering. Nobody is in the business of "fairness," they're in the interest of "selling all the things."

This isn't even the only launch this year - there's more coming for The Mandalorian - but you're going to need to team up with online collectible businesses if you want that kind of fan treatment. They'll do the homework, they'll care. Big box stores are overrun with crowds of people and have to put a Disneyland-like queue in front to prevent too many people from being in store just to buy groceries all at the same time now. It's not the year they're going to figure out the toy situation. Or the video game console situation, the Record Store Day situation, or anything else where there's demand for limited items.



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--Adam Pawlus

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