Q&A: Star Wars Sail Barge, Sail Barge, Sail Barge, and Toys R Us (And KB Too Now)

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, March 18, 2018

1. Impressive to see the Sail Barge. Thanks for posting the photos. I had hoped something interesting would be revealed at the Toy Fair.
I'm in Australia, and would like to buy it. I'd even consider buying two.
I have contacted Hasbro here about it.
I could not see an email address to contact HasLab directly, just the phone number.
If Hasbro do decide to open it up for the International Market, my concern (besides shipping cost) would be the packed mailing box and likely damage received in transit for such a large item. (....like the Vintage Collection Slave I postage issues)
Blue sky ponderings I know, but if 10000 people signed up for it, would the price be reduced by a happy Hasbro, to see that their flagship was so well received?
I keep meaning to check what price the POTF Skiff in box is selling for now days. Just as a comparison.

When it comes to issues of Hasbro and finances, I can probably pull together enough details to make it sound like any one story could be contradicted by another story. A lot of what we hear is hard to tell if it's true, mostly true, or true and filtered through people who aren't necessarily the ones who would know the answers. At any job you probably have some amount of expertise in what they pay you to do, and less in other areas. Hasbro has thousands of employees and the people who are actually responsible for the money, warehousing, and other special deals (and from what I hear, this may have involved a special contract with Lucasfilm) to do. On the whole Hasbro is not in the business of making its own items to sell by itself - to sell a product on a site like this may require some special handshakes or at the very least, bean counters who know how many beans is five.

The international distribution of toys can be touchy, but let's be frank - it's not great, and that's the way it is. If I want a special German toy, or something from Japan, I'm going to have to arrange to buy it from a distributor or importer, or some opportunist who bought two and is willing to go through the trouble to ship it to me. Not all toys are available in all regions, and if they are able to be obtained the pricing isn't always great. To ship a hefty giant toy with obscene dimensional weight, I'm sure Hasbro just said "Uh, well, let's see if it makes the US run and go from there." If you've ever had the misfortune of having to ship a large collectible to another country, you know it's absolutely no fun and odds are Hasbro will have to weigh how it wants to make and ship this item for foreign markets. I would advise you to make friends with an American and prepare to pay entirely too much money to ship one, or pull a few fans together and maybe rent a shipping container to bring it your way. I assume it would cost at least $150-$200 to ship outside the USA (given what it cost me to ship a much smaller statue to Australia a decade ago), provided the size of the box isn't prohibitive from being shipped through non-commercial means as it is. Between the crowdfunding, the shipping, and everything else this is something of a miracle baby that's more trouble than it's worth.

The chances of Hasbro reducing the price are zero. It will not happen. If they goof and miscalculate the shipping rates, they could probably lose a good chunk of money - but they're also probably making a decent chunk of change by selling 5,000 $500 toys with no middle man other than whatever the credit card processor and LucasDisney demand. What's funny is that the $2,000,000 or whatever they'll bring home for this project (if successful) is almost not worth their effort. Hasbro is a big beast that must be fed, and putting so much effort in a run so small with dollars that aren't exactly a lot of money may be only barely worth their while. Given all the high-profile things Hasbro is doing (Ugly Doll license, Power Rangers license) and not doing (no Disney, Marvel, Star Wars license renewals just yet) it's possibly this entire project is being done as both a PR move and as leverage to prove to Lucasfilm and Disney just how devoted they are to the license and their business, while also keeping frustrated fans on the hook when - in all good sense - they haven't done anything of value for the old-school 3 3/4-inch figure fan in years. (I'm not being hyperbolic here, I think the last new collector figure was Mosep in 2015.)

It will be a miracle if anyone gets their box delivered to their home in mint condition. I don't believe Hasbro (or really, just about anyone) is capable of delivering something this big in perfect shape to most or all of its customers unless they're taking that into consideration as you and I read this.

If it does really well, our "reward" is an opportunity to buy other toys from this or other brands. Right now I'm looking at this as a part of the dance with Lucasfilm to renew the contract more than anything else, but we'll see. If nothing else it's a great way for Hasbro to earn PR with fans and say "We tried, and you did or didn't support this thing that you asked for!" It's certainly ambitious, and I supported it within seconds of hearing the announcement. This is why I've been buying figures all these years - and if it doesn't happen, and if Hasbro loses the license some day soon? Well, maybe I don't need to be all-in or even semi-in any more. I could make a dirty joke here but I won't. That joke would be "Maybe just the tip."


