When it rains, it pours– at least for Joe fans.
Yanking G.I. Joe toys with retailers
Reversal causes spirited round of musical shelvesBy MARC GRASERAt major retailers nationwide, something is missing from the toy aisles: “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” action figures. In their place, an empty space.With Paramount moving the actioner from June 29 to March 29, 2013, to give it more muscle at the box office with 3D, retailers are being asked to send back the line of Hasbro toys that were starting to appear on shelves.
Some Walmart, Toys R Us and Target locations had started to stock the toys this week, although they weren’t supposed to make them available until next week. Those that did wanted to get a jump on demand, and some of the 47 items that would’ve been sold are expected to show up on eBay at inflated prices by the end of the weekend.
In a statement, released Friday, Hasbro said: “G.I. Joe is an ongoing consumer franchise and therefore there is merchandise available to consumers. There is a limited amount of ‘G.I. Joe Retaliation’ product at retail now, but in light of the movie moving out to March 29, 2013, the majority of the movie line will be made available early next year in time for the film’s release.”
Still, the movie’s delay is creating a headache for retailers. Because of the new line of movie-related toys, stores started to clear shelf space of existing “G.I. Joe” toys by discounting a 30th anniversary line and animated offshoot “Renegades.”
Store managers contacted by Variety said that the space that was allotted for “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” will now go to “The Amazing Spider-Man” toys and “The Avengers,” which is still doing brisk business — for Hasbro.
Mangers upset by the film’s nine-month delay said they weren’t sure if they would order the same amount of “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” toys come March, because the summer movie season typically means bigger toy business for retailers. Hasbro isn’t worried about the loss of revenue from “G.I. Joe” toy sales.
In a separate statement, Hasbro said: “In 2012, we continue to have several strong motion picture and television entertainment-backed properties that are selling well at retail … we continue to believe, absent the impact of foreign exchange, we will again grow revenues and earnings per share.”
Yet as it tries to keep retailers happy, Hasbro now has another problem to deal with: “G.I. Joe’s” more hardcore fans, with a G.I. Joe Convention set to take place in New Orleans June 28-July 1 — the same weekend the movie was set to open.
Now, does this mean that there won’t be any product in store at all? Today is technically the release date for all Retaliation-related items to toy shelves. Yet, a quick check of local merchants (Wal-mart, Kmart, Target) in my area produced some disturbing findings. (Non of this is indicative of a retail product pull but it does show a severe “lack of enthusiasm for the product.) Of the stores I visited, I checked both shelf coverage and SKU availability in inventory computers. This is what I found:
- Walmart: nothing on the shelf and most employees report “nothing” in the back
- Target: nothing on the shelf and the action figure SKU reports “no in stockroom” and shelf location is “n/a” (No allocated space)
- Toys R Us: Both of the local stores jumped the gun and put the product out Friday. One store featured items in the “Avengers shop” up front vs. in the regular aisle
- Kmart: Nothing on shelves (no allocated space) and no product in back.
I’ve worked toy retail in the past and I’ve worked through some pretty large product recalls. Back in 2000, Hasbro recalled HUNDREDS of Star Wars: Episode 1 figures from the FAO Schwarz flagship I worked at due to disproportionate inventory of certain figures preventing new product from reaching stores. (Ric Olie, Padme in Peasant disguise, Jar Jar Binks) It was an expensive proposition for both the stores and Hasbro as all items had to be removed, repackaged, and shipped back to Pawtucket. The cost to a retailer in both materials and labor can make a recall company-wide not an economically viable solution. Rather, what I see happening is this– if you’ve been to a store that has Retaliation product out that’s most likely all that you’re going to see. Warehouses and distribution centers will probably return their stock to Hasbro rather than sit on it for 9 months but individual stores will probably sell through the on-hand inventory and then re-allocate the space for other products. (As stated above, Avengers will benefit from this as will Amazing Spider-man merchandise– both produced by Hasbro.)
The key takeway in the article from Variety is that this kind of event can make retailers a bit “gun shy” of a particular brand– especially one with the unfortunate past that G.I. Joe has had these past few years. Rise of Cobra items stagnated on shelves and had to be clearanced out and Hasbro’s distribution of the 30th line which was produced in much smaller quantities (so it would seem) left empty peg and shelf space that some retailers reclaimed for other on-hand items. Now, with Retalation shifting from the profitable summer season to early spring, toy retailers are less likely to order product in the quantities that they had before— leaving G.I. Joe to heal another bruise on its already batter perception as an under-performing legacy toy line of the past.
Only time will tell.