Monthly Archives: April 2008

Mattel Loses $47 MM: First Quarter 2008

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Until major competitor, Hasbro – whose sales were up 14% in Q1, 2008 – Mattel posted a loss of $46.6 million … before you go blaming it on shortage of CARS, the problem is the Fisher Price division … sales in that division were down 13% percent

“Fisher-Price, Mattel’s education and preschool toy company, accounted for the brunt of the disappointment, with sales slipping 13% from the prior year to $341.3 million. The Fisher-Price Friends unit, which includes items like Elmo, Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street, reported a 49% decline as this year’s toys failed to attract as much attention as they did a year ago.

John Taylor, an analyst at Portland-based Arcadia Investment Corp., linked the drop to the current lack of an exciting Elmo toy and softening demand for Dora. “The magnitude was bigger-than-expected,” he said, but he added that Elmo Live, a new dancing toy to be introduced later this year, “has a chance to be another high point.”

Via the WSJ

We noted that costs were going up in this post but perhaps there’s another increase coming …

“Mattel added that it expects manufacturing costs to continue to rise in China as the yuan continues to gain on the dollar and as inflation in China nears the highest level in more than a decade. The toymaker said it may raise prices this year in the “mid-to-high single-digit range” to combat these forces.”

There was no specific mention of the Disney Pixar CARS …

The official press release on the earnings report is here.

An audio podcast of the conference call will be available tomorrow here.

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Disney Pixar CARS: Beware the Sarge eBay Auctions

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Since Sarge disappeared from the store shelves last summer, most eBay sellers have been content to sell the Desert Art 12 & 16-CARS back ones at a nice markup ($15-$25 dollars).

However, with the recent Mini & other releases, some less than ethical people are trying to take advantage of the situation by pawning off other Sarge’s as “the one.” (the 1:55 series one … sort of like the Frank the Combine situation by selling off 1-part from a $15 board game for $20-$30 dollars.

This is the Sarge from the MINI ADVENTURES series (aka: Mini’s):

So look carefully – note the expression, color, color of canopy and the overall detailing on the METAL diecast versus the all plastic mini. It is also incorrect to call all-plastic diecast so if you see any eBay auctions trying to pawn off the Mini’s without explaining that this loose Sarge is a Mini should either be reported to eBay or if the seller gets enough people hounds them, they might get wht people don’t appreciate being mislead … It is tempting as they are starting the opening auction price or setting a BUY-IT-NOW price under $10 dollars … but a Mini Sarge is not a 1:55 Sarge. Now, if you are okay with a Mini Sarge or want a loose Mini, of course, buy away but just be careful you are getting what you want (more Mini Sarge’s are being shipped as we speak so why pay three times as much for 1/2 of a Mini 2-pack for under $5?)

The regular Sarge is a hair over 2″ in length and the Mini Sarge is a hair over 1″ in length.

Of course, now with the Disney Store releases, there might be others they are trying to pawn off so here are some of the others (no Sarge pics as I’m not collecting any of them but you get the idea).

The two above are the ONLY Sarge’s from Mattel.

All these others are from the Disney store.

THE FIGURINES

They’ve been around since the beginning of the movie release – not sure if they were every re-stocked or they’re still selling what’s left over from 2006. For a diecast collector like them, they just look lumpy and to me, what’s the point of a car (any car) that is not metal and rolls with precision?

THE NEW 4″ LINE

Appearing last week, I finally went and took a look – and my review is me’h. They are somewhere in between a 1:32 and 1:43 scale so that’s a huge strike – you have to pick a scale that already exists – but what’s worse – it varies within the line itself – the King is like 1:50 scale and McQueen is 1:43 so shabby continuity within the line is just bad plus, the sculpts aren’t even as nice as the Mattel 1:55 line. The SOLE REASON to make a larger scale is to add more detailing (okay, there’s the profit thing) so why would you pay extra for something larger that is not as nice as a smaller scale. They might’ve based the sculpts on the figurine line above – notice that McQueen, Sarge & the King’s proportions are just slightly off – you recognize them but clearly not like the first time you saw the Mattel 1:55 CARS and thought – wow, must have … with the figurines and the new 4″ line – me’h. They are $5.50 each. Not horrible – just non-enticing. I think most people will look at them and go – me’h. Fans of Ramone might like the Purple Ramone, that seems the best of the lot and Sarge doesn’t look bad from the photos – none left in the Disney Store I went to though so be warned of massive eBay misleading auctions.

