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Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

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Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby Archangel » Sat Feb 21, 2009 5:07 am

Hi folks,

So, I was just thinking, how concerned is Lego with the collectibility/rarity of their sets? They make no money on the secondary market (resale/ebay/etc.), and people clamor all the time for out-of-print sets which are always over what their original MSRP was for a given kit.

I bring this up because a couple other companies have implemented something to combat the rarity of given catalog items in order to get said items into the hands of their customers. We all know that any manufacturing company cannot afford to keep all of their products (especially with one as diverse a range as Lego) in stock for an indefinite period of time. Factors like warehouse space, promotion for current product, and overall demand would only be some of these.

So I ask, how hard would it be for Lego to offer an "order-on-demand" component to Shop@Home? Yes, this would be undercutting third-party services such as Bricklink and others to an extent, but sets would come direct from the manufacturer and keep "availability" for kits past their standard shelf time.

Most pieces (apart from minifig heads/torso/helmets)) are re-used over and over in other sets. Yes, there are exceptions for special bits such as those found in the Aquazone, Space, and other themed kits, but overall, I'd estimate the part re-use percentage to be somewhere in the 85-90% range.

Something like this would allow you to purchase the old UCS Tantive IV with a minimum of effort. Forget the original or a re-done box, or even an instruction manual, since those can be downloaded from the Lego website. Without having intrinsic knowledge of how Lego works on a manufacturing level, this could be beneficial to both the customer and Lego alike. An individual could purchase something like the Darth Maul bust for what I am sure would be considerably less than what it goes for on eBay, Bricklink, et al (although in all likelihood, more than what it originally retailed for).

One argument against this is the idea that Lego would have to spin more castings on an on-demand basis, and therefore would not be profitable/cost-effective for them or offer a decent value for the customer interested in such a solution. The answer to this is contained partially in the part-re-use statement above, but also in the fact that Lego has offered custom kit ordering before using LDD. A final response is that if it were REALLY an issue of needing to cast special parts, Lego could implement a "threshold" for rarer parts, so that iff Lego needed a particular part to be cast at least 2,000 times in order for it to be worthwhile to them, the order tracking database could easily notify them that enough orders for said parts have been made, and would then be feasible for the company to produce.

Even given that issue, I'd rather wait X time for a discontinued kit from the company at a more reasonable price than get potentially gouged from some other service. For the "true" collector who wants a mint MISB item, this obviously wouldn't work (and therefore would keep those looking to profit from possessing said kits around), but that isn't the point here either.

Thoughts, comments?
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby findyourfix » Sat Feb 21, 2009 8:31 am

You hit the nail on the head!! The idea you proposed is fantastic. I also think that TLC should keep a certain stock of parts for sets no longer in production. Also, if they could make their new parts readily available on Pick-a-Brick, that would be sweet, too. There are a lot of folks out there who have a load of parts, but need just a few new odds and ends to make the new set of their choice. An perfect example is the old AT-TE versus the new. They share quite a bit in parts, and wouldn't require much effort to pull off the "upgrade". I say this not just as a cost effective measure, but as a way for TLC to show support for their die hard fans. I'd love to be able to make a Galaxy Explorer, Main Street, or some other classic set without having to lose my mind on Ebay or Bricklink. Don't get me wrong, those resources are fantastic, but I'd rather be able to do one-stop shopping from the original source if possible. I wonder what TLC thinks?
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby Zekk » Sat Feb 21, 2009 8:40 am

I must agree. I think this is a great idea and it would save people money, and allow LEGO to make more money by selling old sets for a long time.
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby MrCRskater » Sat Feb 21, 2009 10:31 am

Well, I think any way you spin it, any kind of offering from TLG of retired sets - short of full-blown market production - is not going to be cost effective for them. If they did break down and begin a program of some kind for after-market production, it would have to be at the expense of further product development. So while you could get your Main Street, Mos Espa Podrace, or Exoforce, it would also mean you'd only be getting 5 or 6 new sets each year in any given line. I'm not sure LEGO or the fanbase (largely non-collector children under 14) are willing to make that compromise.

