Some months ago, we contacted our supplier for Doctor Who action figures regarding the Missy in Black action figure. You can imagine, having dealt with them since 2006, we try to get reasonable, reliable, advance information about releases. Then, we try to give reasonable, reliable, advance information to our customers. To the best of our ability.
Now, understanding things do change, it's also certainly understandable their advice, late in 2015, of an expected late-May, 2016, ship date, might also be a bit...shall we say, flexible
. Personally, I think that's fair, too. If an item is imported, and is held up in Customs for some reason, it's hard to plan on exactly what consequences that may have.
But, until yesterday, there wasn't any official solicitation for Missy In Black, and as the company's history hasn't been so robust with examples of reasonable, reliable, advance information, it would have been foolish and inconsiderate of us to publish a mid-May, 2016, release date on our web site, even if that's the date we had. Why? Because, frankly, on average, especially with this line, business is an imperfect science, to date. In fact, allowing for some level of variance, we listed an estimated date for June, 2016. Not "Expected," as with some more reliable lines, but "estimated," because, honestly, it's too strong a word to say we really expect
a date to be met at this point, when there have been delays none of us could have forseen or prevented.
So, people often look at those dates we give and go, "How come you're getting yours in June, when everyone else says they'll arrive in May." We're getting them shipped to us, from the direct and licensed source at the same time as everyone else. We're just honest about potential issues. If it comes in May, great. In June, that's more what we estimate. In August, or October, or 2017, or later,...that's possible, too. It's not always bad news. But, yet again, the last 48 hours or so again provided the unfortunate answer to that question of why we'd post a later date. To give you some of what went on behind the scenes, let me explain.
An unfortunate member of their sales team was (apparently) not told they had decided on an "exclusive window" of 90 days for the Missy In Black USA release. Along with an actual solicitation, he sent out a note to the retail community saying the figures were available now. Immediately. In May. And, as you may imagine, we followed up to see our order was being filled, that everything was on track, and so on. After all, this pretty much met with his own expectations some months ago of availability, and I was happy to receive the news. From what I gather, after a couple of other exchanges, they were basically about to invoice, pack, and ship the order, and he had his hands on it trying very hard to help us, when he was finally told he couldn't ship except to one exclusivee. As you may imagine, that's not us. And, he wasn't even told after the solicitation went out (probably six months later than good and prudent business practice would have had it go out); even after he was discussing with us getting the order shipped to us that day, yesterday. Not a detail that should wait until a shipment is about to be put in transit.
So, for those who Advance Ordered Missy In Black, you're going to have to pardon us. Including shipping time from California from that warehouse to us, we're about 100 days away from receiving it in stock, if nothing else changes. Friday the 13th, so I guess I should have expected something.You're at the mercy of another exclusive, even if it's just an "exclusive window." It'll take us beyond August, I believe....with shipping time, perhaps into the Fall before we see it. (As of 3:30 PM Eastern Time today, the estimated date we'll receive it here, including time in transit to us, is now something like September 10, 2016, with the hope it will actually ship from the CA warehouse early in September. We'll see if that holds.) When they ask us why we're not selling more, this game with exclusives is at the top of that list. We're more concerned with our customers than with some game with exclusives that just makes some stockholders rich on the back of your wallets. Other businesses show their colors by continuing to drive a parade of exclusives. We all make our choices. Ours stand with our customers, and a long-term commitment to give you value.
But, what's so breathtaking about this...they don't even communicate within their own business structure. They'll let us retailers pay a penalty. And, their own employees who need to know things aren't told, so get to look awful in telling us to place an order for items supposed to be available immediately...that aren't! It's not the first time this has happened. But, their license is so strong (here in the case of a Doctor Who action figure), they don't even understand they could be doing better, because we really do want this stuff. All of us do, else we wouldn't carry it, and you wouldn't be buying so much of it. They don't tell their own sales staff what's happening, so, instead, a letter goes out telling us to take the time to consider what we need, do it now, and commit the money to place an order. Now. So, we have to stop what we're doing with the little emergency they've sent to all of us, make sure money is there for them, and so on. Then, they have to do the equivalent of printing a retraction. And we've all wasted time, disappointed customers (some of whom we've already talked to or e-mailed, quite correctly trying to hawk our wares because retailers do buy merchandise to resell it), and someone else somewhere believes it drives goodwill and sales while he laughs all the way to the bank because exclusives work for his bottom line...or so he thinks. Seriously. As much as that ultimately turns off customers and helps kill future sales, they have the idea this helps them (else they wouldn't do it). Go figure.
Many customers continue to give us the great good trust of placing Advance Orders here. We're still going to deliver on those when Missy In Black arrives. And, you also know, we care enough about our customers, and want them to return in the future, that we're going to give the best price available when time comes to sell this figure.
However, for all you others, VOTE WITH YOUR WALLETS. Be informed. If you see the exclusive out there and want to buy it, understand that buying it elsewhere right now means, by definition, you're paying more. For nothing. To give a gift to a corporation that deserves scorn instead of custom is not a reason. After all, the rights to exclusive windows, almost every time, are bought, and those costs passed along. The figure was coming out regardless of that window, when last I'd discussed it with the company prior to this week. And, it's done to enhance "margins," which also give you a higher price. For these action figures, it's healthy for you to ask if something is an exclusive, and if you're paying for that exclusivity. You don't need to. BE PATIENT! Let a more reasonable price prevail before sticking yourself with that enhanced cost. Stop buying something that basically insures you're buying the higher future price, too...yes, YOU are paying to increase your own future price! That's how your wallets vote. As long as exclusives succeed to drive more money into the hands that run them, the more they'll be done. The more you'll pay. Forever. And, you're smarter than that. You can do better.
We're still capitalists here. We honor the profit motive in what we do. But, the value proposition is behind healthy business. It's behind building a clientele that looks forward to coming back to us. Wanting customers to come back time and again, keeping us prospering for what, in July, will be 40 years in business, we actually have this quaint old belief in trying hard to give you value for your money. Omigosh! Would you believe a business that actually wants to keep customers happy enough to come back? Well, that's us.
For now, we continue to say "Exclusives exclude." We've no choice but to wait for that exclusive window on Missy In Black to close, since the business involved simply isn't shipping to us sooner. Anyone who has them aside from that one business, before that time, has them in violation of the license. And, it's a fair bet to say it's possible some WILL have them early when they shouldn't. It's happened before.
But, this time, instead of just telling some about a schedule slip (which, honestly, wasn't a slip but an exclusive window...we could have received these figures next week if the company didn't decide on certain business practices), it seemed fair to answer some of the questions we're already handling, and give you an idea we're not to blame that you need to wait longer to get these orders filled.
Considering the way things were communicated, this is also breaking news, and, possibly, some poor retailers out there still expect the "available now" Missy In Black will reach their doors in May, 2016, when it won't. They'll be surprised. Sadly.
We thought you ought to know, and, this time, to know more than the usual "it's going to be late." We're all stuck with it here.
As always, thank you for your support.
Michael Salvo & Patty Cryan