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Exclusive sets retiring: A new pattern?
This holiday season will likely be remembered by us LEGO AFOL / fans / Hoarders / Collectors / Speculators as a season unlike the ones from previous years. LEGO clearly managed their stock levels and sales a lot better than previous years, fine tuning the time sets are suppose to retire, and how much they will go for.
We are seeing sets like MMV and Fire Brigade that may retire now without a sale like there was with the likes of Market Street, UCS Millenium Falcon and Cafe Corner, to name a few. Even sets that were discounted during Black Friday and are now are not seeing some deep discounts as before.
Sometimes I have the feeling that TLG monitors what we say here and at other forums, and are using this as an element to plan better their moves, what do you think? Is TLG going into a new (and a bit more difficult to predict) pattern of retiring exclusive sets?
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I think FB was extended due to the whole 39R1 mess and made more to account for those who would inevitably have issues when their kid opened one up for Christmas
As for the MMV.. I'm guessing it sells fairly well (excluding the speculators) and I'm guessing there are not a lot of special pieces in the set to have to make to keep the set going.
Most LEGO sets typically sell out due to high demand of Christmas... No it is possible that with TRU having a BOGO sale every week (although not much of a 'sale' but that is for another thread) and other sites doing widespread sales with LEGO not really putting a lot on sale (which they never did before anyway) then I am guessing that they just still have more stocks... no to much LEGO are not crazy.. they do not want to put Mods on sale to only break even in their profits....
Lego sells 7 sets a second, 220 million sets a year. Whatever we do here is a drop in the bucket compared to the Lego market as a whole. The size and scale of production is lost on most people, who see 10 sets here and 20 sets there being held for resale thinking that makes enough of a market to affect what TLG does.
Do they watch it? Probably, to a minor extent, but I think they are much more concerned with how Dino is selling and what the reception of Friends is than the collections of a few thousand people holding back a dozen Fire Brigades.
The 39R1 is a mess, and we might see FB stay around for another 6 months because of it. Lego didn't just make a thousand extra sets, they probably made 50,000 extra sets, to be sure to have enough replacements for a long time to come to take care of upset customers.
There are business reasons to discontinue a set like MMV even if it isn't that expensive to keep making. TLG can only support so many different sets at once, if they can replace it with Joust which will sell many times as many units per day as MMV because it is "new" and MMV is "old", and the price is $20 higher for fewer parts, why not?
Production is not unlimited, store space and shipping space is not unlimited, it all has a cost. At some point, additional unit sales are not worth the time and effort.
Again, I agree with you this is a drop in the bucket for them, however, it's undeniable that what happens here on this forum particularly has some effect to at least the US market. We've seen since Black Friday people going to Amazon and [email protected] and wiping out their stock of IF and ENs. TLG now knows we will buy these exclusive sets no matter what the purpose is (build, gift, speculation), without any deep discounts. That's the "new" pattern I was referring to.
@akunthita confirmed that they've checked out akunthita's site and sent letters. Also, we know that in the past, every time @Huw or one of the contributors posted pictures of sets not yet released, TLG demanded the pictures to be removed. That's nother sign that they must have at least a couple people on their HQ in Denmark double-checking sites and taking notes on what's said.
As I would surmise from my limited marketing experiencing - TLG is looking to 'Strike while the Iron is Hot' rather than saturate a market. TLG is smart enough to pull a product when it does not have marketable value any longer (see IJ, PoP, TS, etc.)
I believe that we will see limited releases in all themes from LEGO from here until the foreseeable future. We have seen this with the City Line, Creator, Space, the Kingdoms line (I am sad to see the demise of the Green Dragons), etc.
We are also seeing cross-theme manipulations such as the Creator Lighthouse and the recently retired City Harbour line. I think that the Creator Cabin was also pre-engineered to create a buzz for the City Forest line... and I am happy to see such an endeavor.
We will continually see new renditions of LEGO Train (because once a collector- always a collector); the City Theme will continue to pump out new models (that is their bread and butter), and of course new Star Wars sets (as long as Lucas Entertainment continues to provide more media for us to consume).
