Fans Urge Retailers To Stock 'Trek' ToysBy Caillan
July 22, 2003 - 1:00 PM
The decision of several major toy retailers not to stock Art Asylum's latest range of Star Trek products has prompted a group of fans to mount a campaign to urge the companies to change their minds.
Calling themselves 'A Call to Arms', the fans aim to persuade the companies to carry the new Star Trek figure and toy line, in the fear that without sufficient retail support the production of Trek toys will no longer be financially viable.
The new range, due out at the beginning of August, focuses on the original 'Classic' Star Trek series and is comprised of seven inch figures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura and Khan. The fans have contacted five major retailers — Toys 'R' Us, Target, KB Toys, Walmart and Kmart — with phone calls, emails and letters to urge them to stock the Classic figures.
"The targeted stores did at one time or another carry Art Asylum's Trek line in the form of products based on Enterprise," the co-presidents of the campaign, which has marshalled at Art Asylum's online message boards, told TrekToday. "Though the quality of the toys is very high and it is a wonderful product, [the Enterprise toys] ultimately didn't sell as expected."
Besides the characters, the Classic line also includes a type-2 phaser (with a removable type-1 included) and a 16-inch model of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A, with light and sound effects. "Not carrying the Enterprise-A is a real shame," said represenatives of 'A Call to Arms', "since not only have fans been waiting for this toy to be made, but it is also the first time this particular ship was immortalized in plastic since South Bend's toy was released in 1979."
Toys 'R' Us, KB Toys and Target passed on carrying this new line in stores, although they sold both the Enterprise and Star Trek Nemesis action figures. "It's a shame they didn't stay with us on this line," Art Asylum vice-president Adam Unger told TrekToday. "We had hoped with the excitement behind the launch of the Classic line we would have maintained their support. I feel bad for the fans. Now they really don't have a mass outlet anymore to build their collections and enjoy the fun of heading to their local store to get the new stuff in person."
Two of the companies, Toys 'R' Us and KB Toys, have instead decided to sell the Classic Trek toys online. John Reilly, director of sales promotion and public relations for KB Toys, explained the company's decision to concentrate on Internet sales. "Art Asylum's Star Trek line will be carried on-line at KBtoys.com (the phaser & Enterprise are currently up as presells). The classic Star Trek figures will be available several weeks from now. In our stores, we did carry the first 3 series of Star Trek figures from Art Asylum but have found that they have enjoyed more success as part of our on-line offering."
Art Asylum acquired the Trek toy license in December, 2001, succeeding the Playmates toy company, which had decided not to renew its contract with Viacom at the end of 1999. "Art Asylum is a relatively small and relatively new toy company," the co-presidents of 'A Call to Arms' said. "They have a staff of about 18 incredibly talented and hard working people. Art Asylum landed the Trek license because they wanted to make a truly unique product, at a quality of which has never before been seen in a Trek toy line. Unfortunately, they are fighting an uphill battle with Trek's fan base diminishing, and Enterprise's poor reception at present. Without major retailer support, people will not be able to easily find Trek products, and have to resort to specialty shops and online venues."
The organisers emphasised the campaign is designed to show support for Art Asylum, and in no way criticises the company's efforts to create Trek toys and figures. "Art Asylum feels that the Classic line will either make or break them. Without major retailer support like Toys 'R' Us, Target and Wal-Mart, [we] cannot see the Classic line reaching a mass market, which could ultimately end up with Art Asylum either giving up the license or closing up shop altogether."
While toys from other genre films such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, Spider-Man and The Lord of the Rings are commonplace in toy outlets, Star Trek figures are somewhat harder to find. "The main reason the major retailers are hesitant to carry Trek products is because they still remember the sorry state of affairs when the last company to produce Trek toys lost the license," the co-presidents of 'A Call to Arms' said. "The old stock would not sell, and stayed on store shelves for years. Major retailers are hesitant to carry Trek because they are afraid of history repeating itself, and getting stuck with product no one wants."
The campaign organisers said that although the disappointing sales of the Enterprise toys mirrored fans' often less-than-enthusiastic attitude to the series, toys based on the original Star Trek should not have the same problem, provided they can reach the fanbase. "There is still a huge interest in Classic Trek toys and products, since it is the most recognizable of all Trek," they said. "That, along with the fact that we're talking about an installed fan base of over 40 years. This would almost ensure a hit for Art Asylum, but only if the people who want it can easily find the products. This is why we need the major retailers to get back on board."
Although the campaign has only received "stock responses" so far from retailers, KB Toys' John Reilly told TrekToday the phone calls and emails hadn't gone unnoticed. "Our buyers are aware of our collector customer's concerns regarding this product line and they continue to monitor this feedback." Toys 'R' Us, Target and Walmart did not respond to TrekToday's request for comment on this issue, although Kmart did say our request was under consideration.
"We have faith that we can turn this around, and ensure that people can get all the Trek they want," the co-presidents of 'A Call to Arms' said. "We should at least have the choice, right?"
To find out more information about 'A Call to Arms', head over to the Art Asylum message board.