Though the one good thing with the release of this oddball Sarge, perhaps that means regular 1:55 Sarge is now safe to return – all lead free and all.

These also come in a look-alike twin-pack version (in terms of size) but apparently not the same as the twin packs CARS have sound and other features?

THE PULL-BACK 6″ LINE

The Disney store also has a larger 6″ line that has a pullback feature. They are $12.50 or 2 for $20. Again, not horrible but you think a giant 1:43ish scale would produce some killer detailing or better sculpts? Nope … and from what I could touch and the weight, all plastic. Again, none are horrible but even compared to the small 1:55 scale – a collective me’h. Sculpting is a subtle thing – just look at the MINI Fillmore – it’s much tinier at around 1″ long – yet it they managed to pack personality into it – the MINI’s for the most part are so gosh darn cute, who could resist? This thing is just a lump of plastic that vaguely resembles Fillmore – not enticing, cool or interesting enough. It’s just blah.

There is another line from Japan – but since most prices for those start at $15+, it’s unlikely anyone ill try to pass those off as Mattel 1:55 ones.

So, if you’re trying to pick up a Sarge on eBay, make sure you get a photo or the packaging and it does NOT HURT TO ASK if you do NOT see the words 1:55 or Mattel.

Good luck!

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Mattel Disney Pixar CARS: Motor Speedway of the South Sneak Peek

Yes, we are are edging closer to an actual release date for the Motor Speedway of the South set with REAL evidence of the set. The “Sneak Peek” photos are up at the Hot Wheels Collectors Club (in the Red Line Club Sneak Peek section). Only PC users can see the photos so they are provided here before you sign up – info on how to join are in our post link at the end.

NO PRICE.

NO ACTUAL RELEASE DATE YET.

As we only in the ‘sneak peek’ phase of the sale.

For those unfamiliar with the normal process for the Red Line Club. During the year, Mattel sells 10-15 exclusive cars (or sets) to Red Line Club members. Often, they will put up ‘sneak peek’ photos (not always) but then about 11-12 days out will announce when the item will be available for purchase and start a countdown counter.

As of right now, there is an exclusive ’67 Ford Mustang with a countdown counter that ticks to zero on April 29th so what does that tell us about when the Motor Speedway of the South will go on sale?

We can do an additional process of elimination. Since there is a Hot Wheels car on sale to members on the 29th of April, and there is almost always 10 days from the announcement of “what’s new & exclusive” to the day of the actual sale process – the earliest the set will go on sale is probably May 13, 2008.

Mattel almost always lists the start time on a Tuesday and the 13th is a Tuesday.

So on May 3rd or May 4th, the official announcement, the price and the countdown clock should go up … IF the on-sale date is the 13th.

The subsequent Tuesdays are May 20th and May 28th.

It would highly unlikely to stretch into June as the “sneak peeks” rarely if ever go up more than 2-3 weeks out before the official price & release date announcement. (They also mention ‘time to go racing in May.’)

And it’s not likely to be the 6th, the first Tuesday in May since that sort of crowds/clouds the preview & selling period of the current car (the 2008 RLC™ sELECTIONs™ ’67 Ford Mustang) – every once in a while though, the cars offered will overlap, not likely but possible.

And no, we don’t know if there are any exclusives AND of course, they will not announce if the CARS will be available in another configuration or when.

The only real mini-surprise is that they are not on cards but that makes sense, it makes for a nicer display and it saves Mattel money – since some of the Piston Cup racers barely make it on screen and Mattel can apparently only use ‘official’ artwork rendered by Pixar (for instance, their Rollin’ Bowlin’ Mater card featured regular Mater), there would be a lot more work on their part to come up with card art for all 36 racers.

Any other questions – presumably, they’ve been answered in our recent & older posts so good luck everyone!

(the link shows photos & names of each CAR but the sneak peek from Mattel also included some more officially shots of the Piston Cup racers)

All Photos © Mattel Inc, Mattel RLC Club & Disney/Pixar.

