• SSG's Monthly Hasbro Q&A - September 8th, 2011

      Attachment 25360After a hiatus in the program, Q&A is back. Every month, we get to ask Hasbro 2 questions. Back on August 18th we sent in 2 questions, and Hasbro has just sent us back the answers.

      SSG: Last fall, Hasbro finally had to bite the bullet and raise pricing across the line, both movie product and Clone Wars. Retailers seemed to take an odd approach with the raised prices, showing many instances where they'd set a price even a dollar or two higher than what Hasbro was aiming for. Now the main line Vintage Collection figures go for $9 to $11 at the major retailers, Clone Wars figures go from $7 to $9.50 at the major retailers, and pricing on bigger stuff that was still key to the line - like Starfighter Vehicles and (now-discontinued) 4-figure Battle Packs - have been jumping up around $25 to $30 at the big retailers. Pricing has always been a challenge, it's even part of what killed the original Kenner line back in '85, but it seems to some collectors like right now that pricing has gone beyond what the market will bear for little 3.75-inch Star Wars figures. Saga Legends, once a powerhouse for the Star Wars line with casual collectors and kids, now seems to be struggling, and during spring through the summer reset, both Target and Walmart stores in many areas were clearancing them out and taking the SKU off their shelves. Both casual collector interest and even fan interest seems to have finally found the "make or break" point with the new pricepoints, or at least making them far more discerning about what they were considering buying. Does Hasbro view the pricing situation for Star Wars anywhere near the view we collectors are seeing?

      Hasbro: Like most major manufacturers, Hasbro is seeing cost increases like never before and that sometimes results in pricing increases. We always benchmark our competition and we work closely with our retail partners to set the appropriate retail prices.

      SSG: At 2010 SDCC, we interviewed Derryl and asked a question about the philosophy behind the very successful Hasbro Star Wars Q&A, to which he responded:

      "It does take a lot of time to answer questions and not be glib. It's actually very easy to be glib, with Star Wars we set out from the very first session to try and solve a problem we had with the fan base, which was a real wall that seemed to exist. So we wanted to smash down a wall which had built up between corporate Hasbro and the fanbase at large. Our mission to do the Q&A was really precipitated by kind of a lack of insight or understanding into our actual processes that we used when creating the line, when making the decisions we do, and balancing the fact that we're fans but at the same time we're working at a company and we have financial obligations to the company to deliver on a certain target, what was promised, and we have to balance that. We hope that we've made that kind of corporate financial aspect almost invisible to the way we approach the line, it's a necessity that's always behind us.

      But that's why you see things, I talked about, like, we had to balance the costing and here's what goes into costing. We'll make a character selection or wave selection or vehicle selection based on balancing all the aspects of how big these characters are, how much deco they're gonna take, how much tooling - you know, that's always a big one - how much tooling a wave consumes, and by doing so we're able to give fans the ability to communicate, to write and talk about things in the same way that we do, and we've seen an evolution in the way fans perceive the line, which means that we've done a good job helping fans understand the things that we have to balance. So my appreciation goes out to the fans too for responding to that, which means that we can move on to other questions of character selection or things like that that we know people really want to get to. [Q&A as an education,] you're right, and getting back to the point where it would be easy to be glib to answer questions, to be short and say "no" or "yes" to some questions. The Star Wars fanbase is the most passionate fanbase on the planet. We exist, our jobs exist because of the fans. Our approach to the Q&A is when somebody asks an impassioned question, to respect that question, right? Sometimes they may not be things we want to be asked, but it's our job to answer them, to not show an emotional response, to answer them with the respect the question deserves, and we treat everything equally. Some people want very specific answers, some people very broad, but everything really deserves an answer, and that's we approach it. So, our answer back to the fans is to show an appreciation of the passion and respect that they bring to Star Wars.

      Derryl's comments there impressed us quite a bit and showed a stark contrast to what we had been experiencing at the time with Hasbro's Transformers Q&A, where answers did come off seeming glib and lacking repect for those fans. This year, with Jeff taking over SW Q&A from Derryl, the first few batches of answers have come off with somewhat of a brief, glib, vague, even some fans feel mocking in tone - more PR-styled answers than giving fans a real understanding of how the brand works. We hope this is a misunderstanding of each other, just a breaking-in period and not a repeat of the ultimately pointless Transformers Q&A. If so, what can we fans do to help smooth this transitional period? If not, what's the new intention of this Q&A, what's the point?

      Hasbro: As Derryl mentioned in that answer, doing the Star Wars Q&A is definitely a tricky task. If we’ve been coming off as glib, it certainly wasn’t our intent and we hope the fans will understand we’re always trying to improve our lines of communication. Our intent is always to try to let the fans in on our thought process as much as possible, and we strive to answer every question to the fullest extent possible. If you see areas for improvement for us, please continue to let us know.
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      Comments 4 Comments
      1. JediTricks's Avatar
        JediTricks -
        I don't know how to feel about #2's response, I am hopeful but realistically it feels like tied hands there; I know exactly how to feel about #1's response though: annoyed that they missed the point.
      1. bigbarada's Avatar
        bigbarada -
        Yeah, the answer to question #1 sounds like they wrote it up before they read question #2.
      1. Mr. JabbaJohnL's Avatar
        Mr. JabbaJohnL -
        If nothing else, hopefully #2 put the idea in their head that they need to work on these a little bit. Most of the other questions this round from around the web were fairly straightforward, so not much to ask for there. I don't know what else they could have said on #1, it's a tough market. I suppose they could have touched more on the collectors' involvement, but they more or less said they feel the prices are appropriate given the circumstances.
      1. JediTricks's Avatar
        JediTricks -
        IMO, it wasn't that "the market is tough" that we were getting at, it was that collectors perceive a problem where pricing is growing beyond what the market will bear for SW, and we were wondering how Hasbro could rebut that idea. Their answer really doesn't address that element at all, and it's that sort of answer which feels like they're merely skimming the questions and giving stock answers rather than respecting the need for an honest dialog.
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