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Walmart + FedEx = Losing Partnership

Recently, news outlets have been spouting out how Walmart is positioning itself to take on the beast that is Amazon by strengthening their partnership with world renowned shipping brand, FedEx. This news coming off of the sad release of TRU’s announcement was seemingly put into affect to comfort those shopping consumers that of the the major players is looking to foster more convenience that casual buyers are always looking for. Sadly, this type of partnership is too little too late.

In an article released on the CNBC website, Walmart will be installing FedEx offices in 500 of its stores in its ‘race against Amazon.’ The proposed benefits with these offices in place don’t sound very progressive. As a matter of fact, they sound rather traditional which in this environment is a dangerous way to proceed. One of the benefits was said to be that visitors to FedEx have boosted foot traffic in Walmart… that’s one hell of a shopping impulse. It almost sounded insulting that FedEx would have the gall to suggest they would be responsible for any type of bump in traffic. However, I wouldn’t totally discount it because it could be a telling of how much Walmart is actually hurting. I’ve been to many FedEx offices. Believe me, there isn’t all that much traffic to be proud of. Maybe a Krispy Kreme shop in the heyday of doughnuts, but a mad crowd at FedEx? Please…

The article goes on to discuss the other benefits told to them by the partnering companies including local pickup convenience and possible temporary storage space usage… which I don’t think there’s a serious demand for. I could be wrong, but I definitely have strong doubts.

Of course, nobody really addressed the elephant in the room… how is this actually going to lend advantage to FedEx or Walmart against Amazon? Amazon outclasses Walmart in every wholesome sense in product and service, and Amazon’s also started to take point on its own logistics leaving both of these legacy businesses wish they were somewhere else.

“But Walmart’s the leader in low prices. They’ve always go that!” This is true, but this will also be their downfall. See, Walmart’s always been the low price leader, but you’ve got to have an industry to lead. Too many industry icons of retail have fallen off with more to come, and if Walmart is the only player in the game (brick and mortar convenience store), it becomes the only price. The company will then need to look at the leaders on other platforms which leads to Amazon, but before Walmart can ‘lead in low price’ Amazon will have already made its money and moved on to the next thing. And the prices for new items on Amazon pretty much put Walmart in check to where they won’t win on leading unless they lose… strange turn of phrase…

In addition, Amazon’s actually got Walmart beat on inventory as well since a Walmart can only carry some much stuff in its own stores regardless the size, and its always got to manage turnover or pay the price. With Amazon, you get everything that’s offered in Walmart PLUS the rest of the world as 3rd party sellers are Amazon’s decentralized buyers, suppliers, shippers, and marketing team to say the least. And in a more genius move, Amazon offers the FBA for 3rd party sellers where independent retailers pay Amazon to hold their inventory for them. Can Walmart get any product partner to pay for warehouse storage? Not likely ever. Amazon still wins.

As far as FedEx, Amazon’s already making tremendous strides in delivery. With Amazon doing same day delivery, local pickup lockers partnering with 7-11 convenience stores, and drone shipping experiments, FedEx should be worried as well. Amazon is poised to have its own proprietary logistics just for their service and they’re very close to sealing that deal. This has all delivery services including DHL, FedEx, UPS, and even the Post Office, in a massive scramble to fill the hole that’ll be left once Amazon takes in its own shipping business.

Strangely enough, I think this FedEx/Walmart partnership will seem at face value a good idea, but it may very well simply help strengthen Amazon! If a person registers as an Amazon seller, posts on Amazon any products that are in Walmart like an exclusive Funko Pop, and actually gets a sale, that person can then go directly to the FedEx office to ship it out. Walmart and FedEx get there cuts, but so does Amazon. Crazy right? As a seller myself, I do prefer to use USPS because of the better rates for the comparable service, but the convenience of having a FedEx office right at my point of purchase might just give a little more benefit to FedEx over anyone else in this dated relationship. I might use FedEx to get something to someone if I was in an extreme rush, but I think I’ve done that perhaps twice in 20 years.

This collaboration won’t be a disaster, but it won’t have any long term impact as it has no way of controlling any advantage over Amazon. With 80% of online holiday sales already under Amazon’s grip, the future of retail as a whole will more than likely follow along side leaving any competition who think brick & mortar first in the dust.

