Q&A: Star Wars Retail Comeback (Is Not Happening Soon), Reissues, and Vehicles

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, August 9, 2020

1. Does Hasbro have any say about how retailers handle its exclusives?

Say, with the new Smuggler's Run Falcon, can Hasbro tell Target, "We'll give you this, but you have to order X number of them, and don't be a jerk about how you do preorders and such."

Will it be available in stores, or is it online only? Maybe it's so big, the only way they can sell it is online?

It can be complicated. What I'm about to say is going to cover multiple companies, not just Hasbro, and not just Star Wars.

Sometimes the licensor gets involved - they want a specific retailer to get an item because it's part of a larger program. Maybe a theme park thing, maybe a movie launch, or maybe a store-within-a-store to promote some other thing. Not coincidentally, Target signed a deal for a Disney store within a store thing, and all of its new Hasbro Star Wars exclusives promote their theme parks. Call it brilliant, call it insidious, but it's clearly there for a specific marketing purpose. Product is being used to promote an experience.

Embargo dates may exist for exclusive products. For example, if I do a redeco of a mold, a manufacturer may want to ensure the main version of the item goes up for sale (or pre-order) first. Sometimes that's because the exclusive item is better, and sometimes it's just because someone felt like it. It's not always consistent.

As to online pre-orders, this also varies. Some stores give bricks and mortar a preference, and they need to devote a specific amount of product to fill shelf space, or they just have empty shelves. This is why all product isn't diverted to internet presales on things - they still have aisles to stock and they plan this in a much more serious way than an online-only seller might, where all you have to do is fill your orders. If people go into Walmart for cans of soup and kitty litter, and the toy aisle is empty, they're going to go somewhere else - not shop online, and not necessarily try another location. (Those are collector habits.)

To my knowledge most manufacturers don't tend to tell stores how to sell their stuff. Once they buy it, it's theirs - if they want to give it away for free, or shoot it out of a cannon, or sell it for $5 below cost, that's their business.

I tend to not worry about expensive exclusive items sold nationwide. From the rumors and buzz, the Falcon should be sold online a couple of times, and will probably show up in at least some stores, but how many? And for how long? That remains to be seen. But it's also $400, and big retailers tend to struggle with anything over $100. I don't remember the last time I've seen any high-end Hasbro exclusive over $100 not go on sale for at least $10 or $20 off - or more. This may not be the case this time - we never know - but it is the most famous ship in the saga, so I expect a decent edition size, and it's $400, so I expect it to sell slowly. If Target has the patience to not put it on clearance before Christmas, it could sell out at full price - but they tend to blink earlier every year now.



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2. Do you see the current retail model of Star Wars moving away from bricks and mortars to online?

I remember fondly when Episode 3 came out, and Target had 2 full aisles of Star Wars. Now, we have maybe 5 pegs and 2 small shelves.

It seems retailers are downsizing their toy aisles nowadays, which drives customers to their websites which have wider selections.

Hasn't it already moved online? By and large, most items do show up online - sometimes for a brief window, but more and more are selling on the internet. Exclusives might get rerun at a different store, but some do get rerun. Cases and solid packs of figures are showing up online more than ever before. Some items are even being made without assortments at all - the Rebels Ghost Crew is a fan-channel-only and mostly-online endeavor, so you can just order whatever it is you want.

Toy aisles have been steadily shrinking for years. The toy store more or less died by the hands of Toys R Us, before Toys R Us itself imploded. I can't go to an indie toy store in my city anymore and expect to find Hasbro products, or Star Wars - it's big box, online, or maybe some food and drug retailers. "Triple Force Friday" was a big initiative that didn't make a huge impact, and we haven't seen the full aisles - I mean both sides of an aisle at most stores with toys - for quite some time. There wasn't enough stuff to fill an aisle for The Rise of Skywalker or Solo or even The Last Jedi... and Rogue One only had a ton of stuff because of the leftovers from The Force Awakens.

The prequels gave the old Gen X fans a chance to relive their childhood as young adults, and in some cases as young parents. Huge aisles, low prices, and tons of stuff - that's over. The reality, as cited by Hasbro in its earnings calls circa 2000, was that most fans treated the line as a souvenir - they'd pick up a few odds and ends, maybe one or two action figures, and move on. That's closer to how people buy now. Completism is fading away thanks to repetitive products and shorter attention spans as that core classic collector - the person who read sites like this one 20 years ago - ages into his or her 50s.