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2. A friend in Japan asked if I could get him a sail barge and send it to him.

US mail will not ship a box the size of the sail barge to Japan.

They told me Fed Ex would be over $300.

Any idea if the sail barge will require assembly and be in a smaller box?

Patreon supporters got this one last week - my dimension estimates were off from what Hasbro later provided. But I was close! My guess was 48x24x12 and 20 pounds. Hasbro's numbers are 50x15x14 and 15 pounds - but I would guess an outer box and packing material could get Hasbro's numbers up to 20 pounds, and maybe add an inch or so around the edges. But, we'll see.

So now we know what the dimensions are estimated to be for the Barge in the box. (This may not include the mailer box to go over Hasbro's box, and the cardboard and plastic inserts inside the box. I assume Hasbro's number doesn't include these things.) FedEx and UPS were in the $81-$85 range from Chino Hills, CA (where one of Hasbro's warehouses rests) to my home address in Arizona - and it would be $128 to go to Rhode Island. USPS was around $30 to Arizona and $114.50 to Rhode Island. When you assume Lucasfilm is probably going to get 10% or whatever their royalty is, and Hasbro has to pay tens if not hundreds of thousands to actually tool the thing, plus credit card fees (to say nothing of paying employees to design the dang thing) it's a wonder it could even happen in the first place. It's important to remember that you have to pay shipping even if it's free - that cost is going somewhere. DHL isn't going to bring it to your door out of the goodness of their heart, and Hasbro can't afford to eat $31-$128 x 5,000 boxes. Because shipping is included, customers are all sharing the burden. Insert socialism joke here.

$300 sounds like a bargain to me. Nobody wants to pay to ship anything - especially not you or me or him - but that's the cost of doing business. Unless a bunch of fans pool their resources to come up with an agreeable freight option, forget it. And even then, it's still going to be expensive - just not as expensive. Don't forget, you're paying to ship the largest Star Wars toy vehicle ever made across the friggin' ocean and it looks like it might cost only slightly more than it would be to deliver it 8 hours from my home if I drove it myself.

Your friend is going to have to deal with some sort of freight forwarder service or suck it up and pay the toll. You should see what I've paid to ship some Transformers and Zoids over the years. (No, you shouldn't.)




3. The Sail barge looks impressive.

As I understand it, the price of $499.99 includes free shipping to, and within the US, which is quite something (from China or Vietnam?) for such a large boxed item. Maybe an extra $100 or $120 has been factored into the price of $499.99 to account for this.

I'm in Australia. If it becomes open to International buyers, maybe Hasbro could do a deal with Toys R Us here, shipping it for free as well, for a pickup at the nearest designated store. Current exchange rate places this at $636 (Australian) before any add-on delivery/postage charge.

I wouldn't get your hopes up about Toys R Us doing you any favors.

Anything is possible, but if you've read the above we're not sure what (if any) contractual nonsense may be involved. Hasbro may be breaking some rule they set up to only sell it through HasLab, for example. You also have to ask just how many units might sell in Australia, and if that's worth Hasbro's effort. Given the size of Hasbro, the answer is probably no - 5,000 units would only gross the company $2.5 million, and when you factor in royalties, shipping, and marketing (the web site, the credit card software, etc.) it's an awful lot of costs. Necessary, of course.

Doing the math? I wouldn't bet on this happening. Australia's population is about 33% smaller than Canada. Canada's rule-of-thumb for toys is 10% of what America sells, generally speaking. So that would mean Australia could maybe, just maybe, move 300 units if my math is right. Is it worth anyone's time to do anything at Hasbro for 300 pieces of something? For $150,000? Probably not. $150,000 is a fortune to you or me, and even to a lot of smaller toymakers. I can pretty much guarantee you most people in the collectible toy world would kill their own mothers to get that kind of business, but for the House of Mr. Potato Head it's chump change and it's not as important as feeding the empire of thousands of board games, dolls, figures, blasters, and also action figures.

Now is absolutely the time to make a big giant fuss about it, and pray someone takes mercy on other markets. I would advise setting aside some money and preparing to deal with whatever bounty you must pay to convince an American to sell you one after the fact. I'm sure a few will just need the money by this time next year, or realize just how friggin' huge this thing is when they get it in their homes.

