Q&A: Star Wars Store Shelves, Porg Packs, and Star Cases

By Adam Pawlus — Sunday, January 21, 2018

1. Do you think one of the biggest challenges Hasbro (and all toy companies) have is the lack of retailers? Back when the "Golden age" of the Star Wars lines there were quite a few more outlets to get product to people now as far a traditional b&m stores there is really only Walmart and Target (for big retailers) I know there are many online outlets to get product but I think there is still for most anyway the need to hold it in your hand before buying is still a thing. Also with the lack of retailers (Kaybee, Ames etc) we also know they are making far less product than they were even 10 years ago thus driving up the productions costs (making 100 of something costs less than making 10 of something) What are your thoughts on this.

It seems we're all regularly looking for a single problem, a sole turning point, one thing that changed how the world works. Maybe it's a toy, maybe it's an entertainment property, or maybe it's a world event. Usually one thing can be a tipping point, but like the end of a relationship there are countless factors brewing before someone says "that's it, we're through."

I don't think the lack of retailers is helping, but there's no one big problem right now other than kids don't want the toys we're trying to sell them. Collectors are good, adult souvenir seekers are grand, but you want those millions of kids asking for these things for their birthdays. And you want a lot of shelves at stores. And you want an easy way to reach kids, like Saturday morning cartoons, which are no longer significant. Generally speaking, you can't argue with good sales - and if Hasbro thinks they're making the best possible line (nope) and the sales aren't great (possibly), the outcome may not be one you nor I enjoy.

The amount of things that are different today than they were 10 years ago (as the 30th Anniversary Collection was wrapping up) are legion. We're seeing Hasbro move to Vietnam as China is expensive - higher materials and labor costs mean Hasbro wants to (and perhaps has to) get more out of each item than another, smaller company. If Playmates or Funko or some indie was doing Star Wars, the run sizes wouldn't have to be quite as large and there might be an opportunity to do more to be more nimble - maybe. Disney and Lucasfilm call a lot of shots these days, so the line, as it is, comes through the information that Lucasfilm decides to show to Hasbro or other licensees.

I've always been a big fan of the two-front system - an online seller benefits from a decent brick-and-mortar strategy, in theory. If you go to Target, pick up a figure, and discover a dozen more figures that you want to buy that's fantastic. A decade ago, picking up a figure meant seeing numerous co-sells, thus potentially driving you to another local store or your favorite web site to buy another toy. Today, most Hasbro toys have no co-sells. The 3 3/4-inch action figures for The Last Jedi spend a lot of space showing the figure again, and with multi-lingual copy. I'm normally not the person to say "learn English!" but I do think the approach of having two styles of packaging for the globe aren't doing us any favors, compared to stickered figures or multiple versions unique to each region.

There are so many things happening right now that it's just not as easy to sell figures to the same audience in the same way. The confluence of the 1980s - many stores, Star Wars not being owned by a monopoly, Kenner not competing for Hasbro's other brand marketing or development attention, allowed many toy lines to flourish - and some to flop - while they sold more of fewer products. Ideally, this is where Hasbro wants to be today - and all toy companies would rather sell more units of fewer items. Hasbro is trying really hard to keep that going, but I don't think it's working. Mattel seems to have embraced preposterous quantities of cars in Hot Wheels to their continued benefit, at least for the time being.

From where I sit, we have a product that's not as good as it could be, being decided largely by not-toy people, being sold to aging collectors who are a little bored anyway, or to kids who are over toys, with increasing prices, with fewer stores, with dubious distribution, by a marketplace - and a licensor - with absolutely no attention span. Products have no longevity, and fans declare any figure they already own a pegwarmer. I don't see there being much opportunity for things to get better without Lucas changing its approach, or unless fans decide they want what Hasbro is selling. As neither is likely, expect more of the same, or worse, for years to come.



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2. It's awesome that we are getting a multi pack of Porgs in the 6 inch scale, but what do you think of the possibility of convincing Hasbro into releasing a 4 or 5 pack of the little unarticulated 3.75inch scale Porg that came with Chewie? Would I be asking too much if they could have minor paint variations or maybe even including a "wings out" new sculpt?

Unlikely but not impossible, unless as a convention exclusive or unless they have a significant role in a future movie. Hasbro has moved on, Lucasfilm seems to be very resistant to going back to a previous movie for product in the 3 3/4-inch range, so I hope fans make a big fuss and loud demand if they want something like this. The current regime does not seem to have a good handle on fan relations or making existing movie beings of any kind with precious few exceptions.




3. I recently picked up a lot of used 6x9 Star Cases. When they arrived, their peg-hooks were bent away from each other. They still protect the figures fine, but they look bad when displayed. Any advice out there on how to fix these, like the boiling water trick? Because they're so thin, I'm afraid they'd melt.

I haven't tried it myself, and to date I've ruined only one thing (a build-a-droid R3 dome) with the Boiling Water Trick. I would recommend trying it on a single case and see what happens - if it crumples, well, never do it again. If it works, congratulations! I assume it might have a problem, though.

Be careful, and don't leave it in the water for very long. I expect it could collapse upon itself. Heck, if you try it maybe take a video. This might be fun.



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The decision to cut The Last Jedi - and also Rogue One - short as Hasbro toy lines is a curious one. On the bright side, many of those figures are going to make it out and find a home in the USA. I hope that it's yours, because at work we're selling a few of them. I never thought I'd live to see the day where Hasbro would develop figures that may not necessarily make it to market in the USA regularly, but it's been something we've seen more and more of since 2013. And there were some near-misses that, thankfully, made it out.

With what looks like 18 months between movies, I'm hoping Disney/Lucas will let Hasbro off the leash a bit and let them squeeze out any unmade characters in the 3 3/4-inch size along with some new classic figures. "Classic" meaning "anything older than 1-2 movies ago." The Vintage Collection is something fans asked for, but unfortunately the fans clamoring for it didn't fully explain what they wanted - they just said "more vintage." Which we're getting. They didn't specify "More original trilogy" or "this specific figure." Rod Serling would be proud. (Unless, of course, we're surprised with some new direction different than what we've seen so far.)

I'm happy to see so much coming to market, but I think we all know that Star Wars collecting tends to be the most exciting when there's no movie. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be happening much any more. We got amazing aliens between films. We got our first branded Expanded Universe figures in a dead year. We got The Original Trilogy Collection as a filler line - and we got the better-than-ever The Saga Collection, 30th Anniversary Collection, and The Legacy Collection in years where it seemed like new movies would never, ever happen again. While it's easy to grump and grumble about the line not being exactly what we would have done, that's sort of what happens when Hasbro has to make toys from an unfinished movie months if not a year before anybody sees the final cut. It's a tough business, and sometimes the results leave us wanting more. I don't like the 9-month gap between 3 3/4-inch lines we sometimes get, but I have to say there are worse things than having some breathing room between launches.

I'm excited for Toy Fair - but as of now, I don't know if I'll have something exciting to live tweet from the Times building instead of "let's wait for the movie launch." Let's hope!

--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.