With screens supplanting toys, with the original gangsta fans getting old, and with Disney marketing unable or unwilling to stick the landing on kid-driven initiatives on things like Rebels or Resistance for longer than half of its televised run, I would expect more online products, more expensive products, and if I were a betting man, nothing you personally would enjoy under $10.99 ever again.

At some point - possibly after the pandemic - maybe someone will want to invest in improved retail experiences again. Toys R Us dying out and its non-comeback (along with Kay-Bee's non-comeback) sure didn't help move things to brick and mortar, and it remains to be seen if contactless pick-up - something Walmart and Target were rolling out last year - are the wave of the future or a fad. I hope it's a fad - but I can't imagine online ordering and in-store pickup will ever go away.




3. Since the black series will be getting the snowspeeder and the wampa, do you think we will see the tauntaun return? When hasbro was making [3 3/4-inch] figure/vehicle sets, both Luke and Han both had mounts (I don't remember if either of them had an open belly).

I would bank on it. As I write this I am unaware of any reissue incoming, but we've seen enough rereleases and redeco figures in all of Hasbro's Star Wars offerings that I would say it's likely if fans start making a fuss over it.

The 6-inch Tauntaun has no open belly, and so far has only had the one head - but things can change! Hasbro has been keen to retool, rerelease, and redecorate all sorts of figures over the last few years.



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This week we saw the big toy resets roll out some more, so the new Mission Fleet may be at a store near you. I should grab some. There's a lot new coming - some soon - some not - and some I don't know if it's still going to come out in the USA or not. (I'm betting on "not" for the rest of Galaxy of Adventures 5-inch figures.) I've not been in many stores lately, but hopefully I can get out to one or two this month. It hasn't been a good season for toy runs. Neither was last season. And neither is next season.

Power-Con happened, and Imaginext Masters of the Universe are happening... in 10-inch, which nobody asked for, but there you go. 3-inch ones were hinted at for next year. I've been itching for more 3-inch figure lines like these, because they're cheap and easy to store and usually really fun. 10-inch, I don't need more big stuff.

Want to talk TV? Sure you do. Comic-Con didn't happen so we have some space to fill.

Dicktown on FXX - part of an anthology show, "Cake" - may be the funniest new thing you see this year. John Hodgman and David Rees play Hardy Boys-style detectives in a cartoon where they solve cases for high school students. They hang out in a record shop, or a mall, or a house boat, or some rich kid's house. It's bizarre but the specificity in the pop culture references constantly kill me, as do much of the other things in it. It's worth your time. If you're weird and in your 40s this was practically tailor-made for you. I hope that this gets renewed. It's all good but "The Mystery of the Mumbling Rapper" is particularly gut-busting, also features "that guy" Stephen Tobolowsky.

Star Trek: Lower Decks started on CBS All Access, and it's fine. I've only seen the pilot so far - new episodes every week - and it really wants you to know just how much it loves Star Trek by jamming references at you so fast you'll miss them. It's 60+ minutes of jokes and tributes in about 25 minutes of show, so it's kind of exhausting - but it's by no means bad. I'm interested in seeing more. It's better than Star Wars Resistance, at any rate, and certainly seems to be written for those of us who have seen all the Treks. It's worth a look.

Transformers: War for Cybertron on Netflix is a retelling and partial reimagining of the first 5 minutes of the first episode of The Transformers from 1984. There are references to other things that would happen on that planet, and other story beats from other episodes. It's long, it starts slow, and its best stuff is in the last couple of episodes in the first arc so far. I'd say you aren't missing much by skipping it, other than the best character take on Soundblaster yet. I've watched, read, and in some cases endured a lot of Transformers and this is squarely in the middle. The animation is pretty great, the voices could use some excitement.

The Disney+ Muppets Now! is OK, and shows that the characters are sort of like a liquid that fills their container in the post-Jim Henson world. We've seen them in pirate movies, network sitcoms, big-budget reboots, and now a streaming show made up of what appear to be viral clips. The first episode was a little slow, but a new take on the Swedish Chef is always funny (also Danny Trejo!) and it gets zippier as it goes. It's not as good as your memories of the original The Muppet Show, but neither is the original The Muppet Show. (The Great Muppet Caper is better than you remember, though.)

For Star Wars in particular, we've got The Bad Batch show next year and, if all goes well, more The Mandalorian in October. I assume it'll still be fun. No new Star Wars movies are planned for a while and as far as I know there's no new kid-driven animation with any merchandising tie-ins for a while. Considering that Hasbro and/or Disney drop support for new TV shows rather quickly, that's fine. Let's just go full-on older stuff.

--Adam Pawlus

Got questions? Email me with Q&A in the subject line now! I'll answer your questions as soon as time (or facts) permit.



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