I realize some of this probably sounds really dire, but that's because a success to a big company is different than a success to a small company. Hasbro has to keep the fires burning, and if a smaller company were making these items you'd see a lot more stuff like this a lot more often. I'm not at liberty to discuss a lot of things, but if you've been watching Hasbro you know that 5,000 is a teeny tiny miniscule edition size for an item compared to the numbers they've revealed to the public. In the 1990s they would rarely turn on the factory for under 30,000 units. Today... well, I can't say what the direction is, but 5,000 is not a big number and for that reason, at this company, right now, this has got to be complicated for fans. Had Hasbro sold this to a third-party with worldwide shipping options, it would not be as much of an issue. (For Hasbro. You'd still be paying to ship it.)



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4. Dude...I am devastated by the news about Toys R Us. It seems like this could have been preventable, but maybe it's truly inevitable and "good" that it didn't drag out forever like Sears/K-Mart. Actually, that didn't even feel right while I was typing it. This is bad on so many levels.

As you've pointed out, this is going to have a very negative ripple effect throughout the toy industry. What kind of effects do you see it having on companies like Entertainment Earth? I assume EE exclusives are going to be even harder to come by from the big companies. Also, will we see some smaller toy manufacturing companies buckle because of the limited outlets for sales?

It seemed prudent to do a fourth question this week - because I'm devastated too. While Toys R Us didn't come to Phoenix until after Star Wars of the 1980s was over, I did pick up many a video game, LEGO set, and Ninja Turtle there. And then a lot of stuff in the decades sense.

I don't really see an upside to this at all - Kmart/Sears has been "dead" since 2004. People have been telling me Best Buy is over and done, but it's still open and people are still getting paid. I've heard about the wireless office for years, but I got a lot of cables in here. You can try to put a rosy spin on it, but it's important to remember just how much as changed and what has been lost. I don't just mean Kay-Bee, Zany Brainy, PlayWorld, and ToyCo- I also mean Borders, Waldenbooks, Barnes & Noble, all of the companies GameStop ate (Babbages, Software Etc., Funcoland), Best, Service Merchandise, Gemco, Sam Goody, Suncoast, MediaPlay, the Warehouse, and I could go on. I've seen a lot of retailers up and die, although many weren't long for the world in the first place. If we choose to call Sears or Kmart failures, they're still employing people. They're still buying product. Heck, maybe you're like me and even still buying socks and underpants there (until they closed the last reasonable Kmart, that is.)

In the 1990s there was moderate hay made of the differences between "toy discounter" and "toy retailer." Toys R Us was in the middle, but generally "discounter" - that is to say, when a toy was $4.99 at Target, Walmart, and Kmart it's be $6.99 at Kay-Bee or a store that wasn't treating toys as a loss leader (read: no mark-up, no profit.) We all want things cheaper, but it has a cost somewhere - and Toys R Us would move their prices around a bit more, sometimes they'd be $4.99 and sometimes they'd be $5.99. The reason I bring this up is a lot of people decried their pricing, and while I can't give away too many secrets we did see some big box stores enact some sort of sell-near-cost price war which devalues the entire proposition. Inflation is real, and while some things may be marked up a bit there's still the reality of a store needing to pay the guy who put the toy on the shelf.

As far as exclusives, it depends on Hasbro. They know where I can be reached.

I don't think Toys R Us could have easily prevented its demise - it sounds like a bad investment strategy bit them just like it bit Kay-Bee toys during an era where Disney is pushing its boy brands in ways that aren't conducive to increasing sales (The Last Jedi did worse than Rogue One did worse than The Force Awakens) and I expect larger toy companies to either buckle or downsize during the transition. Mattel has a lot more full-time employees than Hasbro and the rumblings about a merger/buyout by the Rhode Island toy giant don't stop. Takara and Tomy merged in Japan. These things can happen here too. There are lots of little toy companies gliding on big licenses that are easily forgotten, mostly because innovation is hard to find and even a neat toy from a lesser manufacturer is easy to forget when 6-inch super-poseable action figures are available.

My guess is the next 6 months will be nothing special - everything you saw at Toy Fair, you'll get. (Except the Sail Barge, at this rate.) Things you didn't see (but I did see) will start to fall off the radar, and we'll probably see more experimental forms of marketing as Hasbro reaches out to new kinds of toy channels. Walgreens is a real player now - maybe craft stores or 7-11 will have a toy footprint in the next two years. Walmart's tiny toy section isn't enough to keep the whole industry going, and Target's is no slouch - but it may be the best that we have until someone either rescues Toys R Us or quickly makes a replacement toy store after Spirit Halloween closes up in November. Next year you'll probably not feel a pinch for a long time since Episode IX is a December movie, and there's not a lot of plans for much in the way of big franchise brand toy movies for most of the year. If anything, it seems like circumstances have been conspiring to dig the grave for the toy business for quite some time. I think the smaller and nimble businesses will have a future, and if Hasbro holds on to what it does best it'll be fine too. I think Entertainment Earth is going to be fine, but it would be certainly very nice if you decided to buy your Predakings and big items from us that you may have bought from another retailer that may not be around come summer. (Hey, I gotta eat.)