I hope that TLG is not setting aside the most recent Castle Theme in order to push the new LoTR Line, but as we have seen the last Pirates Theme shipwrecked by the PoTC theme, I would say that Castle is dead in the water for some time. That may be fine with me as long as they don't minimize the piece count for profits due to LoTR... ha ha...
And yes, TLG is monitoring all LEGO blogs/boards; they would be foolish not too..
already 4 exists, 2 in the US and 2 in Europe....So i guess, they split their time between exhibition, forums etc....
A friend of a friend works as a designer in Billund and I was lucky enough to meet up with him when I went over in September. He told me he knew of this site and while he personally didn't follow it, some of his colleagues did (e.g Lego_nabii I guess). But overall I agree with the comments by @legofantexas and @pacific493: we are small fish in the global Lego pond.
I think it's easy to lose track of the fact that we're a tiny, largely insignificant portion of what is already TLG's smallest (by far) target audience.
I've seen Dino and Friends treated the same way, but largely adults are on these forums, and we are not the target of these items. I have no doubt my kids will love Dino, they have been to many dinosaur exhibits and find them amazing.
Also, marketing challenges within online communities is not difficult. Companies do not "surf" fan websites, they use spiders and other techniques to target and extract specific phrasing through quite powerful algorithmic equations to locate the information needed to increase product sales. Surf the sites, no. Easily gain specific information to help maximize profitability, quite simply and not very time consuming at all. The reason Kmarts and Sears stores are closing in the U.S., but Walmarts and Targets thrive, is because the first two stores do not use these resources to their benefit, the second two specialize in understanding intimate location marketing. Side note, I teach online writing now, but cut my teeth within marketing and market research.
I agree that AFOlers are important as advocates, but our information within these sites is free marketing outside of our offline presence.
Also, many adults are buying sets for their children, and so they still need to appeal to adults. I bet that AFOLs give an insight into much more than the 5%.
I did read a report a few years ago that claimed that AFOLs accounted for around 12% of their (IIRC) "return business", which I assume was meant as a measure of customer brand loyalty.
Edit: It's also worth noting that there are lots of AFOLs out there who are not set collectors; I know of quite a few AFOLs in my LUG who claim they haven't bought any new sets at retail for years; they get all their bricks from Bricklink, trading with other AFOLs, etc.
And I"m just one person. Multiply this same scenario by all the other AFOL's doing the same thing.
Everytime I see a documentary on LEGO, they are always saying that their product is, of course, aimed at kids. However, it's always mentioned that, when LEGO was sinking on the early 90's, it was the AFOLs that kinda gave steam to the company, by modifying Mindstorms NXT software, and giving better building ideas to TLG, then TLG started to give importance to MOCs and things like that. It's an assumption, but to me it's rather obvious that the Modulars have spawned from MOCs. Look at the boxes these days: They are always 16+. That's not aimed at kids.
Even the LOTR sets coming in 2012 cannot be considered aimed at kids only. It was said here at these forums that LOTR has most of its fan base in adults, so why release a product like that? Wouldn't be better for LEGO to stay with Disney movies and Super Heroes only when talking about licensing?
And with more and more sets like that in the shelves that appeal to us, I believe they do listen and they do monitor what AFOLs would like to see made of LEGO.
I side with @krklink on this one. We are more to the 25% than 5%. Imagine they are ranking our purchases by the sets aimed at us alone: VW Camper, London Bridge, Etc. If those sets represent 5% of LEGO sales worldwide, we represent a lot more than that.
The cashiers ALWAYS ask me "Who is this for today?" when I check out. It's not apparent, but maybe there is a button they press on the register or a tick-sheet they keep under the counter.
Also, whenever you take a survey, it asks who you buy products for. I believe they may have also asked when I created my online VIP account.
Once the fact that I purchase for myself is somehow "linked" to my VIP account, LEGO has an exact number for LEGO Direct sales.
I also tend to believe that the number is more than 5%... but I will say that tens of millions of $10-30 sets that Walmart/Target sell each year add up pretty quickly.
I've watched it, I believe it... The amount of money that parents drop on kids these days is far more than our parents spent on us. I wanted that GI Joe aircraft carrier when I was a kid, but only one kid I knew ever had one, and his dad was a lawyer with piles of money, no one else got such a thing. Today, parents will drop $400 on a Death Star just as far as they'll drop $600 on an iPad.