Further, it seems that the most collectible sets are those under a license, like Star Wars, Indy, Shell, Batman, etc. It's a virtual certainty that there are parameters in any given license limiting the number of sets/minifigs (and therefore parts) can be produced. In other words, if LEGO thought they could make a dime by offering up the old UCS Blockade Runner, they'd have to get permission from George Lucas. And THAT is unlikely because George knows that his bread-winner right now is the Clone Wars, so a Blockade Runner isn't going to promote that. You have to realize that all the LEGO's, action figures, lightsaber toys, etc. are all advertising for the Lucasfilm product, advertising that Lucas is not only not paying for, but is getting paid for.
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby AlternativeRadio » Sat Feb 21, 2009 10:56 am

This would probably work better if done by a third party, someone to purchase all the parts and sell them in organized kits. It would be more cost effective for LEGO, as they would be selling just the parts, but it would be more difficult to get discontinued parts.
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby Archangel » Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:32 am

MrCRskater wrote:Well, I think any way you spin it, any kind of offering from TLG of retired sets - short of full-blown market production - is not going to be cost effective for them. If they did break down and begin a program of some kind for after-market production, it would have to be at the expense of further product development. So while you could get your Main Street, Mos Espa Podrace, or Exoforce, it would also mean you'd only be getting 5 or 6 new sets each year in any given line. I'm not sure LEGO or the fanbase (largely non-collector children under 14) are willing to make that compromise.

Further, it seems that the most collectible sets are those under a license, like Star Wars, Indy, Shell, Batman, etc. It's a virtual certainty that there are parameters in any given license limiting the number of sets/minifigs (and therefore parts) can be produced. In other words, if LEGO thought they could make a dime by offering up the old UCS Blockade Runner, they'd have to get permission from George Lucas. And THAT is unlikely because George knows that his bread-winner right now is the Clone Wars, so a Blockade Runner isn't going to promote that. You have to realize that all the LEGO's, action figures, lightsaber toys, etc. are all advertising for the Lucasfilm product, advertising that Lucas is not only not paying for, but is getting paid for.


Skater, I don't believe that by offering the parts for said kits would affect new product development and time-to-market. I am sure Lego keeps parts on hand (they have to for missing, replacement, etc. obviously), and as I had said, a lot of the pieces used for any set are pretty commonly-used across the board. Secondly, even if it was a matter of having X amount of piece A, B, C and so on in stock or available, the threshold method I mentioned could/would counter that.

On the license issue, I could see that having more of an impact, if there were production limitations involved. However, if TLC were to sell OOP kits from a licensee's range, I am sure that said licensee would still receive a percentage of any sale made in this way since Lego would still be selling a kit like this as something from their range, even if it wasn't a full-on retail boxed set.

Lucas' focus on the CW is immaterial, as if it were that imperative, Lego would only be putting out CW kits, and nothing from the other films in the SW genre. At the end of the day, no matter what gets produced, it all promotes the SW brand.
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby Draykov » Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:00 pm

While I'd relish the idea from a collector's standpoint, I don't think it's feasible. Parts for production runs at LEGO manufacturing are cyclical. If you're not actively putting those parts to be sold into sets, you have what's known as Pick-a-Brick (though, Pick-a-Brick draws parts largely from what's available in Factory sets) If you are actively putting the elements you use into sets, then you need them for current sets that are shipping out the door. Anything not getting produced for active sets or Pick-a-Brick goes out of production until you need it again. Making that part available in the future at a cost effective price means a lot of logistics and planning need to go into the next batch of sets to come out and what elements they include.

Anything beyond that and your talking about additional production runs of parts, instructions, stickers, boxes and keeping them all in a warehouse or production facility somewhere. The bottom line is that it's not feasible to create an "on-demand" environment. If you're busy expending your resources trying to get new product out the door to satisfy retailer demands, you probably don't have the time, money or other resources to concentrate on making retired stuff available to whoever wants it whenever they want it. Plus, there's the whole issue of retired molds. I don't know how many people I've heard complain about newer style helmets on the Classic Space dudes that have been made available in the Vintage Minifigure Collections.
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby MrCRskater » Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:19 pm

Archangel wrote:On the license issue, I could see that having more of an impact, if there were production limitations involved. However, if TLC were to sell OOP kits from a licensee's range, I am sure that said licensee would still receive a percentage of any sale made in this way. . .

