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Why such a short shelf life span for some Lego sets?

Just bought my brother the Coast guard helicopter and noticed that even though it's only been roughly 6 months since it went on sale it's already discontinued in shops and even on the Lego website, anyone know why? I always thought it was a great set. I can only guess it hasn't sold very well.

Comments

  • dougtsdougts Oregon, USAMember Posts: 4,129
    just speculation, but it often seems to me that these shorter lifespans are driven by a specific rare part or color. rather than producing another batch of that part, they just discontinue the product instead.

    that said, the CG helicopter is showing in stock at LEGO right now (US)
    mressin
  • Big_Blue_WinkyBig_Blue_Winky Member Posts: 181
    Ah that explains it then, also makes good business sense, rather than spending out making new parts just stop it altogether, not so great for the consumers but then it's all about making money at the end of the day I guess.

    Interesting that it's in stock in the US and not in the UK, doesn't even show in the shop on the phone and on the computer says out of stock with no due date.
  • PaperballparkPaperballpark Near ManchesterMember Posts: 4,057
    I think the 'secondary' ranges for City only tend to have a shelf-life of about a year, to make way for a new secondary range the following year, but I could be wrong.
  • Big_Blue_WinkyBig_Blue_Winky Member Posts: 181
    That's probably true, make way for something shiny and newish, keep it fresh. Year seems about right but this would seem to be 6 months which is very short by my reckoning.
  • KiwiLegoMeisterKiwiLegoMeister New ZealandMember Posts: 212
    edited February 2014
    I rather suspect that deliberate limited shelf life is linked to a perverse desire to drive relative scarcity. Relative scarcity (in some cases, out-right scarcity) generates the collectors market, and drives prices high. Having a collectors market with increasing prices is good thing for Lego, as it drives demand to get-in-quick when better sets are produced, thereby driving sales up. A bit of the 'OMG, I better grab it quick before it runs out, and re-sale prices sky-rocket'.
    This of course is the classic marketer's dream; think sale of water-front property, apartments, shares, gold, basically anything!.
  • TheLoneTensorTheLoneTensor MericaMember Posts: 3,950
    The white shark is unique to this set, if it is indeed some marketing attempt by Lego to drive up the aftermarket value of such a set.
  • Big_Blue_WinkyBig_Blue_Winky Member Posts: 181
    Shares is something I'm certainly familiar to and can see exactly what they're doing, you've not the nail on the head there I think, give the collector's market a boost to show how much potential for investment there is and how popular their brand is too.
    I got a very early set with the gill-less white shark too so in theory rarer still(possibly why they did it, create a story around it etc)
  • GalactusGalactus NLMember Posts: 259
    Doubtful. It's a typical AFOL way to look at the collectors market when buying. The main target audience of LEGO is kids...
    Yellowcastlesidersddpharmjodcloaked7madforLEGO
  • AleyditaAleydita BelgiumMember Posts: 927
    I reckon people underestimate the value of the AFOL market to TLG.

    However I personally doubt they make some sets limited because they want to scare people into buying early, I suspect it's more a case of prioritising their finite production capacity. They probably schedule sets 2-3 years in advance, taking into account the need to offer exclusive sets (/polys) to some retailers and the need to meet agreed production quantities for licenced sets. If the odd minor set sells out much quicker than they expected, it's probably not worth their while to interrupt their production schedule just to run a few more off - primarily because there's almost always going to be something else they can offer retailers to fill that particular gap on the shelf.
    Yellowcastlepharmjoddougts
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,635

    .......if it is indeed some marketing attempt by Lego to drive up the aftermarket value of such a set.

    Absolutely not. "Reselling" and the "aftermarket" are dirty words for LEGO right now.

    Incidentally, I think LEGO also underestimate the value of the AFOL market, @Aleydita.

    D.
    Aleydita
  • TheLoneTensorTheLoneTensor MericaMember Posts: 3,950

    .......if it is indeed some marketing attempt by Lego to drive up the aftermarket value of such a set.

    Absolutely not. "Reselling" and the "aftermarket" are dirty words for LEGO right now.

    Incidentally, I think LEGO also underestimate the value of the AFOL market, @Aleydita.

    D.
    Absolutely not? Perhaps, but then again, when a four billion dollar company's marketing department tells me something, I tend to take it with a grain of salt.
  • LegoFanTexasLegoFanTexas TexasMember Posts: 8,409
    For what it is worth, the Coast Guard Helicopter was always meant to be short lifed, it was on the EOL list for 12/31/2013.

    Or to be more clear, that was the last order date for ITD accounts to order it by, my understanding is that it can no longer be ordered, whatever exists is all that will be made, but there is still supply in the channel for it, so it won't really disappear until later this Summer most likely.

