Q&A: Star Wars Retro Retro Retro Imperfect

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, July 5, 2020

1. The new Retro [Kenner The Empire Strikes Back action] figures at Walmart were first $9.84 each, then went to clearance at $5 each, and now they're back up to full price again. What gives? Did they finally realize how badly collectors want them?

The only official answer I've ever gotten out of Hasbro is "Hasbro does not dictate pricing to retailers." If a store wanted to pay $10 for a figure and sell it for $9, Hasbro is in no position to stop them from doing so.

There are many reasons why a big box store may slash prices - sometimes when an item is discontinued at the distributor center level, the store might say "oh, I've got two of these left and I should just get rid of the stock so I can quickly put something else here which can turn more units and make my store more money." It doesn't make a ton of sense, but a lot of processes at stores are automated - those making these decisions may not be aware there's huge demand, or a reason to hang on to it for another 2-3 days or weeks.

We also saw this phenomenon play out with Walmart's exclusive Netflix Ultra Magnus set, was $59.96 and cut to $35.00 in under 45 days - a lot of fans didn't necessarily get their online pre-order filled before Walmart retail stores started marking it down. Does it make sense? No. Did Target also do this last year with The Retro Collection? Yes.

Working in a job with pricing toys, I can tell you there are a lot of processes that result in something that follow the rules your business wants, but may not make the most sense every time on a granular level. I hope Walmart is encouraged to reconsider this and make another run, but if they don't? Maybe someone else will step up to the plate.



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2. I was lucky enough to order two sets of Wave 2. I was hoping for two cases of six, but I ended up getting 12 separate packages from 12 different Walmart warehouses with varying degrees of damage. Any ideas why they would do it this surely more expensive and far less intuitive way?

As I don't work there I can only speculate - if any of you out there are reading this, please write in!

I'm not sure if Hasbro shipped Walmart.com these figures only in assortments or as a mix of solid cases and assortments. Depending on how inventory is added to the systems, it's possible there were issues with allocations (i.e., order gets 1 figure filled, and after everybody gets one than the order gets a 2nd figure, and so forth.) It's possible there is some sort of "crossover" issue in which the figures were added to inventory separately over a few minutes, and depending on how they do their picking, it might have resulted in 12 orders being picked all at once. For all I know this is a bug specific to pre-orders, while in-stock order picking software may say "oh let's put all of these together at the warehouse that has the most things to save us money" while pre-order items rarely all come in at the same time, so something wacky happens.

This is all wild speculation - I don't know how their software necessarily works. I don't think I'm telling tales out of school by saying sometimes a store can get a big shipment of stuff, and if the directive is "ship immediately" then there's a chance that a figure can be received before lunch and another after lunch and depending on when the picking goes out, those items could wind up being shipped in two separate boxes.

The thing that would make the most sense to me is a system that does not how to best handle pre-orders, but that's just based on the notion that not everywhere developed ecommerce software to deal with that unusual issue as a lot of stores were not created with it in mind - either an item is in stock, or it isn't, and any other stock statues is a big question mark for them.




3. Some collecting groups' members hate the giant Retro stickers which cover a large portion of the figure's artwork. Couldn't Hasbro have come up with a better way to express the Retro line without a ghastly sticker? Maybe some unobtrusive printing in the color area beneath the figure under the bubble? What is the best method to remove said sticker, and do you recommend it?

I don't recommend damaging a figure intentionally. Removing the stickers may be aesthetically pleasing to some, but it also means the product has been mauled - I also saw the AFA figure graders sell 2004 The Vintage Collection figures, graded, sans Hasbro's own plastic "star case." From where I sit that's madness - once you remove the figure's outer packaging, you've got damaged goods and it can't be graded as mint. Similarly, once you remove the factory-applied sticker, what you have is no longer a mint carded figure.

Were I in your position, and I insisted on doing this anyway, I would probably use a hair dryer or heat gun on a figure I've already opened as a test case. Usually heat (like in a hot garage, or left in your car on a steamy summer day) can be enough to make the adhesive on most things sticky and easier to peel off. It could also do the same to the plastic bubble. (It's also worth remembering sunlight is murder on collectibles.) Perhaps if the card were properly heated, the sticker might partially peel off - and you could use something like Goo Gone to remove the excess adhesive. Problem is, use the wrong amount, or leave it on there too long, and you've further damaged or discolored the photo under the cardback.

You would likely be happiest just leaving them as is. Peeling them off risks damage, and there could even be indentations once you remove them. If you got a tiny rip from removing that sticker - which is always possible - you might be madder than if you just left the label as it came to you from the store. Give heat a try, but try it first on a figure you might open anyway (or already opened) to minimize regret if the process goes wrong.


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