A FOTF investigation has revealed Asda/Walmart’s price increases have left fans and collectors disillusioned
There is a great disturbance in the Force. It’s not a Clone War, a Rebellion, or even a Resistance. It’s a price war…
With Lucasfilm working tirelessly to bring us a new movie every year for the next decade, the fans have been struggling to keep up with the constant flow of new merchandise flooding the market to accompany the latest entry in the Star Wars saga.
The euphoria surrounding The Force Awakens was unprecedented, and it united the fans in a way never thought possible. The tidal wave of momentum continued in the lead up to the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and the release of the original trilogy themed merchandise despite being limited in number came thick and fast.
In truth, with so much merchandise being released in quick succession it was unrealistic to think we could all keep up, but many of us battled through the excitement of Force Friday, and adopted a more selective process when purchasing those must have items from the range.
Unfortunately, the overwhelming amount of merchandise on offer was just the tip of the iceberg. With retailers like Walmart, being allocated a series of exclusive 3.75” Black Series figures, the mistreated fans of the UK found it almost impossible to collect them. Even with the distribution capacity of Walmart, who trade under the name Asda in the UK, they have proven themselves incapable of procuring enough stock to meet the demand.
To their detriment, their allocations are sporadic at best, and any fan finding one of the elusive figures on the shelves can count their lucky stars. But sadly, this has proven to be the beginning of a disturbing trend for the poor fans of the UK.
Upon the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens back in 2015, the standard six-inch Black Series action figure range from Hasbro were unveiled with the retail price tag of just £17.99. It was a reasonable price, one that the fans were glad to pay in lieu of getting their hands on the very latest characters from the long-awaited sequel to Return of the Jedi. The price was set as standard across the retail industry, with Toys R Us, Smyths Toys, Argos and Asda/Walmart all upholding the cost. The amount charged for the standard 3.75” range however, differed from retailer to retailer with fluctuating prices between £7.99 and £9.99.
Fast forward a year, and the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story found a new band of characters making their debut in the Star Wars universe. Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, Chirrut Imwe and the rest of the Rogue One team were all represented in the Black Series six-inch line, but upon their arrival on the shelves the price had increased to £22.99 per figure. This was a considerable increase, and like myself, many of my friends and lifelong collectors were taken aback by the sudden and unexplained increase. But, the euphoria of Rogue Friday (as it was called in the collectors’ circle) overruled the burden on our wallets in favour of adding the exciting, new characters to our action figure collections.
In true fashion, we rushed to the checkout in droves.
As is the norm, each wave affords the fans an exclusive figure which is traditionally restricted to just one vendor, which in turn heightens the demand. However, every exclusive edition carries its own price tag and soon the average price for these figures increased to a staggering £27.99. The figures themselves were no better than their standard predecessors. The packaging was the same, the sculpture of the figures was the same but, their exclusiveness to only one retail chain enforced a dramatic price hike.
Fast forward once again, and this year saw our beloved Star Wars franchise celebrate its 40th anniversary. It was a euphoric occasion, one where fans of all shapes, sizes and generations could come together in celebration of the franchise we know and love. There is nothing quite like a Star Wars celebration, and in honour of this most momentous occasion, Hasbro announced their very own 40th Anniversary Black Series action figure range. It was a collection of six-inch action figures, all repacked from their original packaging and reissued in an all new anniversary line. The figures were highly sought after but little in number, meaning a torrid and extensive crusade to locate them before they vanished from the shelves forever.
Some fans found them, many did not and the rest of us were forced to seek out alternative suppliers, all of whom swiftly increased their prices to capitalise on the demand. The standard retail price was set at £24.99 in the UK, which was a welcome reduction considering the inflated prices of the Rogue One exclusive range. However, the fact that this was yet another price hike was inescapable. But, the demand saw other private sellers heighten their price to a staggering £74.99 and beyond. It was nothing short of a price war, and believe me — the fans paid the ultimate price.
The tension was palpable, not just in the UK but across the world with fans in the very heart of the United States unable to track them down; and when the euphoria of the event wore off and cooler heads prevailed, many fans went home in a mixture of anguish and disappointment.
This brings us bang up to date, and as we near the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, another brand-new range has been unleashed upon the world. New adaptations of Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Kylo Ren and Rey have all arrived on the shelves to greet the fans, but accompanying them is the new price tag of £24.99 for the standard figure and a whopping £28.99 for the exclusive line; meaning the standard figures are now priced at the same valuation as the elusive Anniversary editions!
If you listen carefully, you can hear my wallet going to cardiac arrest as we speak!
These constant price increases are now surpassing that of the rate of inflation and may fans have found themselves struggling to keep up.
For a time, Asda seemed to offer a reprieve by discounting their stock of Rogue One Black Series six-inch figures to the super low price of just £1.10 at selected branches, but this was dependant on the stores’ budget and profit margins. Other stores however, in a bizarre turn of events actually increased their prices for the very same figures to a staggering £26.95. It seems ludicrous that in this day and age, that so many different branches of the same retailer can charge prices at opposing ends of the spectrum.
To make matters worse, a Future of the Force investigation has revealed that many of same Asda/Walmart stores have increased their prices even further. Our team have discovered the same action figures on the shelves at Asda, for a monstrous £29.97. To compound our misery further, even their competitors have now reduced the price of these figures, with Argos, charging a marginal £7.49 for Jyn Erso, and Sainsbury’s, offering their range at reasonable £17.49.
So, the question is, why are Asda charging top dollar for their action figures when other retailers are discounting them to bargain bin status? And, why are they being sold at such an inconsistent price across the nation?
As of press time, Asda have refused to comment, but for the tens of thousands of collectors and children alike, these unfair price hikes are leaving a bad taste in the mouth.
If this is an indication of things to come, the Star Wars action figure market will undoubtedly reach a point where even the most avid of collectors will concede defeat and say enough is enough. Despite the £1.10 enigma found at Asda, this has revealed an alarming trend in the Star Wars action figure market. These erratic price increases are progressing faster than the rate of inflation and rising at a ratio of between two and three pounds per year. If this percentage is respective of the expected rate of increase, how long will it be before these action figures arrive at a recommended retail price of more than £40.00?
Either way, it represents a great disturbance in the Force. One that may find the Star Wars action figure market suffering as a result, and many devoted fans being priced out of their beloved franchise.
Would you be willing to pay the price?
Drop me a line and share your thoughts.
Until next time…
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!