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Toy Industry Armageddon – The Beginning of the End – Part 1 – Problems

Category : Blog

News nowadays in the toy industry is really depressing. So much is going on with only a handful of winners and a whole string of losers waiting to take the deep plunge of bankruptcy if they haven’t already.

I’ve played a number of parts in this evolving industry from budding retail store owner, edgy online entrepreneur , collapsing brink and mortar store owner, dated web retailer, 3rd party online sales partner, and pro-level global brand manager.

having been a part of all this, I’ve come up with a few thoughts on some of the wrong things I feel many in the industry have fallen victim to. In most cases, they could have been avoided with a simple change of mindset like the evolution of a marketing strategy, but some situations were unavoidable and destined to happen (RIP my brick and mortar).

Let me make my first point with marketing since that’s rather fresh in my head since my most recent job exit.

In this day and age, its hard to think that staple names of any industry would miss the mark when it comes to social media. Consumers are using it, its growing exponentially, and its totally free! who wouldn’t want to use this tool? The aging toy industry. I guess there was a time that larger toy manufacturers got wind of the idea that Social Media for kids was bad… at least that’s the excuse I was told. Maybe at one time this was a bit of a riskier move, but to still have this mindset in this day and age is practically ludicrous, especially if you’ve got legacy licenses that actually appeal to adults.

To the industry insider’s credit, the rule on social media sites is that individuals under the age of 13 can’t start an account with Facebook, YouTube, or other social platforms. So, I could see that perspective, but what I don’t think was realized is that the people who actually buy the products, the adults, social media was the ultimate resource! In addition, though a child couldn’t start an account, that’s not going to stop them from viewing the social media site (YouTube, anyone?). Such a wasteful opportunity to miss out on when a child goes to their parents to ask about a toys and the parents look on Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram to find nothing but amateur, public access style video reviews that wouldn’t hold a candle to what a real marketing master to present. I really felt the excuse was more of a cop out to not learn a trend that was mostly unfamiliar at the time, and to this day, its still a mystery to most I’ve worked around.

If you look onto the biggest names in toys right now, you’d be surprised at how pitiful some of those social media numbers are. Looking quickly online, Mattel, Jakks Pacific, Bandai America, MGA Enterainment and Spin Master don’t even have a combined Facebook following that reaches 500k people. Who’s doing it right? Hasbro with 3.4M, Funko with 757k, and the king of them all Lego with a commanding 12M followers.

‘Well, its not about the company, but the brands that are promoted. Those are the labels that sell.’ I can see this as a possible argument as MGA Entertainment has an abysmal count just over 200 followers (yes, that little), the official Bratz Facebook page is just about to tip 900k.

From the latest Toy Industry analyst reports, they say if a toy company doesn’t have a YouTube strategy, you better have one very soon. I feel if a company is just now getting to this, the future seems dim.

Social media with the media trifecta (FB, YT, IG) are essentials in the modern marketing age. I’ll explore more about why older marketing (TV, web banners, movie tie-ins) are having a tough time.

Stay tuned for additional topics in this stream of consciousness such as customer shopping behavior, brand exposure, production buildup, retail partner buyer knowledge, consumer media consumption, collectibe nostalgia and the playing patterns (or lack of) with ‘kids.’

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TRU is closing, and kids don’t care, but I do

Category : Blog

You knew this was coming. Don’t kid yourself.

This was all part of the inevitable just like other mighty legacy titans of retail before it. Its a similar story to Sports Authority, Tower Records, The Good Guys, Circuit City, and Radio Shack. The only difference here is that now it feels its directly affecting kids and we can’t help but to try and ‘save the children.’

But lets be real here; kids aren’t into TRU anymore. Kids are barely into toys nowadays.

My definition of a ‘kid’ since my early childhood had been little people between the ages of 4 to 14. Kids actually played with toys back then. That age range has slowly gotten smaller and smaller heading towards the younger years. Nowadays, I feel the term ‘kid’ is between 3-6, and then beyond that, we’ve got tweens and teens who now adopt a new toy that many old-school, plastic printing, major players are afraid to recognize: smart phones. The age shrinkage isn’t going to stop either as smart phones and other devices are quickly becoming the Swiss Army knife of automated babysitting for the busy modern day parents. What toy can you think of that can double as a scientific calculator and a baby rattle at the same time? Now, the deceptive ambiguous term ‘kid’ should die along with the TRU brand.