By the way, for international customers – in an older post of ours, we have some suggestions on getting a US pre-paid credit card (scroll down to middle of post). Now, I have NOT tested this out for the Mattel Red Line Club purchases so I am not saying it’s 100% guaranteed but it’s a suggestion you can test out or try if you’re interested in trying to avoid eBay. Good luck

ALSO NOTE: To sign up for the Red Line Club, you must FIRST be a member of the Hot Wheels Club (which is free) so sign up in the HWC first – then click on SHOP and add a Red Line Club membership to your cart.

Un-boxing UPDATE POST here.

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Mattel Disney Pixar CARS: Carrying Case II

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I’m not often in the CONTAINER STORE since my goal is to digitize anything but was wandering around one and ran across another CAR carrying possibility. It’s not cheap at $49.00 but it’s solidly built.

What’s classy is if you depress the dark blue bar, it “unlocks” it and removes as a tray.

What’s nice is the thing is solidly built so if you remove a drawer, it does not feel like it’s about to tip over or fall apart. The drawer is also pretty thick plastic and of course, once snapped open, reveals 10 compartments within each drawer you can customize the storage area within with the slats (ignore the non-related plastic shelves in the back of the photo).

You can view the item online here – with some other photos.

So, probably not the cheapest carrying solution but probably the nicest plastic carrying one – heavy plastic, solid built and with solid drawers that lock and in a apparatus that won’t tip over and is definitely not flimsy.

And also plenty of room on top to add stickers … let us know if you get one or if you looked at it and what you thought.

The Costco alternative.

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The Mac Clone: Pointless in 2008

In case, you’ve missed, a company called Psystar is selling a Mac clone for $399 & up. As the Guardian noted, they are either operating out of mom & dad’s garage or in a new office.

For $399, they are offering you a Mac Mini (specs) encased in a large (but nice looking) PC case.

For some reason, this seems to excite people as if what we really want in life is a cheap knockoff of something, REALLY? This is really a goal in life? Don’t sell me the real thing, I’d rather pay slightly less money for a thing like the real thing?

A clone made sense when not just Macs but all personal computers sold in the $2,000+ range. Of course, at that price point, I’m willing to compromise a little here and there for a computer in the $999 range.

But for a savings of $200 versus a Mini? What is really the point?

They like to talk expandability as if that’s some great thing worth the savings of $2,000 versus a MacPro desktop. (Um, never mind the MacPro has a quad core and thing isn’t even a duo core).

Sure, in the days of serial ports and wonky SCSI on the Mac side, anything you could install internally pretty much meant it would be easier for the OS to find and for it to work.

But now with firewire and USB, I can daisy-chain 128 firewire devices and nearly as many USB drives with powered hubs. Sure, they don’t don’t look as attractive but how many drives can you fit into most cases anyway, 4? I can buy 4 1TB drives that stacked on top of each other take up about as much desktop space as 4 inside a desktop case.

Expandability inside the case is not that important anymore – with USB & firewire, EVERYTHING is expandable in less than 5 minutes and no chance to cut your hand open trying to fit a HDD onto a tray inside a computer.

If anything, it’s better because if an external drive is really going down, I can unmount it and plug in a new drive without even restarting.

And If you are the 5% of users who will actually replace their graphics card, are you really going to buy a underpowered $399 Mac clone just to spend $2,000 on a graphics card?

Even as recent as 10 years ago, the margins on the PC side were that you could save substantially by building your own but now if your time is money, there’s no real savings. You have to be the type that enjoys tinkering because if a component breaks, you think it’s bad trying to get Dell to admit the power supply went down now, good luck getting a power supply you bought and installed replaced yourself from some company in Muncie? And yes, you can save a little here and there but the quality of the components? How many no-name fans are built for about 6 months before they start making noise slightly louder than a F-22 flyby?

And sure, you can save $200 by not buying a Mini … but what is iLife worth to you?

Or what is it worth to you that Apple has 200 stores around the globe open and ready to take responsibility and answer any question for your Mini (or any other Mac you buy?)

