This is exactly the question Mattel is trying to plot out. We are just about exactly 4 years until the sequel returns and the toys for CARS 2 hits the shelves. We are in unknown territory. Most sequels these days are spaced no more than 12-18 months apart or when there is unexpected “next” part fans are eager for like THE HOBBIT, most marketing and especially the action figures just take a rest. There might be some expensive statues or swords (in the case of LOTR) just so you don’t 100% forget but there’s nothing really on the toy shelves until the movie is really ready to come back … but here, CARS, 2 YEARS later, almost to the day is going just as strong if not actually stronger than it was April 2006 when expectations for CARS was pretty low when merchandise started to hit the shelves.
Yes, 2 years later, people are still stripping the shelves clear. Sure Mater & LM might sell a little slower than April 2006 but not much slower and sure, there are pegwarmers but out of a box of 18 that hits the shelf, what’s really left out of that 18 for long? Not many. There are kids turning 1.5 or 2 or in many cases, 39 🙂 who just realized as they watched it on ENCORE this month – hey, this movie is actually GOOD and these CARS are nice …
In case you hadn’t noticed, CARS is the STAR WARS of diecast.
Like STAR WARS, the action figure/toys – it makes its own rules.
There has never been a diecast licensed film line that has sold over 100 DIFFERENT cars and is still going strong. The James Bond cars sold well and you can always sell a Speed Racer Mach 5 or a 1966 Batmobile but none of those lines are 100 cars strong and with NO END IN SIGHT.
Not many diecast car lines – let alone a movie licensed one that almost literally has people bursting at the seams and eager to spend upwards of $300 for the Speedway of the South Piston Cup racer set.
So, what will the 48-month gap (from now) between CARS movies mean for us, the 1:55 diecast scale collector?
The normal course of action is easy – look at Speed Racer, you flood the market and you hope to ride it out until the holidays (when the movie DVD comes out also) – after that, you pretty much let the line wither but CARS is still going strong – even with lulls, gaps, recalls and empty shelves, we came back when the CARS came back. So how does Mattel sustain it for 4 more years?
SEPARATE THE HERD
You might divide out the long-timers/serious from the casual/newbies. So, you keep the sealed individual boxes with mostly CARS that appeals to casual/newbies – after all, if they don’t see LM, Mater, & Fillmore, maybe they’ll just wait to buy it for the 2-year old. You only add new CARS that are visually appealing to newbie/casual collectors like Chuki, Elvis RV, etc … this also helps Mattel space out the remaining CARS that we know have names (from the Blu-Ray finder game) and maintains a steady selling pace at the stores instead of feast or famine and this way, even CARS like Sheriff becomes a mini treasure hunt as he might only appear every other month now that there are over 100 different CARS out. Because while us rabid collectors are eager for every variation – to most – Pit Crew Fillmore with the gas cans is much less enticing than than just regular Fillmore.
Of course, there are another 500 CARS without names or not in the Blu Ray Finder game that people would still be willing to buy … the Pizza truck? Camera Crews?
Or variations without specific mention in the Blu Ray Finder such as perhaps Ghostlight Mater with a blue light or Parking Boot McQ. I’m sure we could come with 50 CARS in 4-minutes time.
For the serious collectors, Mattel makes more money with the Gift/3-packs by limiting them to the Piston Cup racers – of course, not only reselling you the racer but not everyone might want ALL the crew chiefs or ALL the pit crew so by bundling them, Mattel doesn’t have to take a chance that the precious single peg space is clotted with a non-important peg warmer and this way, they also sell you a higher margin $9.99/$10.99 3-pack (probably with at least one CAR you already own also) – same with the launchers. A $3.99 CAR packaged with a $1.00 piece of plastic is nice at $7.99 (well, for Mattel). And of course, for gift giving, both seem nicer so Mattel wins either way. At the holiday, grandma will probably buy a launcher and a 3-pack since they are clearly “more” CAR
And of course, serious collectors are certainly not going to stop buying single carded CARS but a newbie parent who thinks “Lil Josh” is now ready for diecast CARS, who is Dudley Spare? They’d much rather have a Mater or even Wingo … and as long as there is a new CAR or two every 3-4 weeks, the pace might even be better for long term collectors … sure, it was a fun thought that maybe 50% of each case was new but this way, we also don’t have to hunt as hard … and maybe we won’t drop out from giving up …
And I’m sure we’ll see more exclusive playsets, probably at TRU.
The 4-year gap is also presumably good news for those awaiting Frank, Banshee, the RV’s or the trailers.
The problem is two-fold – as metal, they would be hella heavy and hella expensive in the amount of metal they use but of course, Mattel could charge an appropriate amount but I think the amount of people willing to pay for a in-scale Frank at $19.99 or Banshee at $29.99 is limited (and just as importantly, retailers would not be very excited) so maybe Mattel will launch a real points redemption program – it’s one way to clear the Boosts off the shelves so maybe when Mattel is ready to switch from the WORLD OF CARS motif, they will launch a points redemption program to buy an in-scale Frank for $12.99 if you send 5 WOC card backs (retailers will rejoice as you buy up the ‘old’ CARS to mail away). Sometimes it pays to never throw away anything … but if Mattel is going to do that, they’ll probably launch some CARS Club … for $29.99, get a “free” Red Ransburg CAR plus the right to buy limited edition CARS such as Frank & Banshee … because there’s no way to guess the actual number of people willing to buy a much more expensive part of a set, it’s better to create the illusion of limited availability and charge the full amount (instead of making only wholesale).
More so with the RV’s. What is the interested number? A thousand? Ten thousand who would buy 90% of the RV’s but after that number, the % of interested parties falls to a single digit. I think the Rv’s fall into two camps – you want or do not want – so how is Mattel supposed to guess and what’s the difference if it’s all plastic or some metal? Does that change the buying interest by much and of course, price. To retailers, they won’t really get it – how much shelf space do you want us to devote to an RV? Again, it might have to be a club item … perhaps a box set of 4 for $19.99 or $24.99 (all plastic would be my guess).
Now, the truck trailers are visually more enticing but they take up room. There’s no way any retailer is going to be interested in 36 of them … Dale Jr, The King & LM? Of course. Mood Springs? Gasparin? Not so much … these might be a mix of stores and the club or Mattel could just sell a giant box set NEXT year for $249 … (all plastic, of course).
THE WILD CARD
The wild card in the 4-year gap is the CARS short – is it a mythical short? Is it coming as soon as Wall-E or in front of next year’s Pixar’s movie? Because within a 5-minute short, you could pretty much introduce 500 more CARS with a few pans across the vista or speedway or LM & Sally going to an award show … you could add this short to the CARS Blu Ray SE with a CARS short Blu Ray Finder Game II … if that’s the case, it revitalizes collectors eager for … the 6 mythical Piston Cup racers? A Wall-E car? … and fills in the gap for 2011 until the previews start appearing for 2012 and early CAR releases.
Of course, some purists might claim the ‘short’ is not really the full CARS movie and doesn’t count … but like the Mini’s, Mattel just starts jumping off to other tangents and are less concerned than being ‘canon.’ Maybe we really get a ‘flashback’ cards with Stanley as a real CAR and not an accessory/statue? Or CARS from the video game? Or the main CARS with more moving elements – maybe McQ with lencular eyes or Mater’s tow line that really unspools?
It will be interesting to see how Mattel is able to maintain interest but keep bringing in new parents/family & kids …