If there was anything I could do to save the business, I would. It was a treasure in my childhood and it still the ‘go to’ whenever I feel the urge to scratch the toy itch. However, due to the rapid evolution of shopping in the the US, the stale, rigid processes of aging legacy business, and the ever changing interests of the youth, it was just a matter of time.

With most industry people and news sources stating that this will be a loss for kids, but if you notice, it’s not the kids next to the adults that are expressing emotion, but the kids inside the adults. Modern kids don’t know TRU. Unless they have a family member that works for the company, Geoffrey the Giraffe would be nothing more than a retro meme with a damn catchy theme song that old people can sing by heart. I saw a video of a costumed Geoffrey walking into a classroom to meet a group of 6-8 year old kids. The confusion on their faces was priceless. They didn’t know who the hell Geoffrey was. How could they? With zero awareness made through any standard media modern day kids consume, this visit was more of a surprise introduction than anything else. At these kids’ age, they should have already known the theme song.

If TRU was seriously important for kids, I don’t think Walmart and Target would have been such a threat. Its not like those companies are promoting any better. I do feel both Walmart and Target have a better online presence than TRU, but that’s not saying much since they are all pretty atrocious and pale in comparison to the online juggernaut.

From this, I’ve learned that my idea of creating an engaging experience at a retail store might not work after all. I was a big believer that if you created an event out of a place, it would be worth it to go there. This works well with serialized magazines and media as well as competitive types activities like card games. However, if a store is simply touted as simply retail, and if you can’t sell it better than the next guy, regardless of all the bells you ring or whistles you blow, you won’t get the business.

TRU needed to become the leader in toy news not only for the industry, but for the partner companies. By being the initial source, it would have made for the perfect chance to catch customers online to buy right then and there, or at least guide them to the store closest to them.

I do feel they needed to reduce store especially after hearing that there were over 150 stores that were within a 15 minute drive to one another. That seems extremely excessive in this day an age. If they would have closed those stores during the first restructure over a decade ago and reinvested it into the online strategy, we could have been looking at a whole new eCommerce landscape.

There is no separation between physical retail and online retail. Retail is retail. The product you get at a store will be the same product you get online. Even when a physical retail store gets an exclusive, you can best believe it’ll be online, Amazon specifically, within the first hour that the first store offers it. Scalpers know this all too well. If online retail is only a fraction of the whole revenue, boil those numbers down by how much it cost to make each dollar and I’m pretty sure you’re profiting much more via eCommerce. Plus, any lack of sales online is made up for the compounding interest of online marketing through social media promotions. The whole box opening phenomenon should have been a trend TRU invented.

To look for a silver lining, I hope this will open up the doors of the long time stubborn, pretentious toy producers to partner with small business entrepreneurs without the need for a $500k yearly minimum guarantee or manditory EDI integration. Its not about selection anymore. Its about diversifying your client portfolio. If that means hiring more staff for account management and order processing, do it.

Will the brand name continue to live after this? Probably as an online store for a while before just fizzling out. Just go over the list of names of ‘unforgettable’ legacy business mentioned earlier in this article, and you tell me.

To me, its just water under the bridge. Toys will survive by evolving, and business will go on as usual.

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Sources I use for industry news

Part of my daily routine in order to stay somewhat informed on major industry and geek news is to take about an hour at the beginning of the day to comb through a few key media sites for tidbits to spark conversation and deep thoughts that help stimulate the rusty idea engine atop my shoulders.  Here are my initial ‘go to’ news sources outside of the social media ‘fake news’ generators:

http://news.google.com – pretty standard, but by this time, the google news algorithm has learned what I look for and will normally have some super filtered leads on alternative news site at the ready, and even some great general industry reads in the business section.  This is the fastest way I hear about the breaking news to all the major retail partners and their business alignment.  Guys like Barnes & Nobles, TRU, Mattel, and even Bandai.