    It will do well, I've got a bunch stacked up, helicopters at this price range seem to do well, because it can double in price and still not be beyond "gift giving price".
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,635

    .......if it is indeed some marketing attempt by Lego to drive up the aftermarket value of such a set.

    Absolutely not. "Reselling" and the "aftermarket" are dirty words for LEGO right now.

    Incidentally, I think LEGO also underestimate the value of the AFOL market, @Aleydita.

    D.
    Absolutely not? Perhaps, but then again, when a four billion dollar company's marketing department tells me something, I tend to take it with a grain of salt.
    Not sure I follow - what exactly are the marketing department telling you that you're taking with a grain of salt
  • Ma1234Ma1234 Member Posts: 693
    A lot of sets have short life spans, but the coast guard copter is not discontinued and remains in the 2014 assortment.
  • AanchirAanchir United StatesMember Posts: 2,921
    Sets these days in general have a shorter shelf life than they used to in order to regularly make space on shelves for new sets that will keep demand blazing steadily, rather than petering out between major releases. Part of it is also pressure from retailers, who always like being able to advertise that they have something "new", especially once the holiday shopping rush is over.

    City in particular probably has a short shelf life because it is one of the LEGO Group's biggest and most popular themes.

    Big flagship sets like castles, pirate ships, and trains tend to have a very long shelf life compared to many other sets because they don't sell nearly as quickly as smaller sets that can be more easily bought on impulse. Thus, it doesn't make sense to release a new one every year (even fire and police stations, staples of the LEGO City lineup, alternate from year to year — there will be a fire line and a police line each year, but only one will get a new station that year).
  • graphitegraphite USMember Posts: 3,270
    Aanchir said:

    Part of it is also pressure from retailers, who always like being able to advertise that they have something "new", especially once the holiday shopping rush is over.

    Unless you're some Walmarts who like to put the "NEW" labels on pretty much everything on the shelves even if it has been there for months.
  • TheLoneTensorTheLoneTensor MericaMember Posts: 3,950
    edited February 2014

    .......if it is indeed some marketing attempt by Lego to drive up the aftermarket value of such a set.

    Absolutely not. "Reselling" and the "aftermarket" are dirty words for LEGO right now.

    Incidentally, I think LEGO also underestimate the value of the AFOL market, @Aleydita.

    D.
    Absolutely not? Perhaps, but then again, when a four billion dollar company's marketing department tells me something, I tend to take it with a grain of salt.
    Not sure I follow - what exactly are the marketing department telling you that you're taking with a grain of salt
    My point is that Lego tells us they don't like reselling, and they set down rules against it. Even with those actions, Lego would fully take advantage of the aftermarket, and all the brand-persistence benefits thereof, if they figured out a good way to make it happen. Remember the magical story about the kid who wished for an Emerald Night? That set didn't materialize out of thin air, and they got some good PR mileage out of that one.

    So, thinking that Lego is "Absolutely not" interested in a healthy aftermarket is not something I believe.
  • madforLEGOmadforLEGO Chicagoland USMember Posts: 10,108
    My guess is that City can run out and they make more, most City sets are for 2 years. There are some exceptions, like the large dump truck for the Mine series, and I think that has to do with the sets are exclusive to one store or another (at least in the states).
    I'm guessing that also how many LEGO sells in the time they are out. If the set is a dog that just is not selling they may end it early.
  • OldfanOldfan Chicagoland, IL, USAMember Posts: 673
    Regarding unavailability on the LEGO shop site: this status can change daily, depending on the stock on hand (I guess). I've seen some sets go on and off the site several times over the course of a year. For instance, it's very common with the "hot new set": everyone buys out the stock on hand the first day, and it's not available until the next shipment from the factory in another week or so.

    Usually, a "retiring soon" notice comes out from LEGO before true EOL, but not always...
  • LegoFanTexasLegoFanTexas TexasMember Posts: 8,409
    Ma1234 said:

    A lot of sets have short life spans, but the coast guard copter is not discontinued and remains in the 2014 assortment.

    Interesting, I'll have to ask about that one... It is possible that it was changed...
  • BastaBasta Australia Member Posts: 1,259
    edited February 2014
    Well for what its worth it is listed as "Retired product" on the Australian [email protected] page, as well as all the EU sites I checked.

    http://shop.lego.com/en-AU/Coast-Guard-Helicopter-60013

    So unless sets come back from the dead, I assume production has stopped on this one.
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Hertfordshire, UKAdministrator Posts: 6,635


    My point is that Lego tells us they don't like reselling, and they set down rules against it. Even with those actions, Lego would fully take advantage of the aftermarket, and all the brand-persistence benefits thereof, if they figured out a good way to make it happen. Remember the magical story about the kid who wished for an Emerald Night? That set didn't materialize out of thin air, and they got some good PR mileage out of that one.