Lucas' focus on the CW is immaterial, as if it were that imperative, Lego would only be putting out CW kits, and nothing from the other films in the SW genre. At the end of the day, no matter what gets produced, it all promotes the SW brand.


This is true to a certain degree. The licensee would of course receive their "cut" of anything sold, and to a certain degree anything SW will generally promote the SW brand. However, the emphasis on CW does matter because Lucas wants to maximize his income. Again, though the Blockade Runner is cool, if it's not seen in the CW movie or TV series, Lucas probably doesn't want it on the shelves because the kiddies will gravitate towards the images they see on the screen, and this goes for all SW merchandising. I know we're not talking about a second retail production run of older sets here, but Lucas is aiming for the self-perpetuating model of "They see it on the show, they buy it in the store, they see it in the store, they keep watching the show. . .". Anything outside CW is a kind of distraction, so it's likely that Lucas has restricted all product development related to other SW stuff so he can indoctrinate yet another generation into Star Wars and keep the brand fresh.

My arguments have revolved almost exclusively around the Star Wars line, mostly 'cause that's my own big focus in LEGO. I still believe that resurrecting other retired sets on an "on-demand" basis is impractical for aforementioned reasons, but I won't argue about it.
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby Archangel » Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:21 pm

Draykov wrote:While I'd relish the idea from a collector's standpoint, I don't think it's feasible. Parts for production runs at LEGO manufacturing are cyclical. If you're not actively putting those parts to be sold into sets, you have what's known as Pick-a-Brick (though, Pick-a-Brick draws parts largely from what's available in Factory sets) If you are actively putting the elements you use into sets, then you need them for current sets that are shipping out the door. Anything not getting produced for active sets or Pick-a-Brick goes out of production until you need it again. Making that part available in the future at a cost effective price means a lot of logistics and planning need to go into the next batch of sets to come out and what elements they include.

Anything beyond that and your talking about additional production runs of parts, instructions, stickers, boxes and keeping them all in a warehouse or production facility somewhere. The bottom line is that it's not feasible to create an "on-demand" environment. If you're busy expending your resources trying to get new product out the door to satisfy retailer demands, you probably don't have the time, money or other resources to concentrate on making retired stuff available to whoever wants it whenever they want it. Plus, there's the whole issue of retired molds. I don't know how many people I've heard complain about newer style helmets on the Classic Space dudes that have been made available in the Vintage Minifigure Collections.


Draykov,

I readily admit that this would be an increase in logistics, even if it just comes down to packaging up individual orders for shipment. If you read closely, I advocated the skipping of instructions and the retail box altogether, thereby eliminating those two items, which I feel would be a much bigger albatross than running the parts. Forget about the bagging for that matter as well.....throw the entire lot in a box and seal it up....that is something I DID forget to account for.

Molds have definite shelf life before they can no longer be used effectively, this is true, however, you can get any piece from Lego you need (IIRC), even from OOP sets. I have had an issue a couple times with sealed SW kits from 2000 and 2003 that were missing some pieces, and were not necessarily common pieces, from the TLC with a minimum of hassle.
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby Draykov » Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:36 pm

So what you're pushing for is really nothing different than what they've already done with LDD and Pick-a-Brick. The existing scenario is what your idea looks like when you take into consideration the limitations that part production-run puts on things. That's not to say they couldn't expand their offerings...but you may have noticed that certain parts go in and out of the LDD design palette/Pick-a-Brick menu as new sets are circulated and new parts needed for regular production sets. You're talking potentially having every element in every color. Stop for a moment and think of the thousands of types of LEGO elements there are out there. Think about what it might take to produce even the past 5 years worth of elements that are not currently in sets available at retail. If I understand you correctly, you're basically asking LEGO to x-tuple their production output (both in terms of variety and quantity) as if it were just a matter of flipping a switch.

While I have personally been the beneficiary of certain out of circulation parts from LEGO Customer Service (namely, SBD legs in metallic blue), LEGO doesn't stockpile old elements for general consumption...at least not that I'm aware of (though they do have the famous vault at Billund that supposedly contains a copy of just about every set ever made). Try ordering one of these directly from Shop@Home, though, and you'll see what I mean.

