Flash back to nine months ago: 2011 held so much promise for Transformers fans. The dream of new figures that we'd been begging Hasbro for since the introduction of the Classics line five years ago was finally being realized. In presentations and press releases, Hasbro revealed some very exciting new figures would be added to the Generations line and that a new line, Reveal the Shield, would be introduced at the end of the year. Both lines would have some very significant releases as well as popular repaints and would carry fans and collectors through first half of 2011, up to the release of the Dark of the Moon toy line. The first looks at the figures we were getting were downright exciting: Wheeljack, "Special Ops" Jazz, Scourge, Windcharger, "Sergeant" Kup, Perceptor, "Solar Storm" Grapple (well Grappel, but hey, no one ís perfect), Blurr, and Wreck-Gar just to name a few. Some of the staff even named the introduction of the RTS/Generations figures as the most exciting event of 2010. It really felt like Hasbro had been listening to us and what we wanted and was finally turning our feedback and requests into glorious plastic that would bring us that much closer to completing our neo-G1 displays. All was right with the Transformers universe. It seemed too good to be true.
There was only one problem: for many fans, it WAS too good to be true.
Fast forward to the present: the Hunt for the Decepticons line still lingers on, the controversial Power Core Combiners figures have proven to be slow movers, and the big release of the TF3 toy line is little more than a month away. Most retailers seem unwilling to restock shelves with the good stuff in order to clear out lingering figures in anticipation of the onslaught of new movie toys. HasbroToyShop.com is in what seems like a perpetual state of "OUT OF STOCK". Gas prices have shot up to near record levels making the once fun "toy hunt" a very costly endeavor. And in the midst of all the shelf-warmers, empty store pegs, and gas pump agony, we're left standing there asking one very simple question: Where are the new Transformers, Hasbro?
Looking back at what's happened in the past four months, all the figures we were promised last year are, at best, trickling out to stores and retailers. While some fans have report seeing new figures at retail such as Wreck-Gar, Scourge, Tracks, etc., these sightings are inconsistent. Some stores and regions have seen several of the new waves of Generations and Reveal the Shield repeatedly stocked, while others haven't received any of the new waves at all. Every time one of these new figures is introduced to the Seibertron.com galleries or is reported on the sightings forum, we see comments and complaints from fans desperately searching for them. And to make matters worse, in the midst of all the frustration, rumors of partial cancellation of certain releases such as scout-class Windcharger have left collectors scrambling for the handful of figures that have been released-and for answers.
The staff here at Seibertron.com has also been feeling your pain and asking the same questions too so we set out to try and find some answers. We tried the obvious route: go to Hasbro and simply ask the question-where the heck are all the new figures? Why have so many new releases from the Reveal the Shield and Generations lines not made their onto store shelves? Is this a Hasbro problem, a global economy issue, of are stores not ordering other lines in preparation for the Dark of the Moon toys? Are all the newest figures being shipped overseas due to the weak dollar or is this lack of product just the toy gods thumbing their noses in the collective face of Transformers fans everywhere? Needless to say, we're still waiting for a response.
But, interestingly enough, the answer may have actually come to us in the form of a forum post in response to yesterday's story about Hasbro's huge first loss last quarter. Seibertron.com member amtm posted a very revealing excerpt from Hasbro's annual report that was published earlier this year. Here is that post again for those who missed it yesterday:
Revenues from the Company’s top five customers, all retailers, accounted for approximately 50% of its consolidated net revenues in 2010 and 54% and 52% of its consolidated net revenues in 2009 and 2008, respectively. In recent years certain customers in the retail sector have experienced economic difficulty. ...
The Company’s revenue pattern continues to show the second half of the year to be more significant to its overall business for the full year. In 2010, approximately 65% of the Company’s full year net revenues were recognized in the second half of the year. Although the Company expects that this concentration will continue, particularly as more of its business has shifted to larger customers with order patterns concentrated in the second half of the year, this concentration may be less in years where the Company has products related to a major motion picture release that occurs in the first half of the year. In 2010, the Company had products related to the mid-year major motion picture release of IRON MAN 2, while in 2009 the Company had products related to the mid-year major motion picture releases of TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. The concentration of sales in the second half of the year increases the risk of (a) underproduction of popular items, (b) overproduction of less popular items, and (c) failure to achieve tight and compressed shipping schedules. The business of the Company is characterized by customer order patterns which vary from year to year largely because of differences in the degree of consumer acceptance of a product line, product availability, marketing strategies, inventory levels, policies of retailers and differences in overall economic conditions. The trend of larger retailers has been to maintain lower inventories throughout the year and purchase a greater percentage of product within or close to the fourth quarter holiday consumer selling season, which includes Christmas.
Quick response inventory management practices being used by retailers result in more orders being placed for immediate delivery and fewer orders being placed well in advance of shipment. Retailers are timing their orders so that they are being filled by suppliers closer to the time of purchase by consumers. To the extent that retailers do not sell as much of their year-end inventory purchases during this holiday selling season as they had anticipated, their demand for additional product earlier in the following fiscal year may be curtailed, thus negatively impacting the Company’s future revenues.
What can we take from all of this? In a nutshell, no matter how great Hasbro's products are, if they're released in the beginning of the year, the retail sector is just not going to be very interested. They're too busy cooling down after the Christmas boom and waiting for the summer/fall toys to carry them back into the holidays again. So perhaps the latest Generations and RTS figures are simply the victim of bad timing. No matter how good they are or how many of us want them, the business philosophy of the Walmarts, Tescos, and Targets of the world is to is to buy and stock as little new product as possible first half of the year. Which lead us to our last question of this article...
If the stores aren't stocking these amazing figures, for whatever reason, why can't we ever find them on HasbroToyShop.com? This is the question we've already posed to Hasbro and it's the questions we're going to continue to ask. And we want your help! We want to hear from you. We want you to sound off to us about your issues finding figures in your area. Are you seeing a lot of empty pegs at stores in your area? Are you seeing tons of old stock on shelves, Hunt for the Decepticons figures or older? Do you feel like you have to purchase figures at a premium price just to assure you'll get them? Have you missed out at HasbroToyShop.com when the new figures are reported as being in Stock? We'd like to hear from you, your latest experiences in stores and online, and if you're having any success now finding the newest and most sought-after from the Reveal the Shield and Generations lines. Send us photos of what the sorry shelves or pegs look like at your local retailer. We'll collect your comments and photos and share them with Hasbro so they can get first hand accounts of what you're seeing (or what you haven't seen) in stores and just how bad the new figure drought is in some areas. Please keep it clean and civil though-over the top or nasty comments won't be included.
Let's all unite and let Hasbro know what's going on in the retail trenches we wage our collecting battles in. We might not be able to change the world or get more figures on store shelves, but together, maybe we can at least get Hasbro to acknowledge the problem, understand our pains, and get more stock up on HasbroToyShop.
In the meantime, while we're all waiting for a reply and hopefully some action, take a look at what we've all been waiting for. Check out some of the Seibertron.com galleries of some of the best figures from the Generations and Reveal the Shield toy lines by clicking the links or images below.