So this is the first one I wrote before the Kay-Bee announcement.

I was going to go on more about Rebels, but its impact on the franchise going forward is probably going to mean a lot less than Toys R Us' currently dubious fate. Will it exist as a pared-down chain, an online brand, the sign on shelves inside Walgreens? We have no idea.

It wouldn't entirely surprise me if mergers go wild in the next three years, and Disney may want to rethink its constant barrage of new movies and toy lines to match. Putting out new, almost identical toys and dumping your old ones on clearance isn't the greatest use of a toy manufacturer's resources, especially now that there will be fewer outlets at which to sell them. An estimated $500 million of Hasbro and Mattel product just lost a customer. While some of it will be reallocated to Amazon, or Walmart, or Target, or even to smaller vendors, some of it is just going to go away. The advent of the "toy discounter" didn't hurt the business nearly as much as the loss of three of Hasbro's "top five" accounts - that is, Kay-Bee, Kmart, Walmart, Target, and Toys R Us. Those 5 accounts were 80% or more of the toy business up through the late 2000s - and now only two of them remain. Capitalism is a cruel mistress, and two of the three accounts were both destroyed by buyouts from Bain Capital. An ill-conceived loan and "investment" strategy not only destroyed retail chains, but will slowly trickle down and destroy tens if not hundreds of thousands of global jobs. Some of these would have eventually gone away, but not this quickly. Hasbro knows this, and something like HasLab goes against their mission plan from just a few years ago. Hasbro doesn't want to sell you toys - they want to sell big stores toys, and they can handle you. It's a lot less work that way.

Some smaller manufacturers are adapting by selling their wares directly on Amazon, cutting out the retail middle man and Amazon themselves (minus their fees). This could be the future of toys. This also means the risk is much higher, meaning runs could be pared down or only the very best items will see production... combined with Hasbro's experiments. We're getting fewer figures and vehicles per movie, and I think that's one reason collectors leave - the line effectively ends before the movie gets released. There's no reason to come back for more, because there's no more to get. In this new reality, I would predict lower price points, no more big toys like fans crave, but we'll probably see a few more items per year that exist for publicity purposes - like the big FurReal Friends or giant Imaginext, or the new progressive Barbie toys that you might not ever actually see on a retail shelf. These big toys do serve a larger brand statement in numerous ways, but Star Wars has proven that those big vehicles don't sell. They've also been disappointing, but a company brings its own perspective to any decision, and "Gee, people didn't like it" can be taken as either a personal failing or a judgment of the consumer. I don't assume anyone is going to see a flop as their own fault.

Hasbro has done great business in Marvel Legends prop replicas for about $100 each, and the FX Lightsabers have done pretty well. So have the collectible helmets in the $100 range. Not so hot have been $50-$60 Black Series spin-off statues and vehicles, although I assume we'd all admit direction and style may have left something to be desired in most cases. (That new Kylo Ren looks pretty damn sharp, though.) Given that Toys R Us was one of the bigger customers for these items, will they last beyond next month's Solo launch? I don't know - I haven't heard anything about Avengers 2019 either, so reality could catch up to us all very quickly.

The big new players in toys as of late have been Amazon and Walgreens, and they have different goals as a store. One sells literally anything, while the other has to engineer a precise, successful footprint of toys to drive traffic and to maximize sales. You can't have a flop when you have almost 10,000 stores, and you can't have things that cost more than $30 and expect a ton of success. Funko's $10 Pop! figures thrive in the current environment, and will likely continue to be fine. Video games are transitioning toward downloads, which means video game-only stores (some of which are transitioning to toys) could also be in big trouble.