Not to poo-poo your idea. It's great...from the collector's standpoint. However, if the only thing standing between LEGO and the realization of "any set, any time" was that they hadn't thought of it yet, I imagine we'd have seen "brand new vintage" sets all over the place by now. They did re-release a few old sets in their "Legends" series a few years back, but for whatever reason they didn't continue that trend.
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby Darthboba281 » Sat Feb 21, 2009 5:42 pm

This idea would be the best thing Lego has ever done (if they would do it). If there is a lego worker that reads this forum topic, pppppppppppppppllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaassssssssssssssseeeeeeeee tell the company to go for it.
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby nave333 » Sun Feb 22, 2009 11:23 am

I have to say that it is a brilliant idea and I would love ffor it to happen. But in legos view not mine they would essencially be losing money if on certian cets they would have a high price per piece ratio but they would sell some parts for cheaper. also if they sold minfigs like the clones in current battle packs (most people would buy it for clones not the walker) they would lose money because people would buy clones individually instead of paying more money for the set.

although i love this idea and would love it to happen but it is not likley.
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby CommanderFox » Fri Feb 27, 2009 4:02 pm

DUDE Awesome idea if it actually happend I would get good old 7283 (because I missed out on it) and then I would sell Ani's fighter, 1 vulture, the tri and a buzz droid to get abit more cash because I already have these fighters and droids :D
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby LEGOscum » Sat Feb 28, 2009 11:35 am

On the surface this is a good idea, but deep down there are some pitfalls. For instance LEGO knows that collectors want to preserve the secondary value of their sets. In fact LEGO do benefit from higher secondary prices when collectors who've stockpiled sets to sell later on use their profit to buy current LEGO sets they'd not be able to afford otherwise.

If LEGO were to decide to re-release sets through Factory I'm sure the packaging and instructions would be altered from the originals. Also some colours wouldn't be available - the original X-Wing was made of grey, which has not been replaced by bley.

But the bottom line is LEGO makes toys for children and if they've already released an improved version (such as the X-Wings, TIE Fighters, Snowspeeders, MTTs, Landspeeders, Naboo N1, Sith Infiltratator, etc) they aren't going to revisit old sets just to cater to a small core of their market.
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Re: Why Couldn't Lego Do Something Like This....

Postby dWhisper » Sat Feb 28, 2009 10:46 pm

The thing that seems to be missing from this discussion is just a nature of what LEGO sets are, from a retail point of view. They're a toy, and share shelf-space with other retail products, constantly going through a rotation. In the toy market, keeping your product fresh is essential. It doesn't matter if you're selling cars, building toys, or even board games. Unless you have something that's truly "classic," you have to change. And LEGO runs a wide enough age range that it's quite possible that someone who got a set for their 6-year-old would get one for their 10-year-old. So "re-releasing" sets isn't necesarially an option, at least from a profit standpoint.

For the collectors, there is the UCS line and the shop@home exclusives. Re-releasing sets cuts into that same segment, and also has the problem of just looking stale on a shelf. Outside of a completeness sake, who would really want to go back and buy the really hot collector sets that some missed? From a LEGO perspective, it makes more sense to redesign something that's popular to push more sales (like they've done with the X-Wing, B-Wing, RGS, and just about every other hot set over the years). With the exception of the Tantive IV and this one bit character named Amidala (she was in what, about 60% of the PT scenes? not that important), most everything has been redone.

Tantive IV is a special case, too. Yes, it's worth a ton on the collector's market, but when it was released, it was terribly received. I was working at Target when this set came out, and really wish I would have picked up the 3-4 we had at 75% off after they basically languished on the shelves for an entire Christmas (but I was poor and in college... beer ain't free).

In fact, most of the UCS sets have done badly in retail. They lack figures and they're not swooshable. They look great, but they're not selling to kids, so only TRU tends to pick them up, and take a look at how much they cost (both Vader's TIE and the AT-ST are clearanced on most websites and stores right now, or heavily discounted). So targeting system sets to the collector's market doesn't seem like a wise decision. Remaking sets that we know are popular does...
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