http://www.linkedin.com – LinkedIn can be one of the fastest, most powerful news sources in any particular industry as it networks the combined brain trust of the contact list you build.  This is why I’m highly against simply connecting with just anyone out there whose looking to just build a hyper inflated number of contacts. Its not the size, its how you use it… and should you think otherwise, you’re fooling yourself.  Quality over quantity. And the news feed is the proof: when you’ve got socially active CEO’s of major industry companies making statements, or articles liked by industry peers, its all that more relevant to your understanding of your profession.  Its so interesting too that we not only get relevant news feeds, but you also get the see the credibility of the poster and any other related parties (be it individual or company) through THEIR linkedIn profiles.  Sign up if you haven’t already, and start connecting.

http://www.animenewsnetwork.com – this source is a bit more specific to my particular industry, so I can’t imagine too many other professionals needing this unless you want a very thorough source for news, history, and culture of the anime ‘otaku’ culture in the US and abroad.  Based in Canada, this source has been a primary ‘go-to’ for almost two decades, and it hasn’t stopped.  A large portion of the community are old schoolers who have weathered the anime trend in the US from as early as the 1980’s, so the depth of discussion can be intense.  Recently, the site has announced that its needing help coming up with funding to continue providing anime news for free.  Hopefully, they can find a funding mechanic that works for them and traditional banner advertising and global begging are a dying trend.

http://www.kotaku.com – another nichey type site that showcases news on general geek culture topics with a noticeable affinity towards video games.  Admittedly, I’m less excited about the articles here as it sounds like most of its written by middle schoolers, but there are the occasional gems that pop up that are timely, to the point, and insightful.

http://www.icv2.com – domestic geek culture in general with a focus on US comics, movies, card games, and board games.  They also post on major industry retailers including close coverage of the Barnes and Noble and TRU fall out.   So this site can be a great source for industry purchasing trends.

http://www.bloomberg.com/businessweek – from niche industry sources to industry business news, bloomberg is a great place to keep up with the pulse of major toy players including retailers and manufacturers, and the business insight that follows.  Certainly worth a look as I’ve seen where articles address the concerns with stakeholders rather than representatives of a business which lends to a very direct, and even brutal, perspective on things.  I’ve noticed its been getting a bit more political, so as long as you don’t mind wading though all that without getting too mad, you might find some goodies.

http://www.businessinsider.com/ – Hot news article dump about higher level industry news and some tech insight for possible gaming or lifestyle application for the future.

https://www.youtube.com/feed/trending?gl=US – its a both sad, but good thing to have a trending youTube source.  This allows people to see what’s hot in the video verse.  In some cases, you discover some break out influencers if the right mix of hype, release and product hit the scene at the right time.  It also highlights some of the trouble things people are looking at.  I normally look to this feed to see what kids are into as this is a mainstay for any babysitter nowadays.  I’m sure the majority of viewers are not kids, but the idea that kids can be exposed to recorded disasters that are ‘rewarded’ for trending its troubling for me.  I digress.  The video source is in my opinion a necessary evil that can reveal a good deal about the interest on pretty much anything you can think of in the video world.

https://trends.google.com/trends/ – Last, but not least, google trends page can delivery some very interesting info on trends by various demographic filters including estimated age and geo-location.  I don’t really catch as much news here as I do more of a macro view of the health of subjects.  makes for great watercooler talk at the office for anyone else whose actually passionate about the industry.

This are my sources. Do you have any to recommend?  Let me know if you have a moment.

RT Griffin aka The Keep

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Hello, curious onlookers!

Category : Blog

Welcome to the Figwiz Media Project, home of The Keep, and personal posting place for the brain dumpings of hobby collectibles industry veteran Reginald Griffin.

This site will be a living work in progress with what needs to be more frequent updates and postings.

I’ll be focusing on inspired ideas and concepts from my many years knee deep in geek cultures.

Stay tuned for more should you want to discuss anime, pop culture movies, video games, database administration, and industry analytics with a perspective from an aging geek of things.

– RT Griffin aka The Keep

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New York Toy Fair 2016 Line Review – Dragon Ball, Naruto, and Sailor Moon

On of my line review presentations at the New York Toy Fair by the news media team Otaku & Geek. My part starts on 4:57.

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