    So, thinking that Lego is "Absolutely not" interested in a healthy aftermarket is not something I believe.

    I'm not following your arguments - the very fact that LEGO can't take advantage of the aftermarket, as you state, is surely a good reason for them to dislike reselling, not to mention the fact that every pound spent on retired sets is a pound not spent on new sets from a retailer or from LEGO themselves.
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Northern VirginiaAdministrator, Moderator Posts: 5,036
    I think I'm with @Tensor here. A healthy aftermarket value for a brand's products elevates the perceived value of the brand. While it seems counterproductive to gaining a greater share of a fan's limited LEGO buying funds, seeding the aftermarket whether intentionally or unintentionally with sought after, limited release sets every so often primes the collecting pump and drives some percentage of sales back into the current market. This is why I believe TLG loves fan sites as we do so much of the work for them, slow boiling the collecting stew. I for one didnt wait to get the Imperial Flagship or Space Shuttle for fear it would diacontinue without notice. I previously would triage my big purchases and hope for a sale. The craziness of some theme schedules along with the dissolution of exclusive discounts drastically changed my buying habits and returned LBR to a primary source for exclusives.

    And if the AFOL community stood down indefinetely on selling and buying in the aftermarket, ceased buying in the current market and shuttered our fan sites, I think the brand would take a serious hit well beyond the floated 5% market share. While I agree that LEGO obviously dislikes active limited availability set speculating, I think they're giddy about retired set fervor.
  • KiwiLegoMeisterKiwiLegoMeister New ZealandMember Posts: 212
    It is a well established fact in business that in order to cut costs, you cut (stock) storage. Stock-in-hand is both an asset and a liability. It is an asset on the books; but a liability in terms of risk.
    Having low stock, and pushing out to the stores (which likewise don't like high stock-in-hand) means
    (1) having to be able to respond quickly when extra orders come in; and
    (2) generally keeping a shorter shelf life in stores, so new stock can be dished out quickly.

    You can produce 10 items and keep them on the store-shelf all year long; or you can produce 120 items and either only stock 1/12th of each (compared to the 10 items) or stock them for only 1/12th of the year (ie roll the stock over each month).
    Keeping new sets ticking over keeps up interest - who wants to go Lego shopping when its the same range day-in-day-out?

    Perhaps Lego should keep older sets in stock online well beyond shelf life in the shops?
    In this modern age, (and knowing how computerised Lego factories are), an online order can trigger the Lego robots into packing and sending a set. Lego don't actually need to keep prepared sets in stock. Boxes might be a bit different; perhaps afterlife sets ordered through Lego needs only plain packaging!
    Many manufacturing companies do this. place an order for most kitset furniture, and it rolls off the shop floor for you. Place an order for roofing materials, they cut-to-size and deliver.
  • jockosjunglejockosjungle Member Posts: 701
    What people often forget is there is a finite amount of space on store shelves, hence why Lego don't chuck out four times the amount of sets they do now, shops don't magically increase space!

    They'll have done their homework, sets will have a peak and I presume it will be either at Christmas or when sets first launch with sales trailing off, so keeping sets going is never going to be much of a business model.
  • Big_Blue_WinkyBig_Blue_Winky Member Posts: 181


    My point is that Lego tells us they don't like reselling, and they set down rules against it. Even with those actions, Lego would fully take advantage of the aftermarket, and all the brand-persistence benefits thereof, if they figured out a good way to make it happen. Remember the magical story about the kid who wished for an Emerald Night? That set didn't materialize out of thin air, and they got some good PR mileage out of that one.

    So, thinking that Lego is "Absolutely not" interested in a healthy aftermarket is not something I believe.

    I'm not following your arguments - the very fact that LEGO can't take advantage of the aftermarket, as you state, is surely a good reason for them to dislike reselling, not to mention the fact that every pound spent on retired sets is a pound not spent on new sets from a retailer or from LEGO themselves.
    Well when you look at it like that you can see why they'd be against it but like with most things I wouldn't be surprised if they cash in on the retired sets themselves, for starters most people who buy to speculate often buy multiple sets so it's extra money for them there.