The time is passed for clone makers. The $200 dollar difference is too miniscule (never mind that the website sort of implies that they don’t guarantee any other OS other than 10.5 will run on this – and never mind the legal issues or that this business seems to have started last week). Even if you started selling these at a retailer where customers could return it such as Wal-Mart, $200 savings is just not enough of a difference – now if this clone were selling for $99 or $149, then you might have a business as saving $450-$500 dollars, that’s actually substantial enough to make a difference.

But right now – pointless.

(and yea, Apple will sue – if Apple doesn’t, customers will walk into Apple stores trying to get tech support or more likely, warranty support – your OS is bundled with it?! Apple could care less if you wanted to sell an open source $399 computer but bundling Apple OS as if they had a license to bundle or sell it – implying to customers there is a relationship? That won’t fly).

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Mattel Disney Pixar CARS: What’s Next After Box J

From the Toyfair photos and setups, it’s somewhat safe to presume they’re moving all the pit crews and most if not all the pit guys to the three packs (Gift Packs) and going by the recent shipments – they seem to going to two of each of two new CARS per sealed case … (though, keep in mind Mattel counts re-releasing the WM8 on WOC cards as “new,” along with many of our our old favorites … of course if you’re started collected CARS, yea, finally Fillmore … if you started in 2006, you might not be jumping for joy.

So, what’s coming next?

Well, Revised Box J has been announced which is shipping in this & the next 2 week timeframe:

After that, there has been no official announcement – Mattel will be at New York’s Comic Con in a few weeks (April 18) so maybe we’ll get more official word or see more forthcoming displayed.

The following is what WAS SCHEDULED but is now considered ALL CHANGED. But based on the theory that most Piston Cup Crew Chiefs and Pit Crews are moving to the Gift Packs, here’s what’s most likely still coming in BLACK … what’s most likely NOT coming in GREY and what’s “new” that may or not still be coming:

Here’s what’s being reported as in BOX K (unconfirmed but presumably correct):

Bug Face McQueen (2)
Chuki

Crusin’ McQueen
Darrell Cartrip
Dinoco Helicopter
Dinoco Pitty (2)
Ferrari F430

Lightning Ramone
Octane Gain Pitty
Pit Crew Member
Fabulous Hudson Hornet
Pit Crew Member Guido*

Race Official Tom

Ramone
Tongue McQueen
Van (2)

(RED – NEW, BLUE – NEW TO WOC)
*Just listed as Guido but most likely PCM Guido.

We will probably get Van and maybe another of the “MISSING” CARS (list at end) or more likely, another WM8 CAR as one of the “new” CARS.

This looks like a catch-up box so it’s probably safe to say that this shipment probably isn’t going to change much – the Dinoco Pitty will probably be replaced by whatever else was considered “new” in Box K.

Box M of course is of greater interest to someone who did not find all the WM CARS last autumn but based on the new box configs, I highly doubt we will see all the RED “new” ones in this box. The blimp is also coming out as part of a Gift Pack so Mattel might put the blimp in CASE L …

For some odd reason, Mattel seems intent on not re-releasing Sarge so one of the “new” in Box M might get moved to here since this is really just a ‘catch-up’ box.

I might even venture that by here, Mattel might be done with Speed Racer & Batman and back to giving full attention to CARS. I might even be willing to go out on a limb and say this case might be mostly accurate. One other reason is that for some oddball reason Mattel loves helicopters and blimps (blimps are all plastic so that makes sense $ wise).

So, here are the CARS originally promised from Box E to Box P (around mid March 2008 to Summer 2008) that are still “missing” (other than Piston Cup crew CARS which again we’re presuming are part of the Gift Packs now). Though if Sarge really returns, Mattel should pack 4 to a case but that might be too logical ;-(

Of course, 4 of these are not really new (Sarge, Barney Stormin’, Al Oft the Blimp & Kori, but Mattel thinks they’re new) so 10 “new” and 5 boxes to come (not counting case P) … which of course, works out to 2 “new” in the next 5 shipments … which should bring us to the the end of summer. July is Comic Con also …

So, the heavy action (other than the Speedway of the South set) might be on the Gift Pack, launcher side of things until the end of summer.

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Mattel Disney Pixar Diecast CARS: CARS 2 Coming, What to Expect For the 1:55 Diecast Line?

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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 …

WHAT ELSE?

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.

BRANCHING

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 …

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