If Toys R Us goes away, I'll miss it - I usually stopped in during lunch a couple of times a week and made the trek out to further-away locations on weekends. I spent a lot of time in there, good days and bad, perusing for plastic because of a variety of reasons. I've learned a lot, and it's been a valued asset to our hobby. If it goes away, the future of toys and play are very much in your hands. We're going to see who can adapt and who can't, and I would wager Hasbro might stumble a bit with fewer products engaging collectors causing the already aging base to quit early. Some things are just fantastic consumer items, like the 6-inch Marvel Legends or Black Series figures. The new Transformers Studio Series line was designed with that kind of customer in mind, but the lack of movie nostalgia combined with these being mostly improved versions of existing character toys on the market could mean things back up and resources get reallocated. Power Rangers are coming from Hasbro in 2019, and other licenses may be moving around. We also just saw what may well be the end of non-Amiibo toys-to-life products.

I don't mean to be all doom and gloom. If you collect today, you may have grown up in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. Back then we would often get a dozen or two figures per year, a handful of vehicles, and few to no exclusives in most lines. Toys would be sold for years - not months, or weeks - and launch dates were preposterous. (They still are, but the reasons they're preposterous are different.) The toy world could go back to that, with toy lines the size of a middle-class kid's allowance plus or minus birthday money. Believe it or not, that used to be a consideration before Hasbro had years with 250-350 G.I. Joe or Star Wars action figures in circulation. We also saw far fewer success stories in the 1980s - for every Masters of the Universe there were several Rocks and Bugs and Things, Dino-Mites, Sky Commanders, and Bravestarr. It would be pretty awesome to see that kind of experimentation again, and to not be asked by Hasbro to spend $1500 or more a year to keep up with a brand. We'll see where it shakes out - I'll still be here, and I hope you're here with me. We've been through a lot - and hopefully everybody at Toys R Us manages to find a career and gets through this without much disruption to their lives.

And now the Kay-Bee postscript.

So this came as a surprise. I assumed Toys R Us asset portfolio would yield someone scooping up their brand-names, like Etoys or KB Toys. And someone bought it and is very vocal about it, provided it isn't a prank or something. Linkedin isn't the place I usually expect to see big retail strategic announcements, but I can't assume a lot of people are rushing in to the bustling world of brick-and-mortar speciality sales - but there's clearly a need for it. The mall model is over, finished. Perhaps Kay-Bee could move in to the hollowed-out Tauntaun that is Toys R Us, not unlike a hermit crab or that one shoe place that moved in to all the Fazoli's around here.

The current posts seem to focus heavily on nostalgia and tradition, which seems dubious given that malls failed, Kay-Bee wasn't really a great store, and it was always charging full Manufacturer's Retail Price rather than the toy discounter price as described above in question #4 this week. They made a lot of their money not just through cheap candy and impulse junk at the register, but closeouts. Kay-Bee buyer stories are pretty fascinating stuff, and you can make a lot of money on last year's duds if you price them right.

Despite an appeal of continuity, this new Kay-Bee has nothing in common with the past yet - it's just a name on a new company. Toy sellers may not extend the same terms or relationships, as the way toys are bought and sold have changed a lot since Kay-Bee closed up shop in 2009. Three of the "Top 5" are injured, dying, or dead. Amazon has gone from being a toy dabbler to a major player. Walgreens is now a to destination with exclusives - good ones - in most major figure collector brands. Walmart is having to change its business due to competition from the Internet. Kay-Bee might have been a casualty of the ailing mall world had they survived their death-by-loan, so whoever's running the show has a tremendous opportunity and big shoes to fill. I wish them the best, because the toy industry does best when there are more players and a diverse range of customers. If Amazon, Walmart, and Target drive 80% of the market things are going to get really bad for collectors of Mattel or Hasbro brands, or those big licenses may greatly benefit from multiple manufacturers just so everybody can get a little more attention. I'm eager to have a toy store I can go to that does more than educational toys, and it's not like Playmobil has a major chain carrying a significant (or really even insignificant) portion of their product line.

Things went from chaotic to bizarre - and we haven't even started the big summer movie season yet.

--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.


Willing to buy a few extra barges and ship


I saw the posts from the collectors in Australia and I am willing to help out my fellow colectors and buy a few extra and ship them. BUT I will only do this for people in EU or Australia, have heard too many horror stories about other countries custom offices. Also I expect shipping will be expensive, $300 would about what I expect. Also this is limited to 4 people. Anyway, just message me through here.

Willing to help out fellow international collectors

Hi I would not mind helping out my fellow international collectors. I would be willing to buy a few extra and send them. But only to EU or Australia, not willing to deal with other countries custom agencies. Also I have a limit of 5 that I will do this for. You tell me how you want it shipped and will do my best but like Adam said, I would expect it to cost around $300.