    Also quite likely is they cash in on it by selling off whatever stocks they have left over when the market goes up a lot too, like most supercar dealers/manufacturers when their product is first released in short numbers or when a limited run is sold out to special customers the values on them are sky high as supply
  • binaryeyebinaryeye USMember Posts: 1,734

    Also quite likely is they cash in on it by selling off whatever stocks they have left over when the market goes up a lot too, like most supercar dealers/manufacturers when their product is first released in short numbers or when a limited run is sold out to special customers the values on them are sky high as supply

    Are you suggesting this is done under the guise of a third party? I'm fairly certain LEGO doesn't sell their own sets above RRP after they've been discontinued.
  • cloaked7cloaked7 Member Posts: 1,448
    edited February 2014

    I for one didn't wait to get the Imperial Flagship or Space Shuttle for fear it would diacontinue without notice. I previously would triage my big purchases and hope for a sale. The craziness of some theme schedules along with the dissolution of exclusive discounts drastically changed my buying habits and returned LBR to a primary source for exclusives.

    I pretty much do the same. Most any set will be available for at least 6 months, but beyond that it may be iffy for some sets. If it is a set I definitely want I get it within 6 months after it is released. Only LEGO knows how long they will make a set, and even with them I'm sure it's not set in stone. I'm sure that have tentative schedules, but one that it is constantly adjusted and regularly changed.

    One example of a set I got early and was glad I did, the Technic Front End Loader. It wasn't out very long at all. It would have been extremely easy to have been missed. I remember that one well, because I ordered it while on vacation years ago. I was in a beach condo trying to order the set from the TRU website. TRU had a BOGO (buy 2 get 1 free) sale and that set would't BOGO on their website. I ended up calling TRU and the CS person gave me the BOGO offer. That allowed me to get 3 of them. The only 3 I was able to get. Shortly after it was out of stock everywhere.

  • TheLoneTensorTheLoneTensor MericaMember Posts: 3,950
    ^ Ah, the fond memories of the good old days when B2G1 still existed at TRU.
  • YellowcastleYellowcastle Northern VirginiaAdministrator, Moderator Posts: 5,036
    Now it's B2GO30% ;o)
  • Big_Blue_WinkyBig_Blue_Winky Member Posts: 181
    binaryeye said:

    Also quite likely is they cash in on it by selling off whatever stocks they have left over when the market goes up a lot too, like most supercar dealers/manufacturers when their product is first released in short numbers or when a limited run is sold out to special customers the values on them are sky high as supply

    Are you suggesting this is done under the guise of a third party? I'm fairly certain LEGO doesn't sell their own sets above RRP after they've been discontinued.

    It's feasible the potential to make big money is high, they could double their profits of each set just by selling on some after market, if car companies can make from it why not a toy manufacturer? Business is business at the end of the day.
  • monkeyhangermonkeyhanger Member Posts: 3,011

    I think I'm with @Tensor here. A healthy aftermarket value for a brand's products elevates the perceived value of the brand.

    Completely agree with this - retained value/high second hand value is a big consideration when making a purchase. It is a major consideration I make when buying a new car and can be applied to a fair few purchases.

    Lego is unique (apart from the clone brands) in that any given item that TLG make can be used with any other item TLG make, and the product has a value not only as a complete set, but as a bunch of parts.

    TLG can't really get into the used market unless they did some part-ex scheme or swap-shop style organisation.

  • monkeyhangermonkeyhanger Member Posts: 3,011
    edited February 2014



    Perhaps Lego should keep older sets in stock online well beyond shelf life in the shops?
    In this modern age, (and knowing how computerised Lego factories are), an online order can trigger the Lego robots into packing and sending a set. Lego don't actually need to keep prepared sets in stock. Boxes might be a bit different; perhaps afterlife sets ordered through Lego needs only plain packaging!
    Many manufacturing companies do this. place an order for most kitset furniture, and it rolls off the shop floor for you. Place an order for roofing materials, they cut-to-size and deliver.

    A "just in time" approach does work for relatively simple large scale product, or something that comes from a common item that is simply cut down to the customer's measurement requirements (for items with large storage costs/implications to otherwise carry ready to buy stock), and might work well for expensive smaller one offs that can be done via 3D printing, but unless TLG can knock up one-off sets from a plan close to the "per unit" efficiency they can by making a production run of thousands then the idea of freshly prepared afterlife TLG products probably isn't feasable at the kind of prices we're used to paying for Lego.

  • jockosjunglejockosjungle Member Posts: 701
    I don't imagine Lego ever using the after market as a sales boost, for a start there wouldn't be much of an after market if Lego had warehouses full of specific sets and the costs of keeping them, etc. would outweigh the benefits.

    But it would pretty much kill off the after market

  • AleyditaAleydita BelgiumMember Posts: 927
    According to a documentary I saw recently, TLG does have a small-scale production capability that's separate to the normal production lines. This is where they do test runs, small promo runs, etc. I guess it's also where the employee-only sets and the tour sets are made as well though I don't know for sure. I'd be amazed though if they used this to run off a few previously mass-produced sets, just to sell at a mark-up to the after-market. Any increased margin would be swallowed up by the increased production and logistics costs.
  • jockosjunglejockosjungle Member Posts: 701
    And for every UCS Falcon there is a Prince of Persia. In all honesty I cannot think of any toy company that does this, regardless of whether the items are collectable.

    I know everyone disagrees with me, but the after market isn't actually "unlimited people will pay an unlimited amount for old lego sets". If I were to release 2000 Taj Mahals onto the market, the price would plummet. The scarcity of early sets is what drives the value and that nobody had the forsight to stock up, this isn't really the case any more.

    So could Lego really be bothered to stockpile 1000 UCS Imperial Shuttles just to drip feed them onto the market?

    Aanchir
  • TheLoneTensorTheLoneTensor MericaMember Posts: 3,950
    edited February 2014

    And for every UCS Falcon there is a Prince of Persia.

    I'd say the ratio is about 1:100, maybe even 1:500.

    I know everyone disagrees with me, but the after market isn't actually "unlimited people will pay an unlimited amount for old lego sets". If I were to release 2000 Taj Mahals onto the market, the price would plummet. The scarcity of early sets is what drives the value and that nobody had the forsight to stock up, this isn't really the case any more.

    I don't think anyone on here would disagree with anything you said here except the last part. Supply, when weighed against demand is, will be and always has been the driving force of price. When people could get the FB anywhere? $150. Suddenly the supply drops because of retirement and a month later boom, $250.

    So could Lego really be bothered to stockpile 1000 UCS Imperial Shuttles just to drip feed them onto the market?

    They certainly could, as could Target, Walmart or Bob the reseller; if they wanted to park the necessary funds, take the risk with those necessary funds, store the sets, pay the "broker/speculator" to be sure to pick the right sets to stockpile and administrate the marketing & shipping of the sets. Frankly, the aftermarket is too small potatoes for Lego to actually invest in. The money they would make would be a drop compared to their overall revenue. It's just not worth their time or effort. If Bob makes $200k selling those shuttles, Bob is happy. If Lego, Target et al. were to make $200k on the same shuttles, nobody would care, and they'd probably shut down the operation because again, it's not worth their time.
    cloaked7
  • cloaked7cloaked7 Member Posts: 1,448
    edited February 2014
    LEGO, or any other company, would get into the reselling business of their own product very carefully and with a lot of planning. I can't think of any company that has done so. And, I'm not talking about discount company stores that sell old product at a discount. I'm talking about a separate division that sells old product at a premium. I don't think I've ever seen it happen or ever will. The closest example I can think of is a mfg company that has a parts division. And, we all know how expensive replacement parts are. How many of you feel great after paying insane prices for a replacement part? They are typically marked up 3-4X to make up for the storage and cataloging costs. And if the company is going to go to all of that trouble they are going to want a very nice profit, otherwise just put that effort into your core business.

    Just think how it would go over with customers if LEGO had a reselling business that charged premium prices. Customers would feel ripped off and taken advantage of. Any maybe rightly so. Also, LEGO could manipulate inventory, shelf life of sets, etc. to help or hurt the reselling division. If LEGO went into such a venture it would probably have to be done by a separate division or subsidiary. Hopefully one that customers thought was a completely separate company. For one, LEGO would want the division to be separate for accounting purposes. And, the division would need separate employees, separate warehouses, etc. You think the mfg division would share info with the reselling division? And, at what price would the mfg division sell product to the reselling division? They sell the product too cheap and they get in trouble with Walmart , Amazon, etc. In many ways the reselling division would be competing with the mfg arm of LEGO.

    It would be a big deal. One that could potentially be very profitable, but could also backfire and generate huge backlash from customers and retailers. I don't see it worth the risk.
  • BastaBasta Australia Member Posts: 1,259
    edited February 2014
    Next to no chance that TLG would get into the reselling business, not as another revenue stream any way.

    What they could potentially do is hold back and slowly release desirable EOL sets at a small premium through some kind of third party, such as the one that has the Batman and LOTR games in the UK at the moment.

    If they did this it would be purely as a way to try and control the after market and make the reselling game less appealing for most people. As a reseller imagine if you could only get the sets you are after at RRP (i.e. No discounts on exclusives), then once that set finally goes EOL, some third party business has 1000's of that set available at say 20% above RRP. IMO this would really hurt most who sell retired sets.

    Perfect business opportunity for LFT though :)
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