Ever since we originally broke the news several weeks ago about the Walgreens Drugstore chain getting its first ever Marvel Legends exclusive with the upcoming 6” Agent Venom figure, I have seen many collectors scratching their virtual heads wondering why Hasbro would do such a thing. Many seemed surprised that Walgreens even carried action figures. I can tell you first hand that even back in the 80’s growing up in Louisville, KY, they did. In fact it was a place I could often go for hard to find G.I.Joe and G1 Transformers figures.
The answer to why this recent news is good is simple. Doing a quick Google search, you can see that in the United States right now there are about 8,231 physical Walgreens locations sprinkled throughout the country. Now compare that number with the three main retailer chains you typically think of when you think about places that sell Marvel Legends action figures: Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R’ Us.
Number of physical retail outlets in the United States for the Big 3:
Out of the “Big 3” retail outlets that typically carry Marvel Legends here in the United States, none have more physical locations than Walgreens. This means even though some of you may not have a Walgreens nearby, there will be more of you out there who do than if the figure was a Toys R’ Us, Target or Wal-Mart exclusive.
Also the more options a manufacturer like Hasbro has to sell their product, the more freedom they likely will have to produce the figures that many of you want. Right now, one of the biggest problems toy companies face is they don’t have a lot of retail space to sell their product. This means they are beholden to the whims of the few who control that space. So in other words if say Wal-Mart doesn’t want to carry a certain line because they feel the price point is too high, then regardless of how many collectors scream they want something, the toy manufacture is more likely to listen to that retailer. Not because they are trying to screw over the consumer, but because in business you have to cater to your largest customer if you want to stay in business.
Often times action figure collectors like to reminisce about the glory days of action figure collecting back when Toy Biz was making Marvel figures (and yes those were great times to be a figure collector). Besides the fact the cost of materials to make action figures has gone up since then, one of the biggest factors that changed between then and now was that manufactures had more places to sell their figures. Back in the 90’s, you had large retail outlets like Tower Records and Suncoast Motion Picture Company (just to name a few) that sold these things. One of the things that was great about these places (besides just providing more shelf space for products), it allowed toy companies to get their products in front of consumers who might not normally be out toy shopping. The casual consumer might see something that catches their eye which invokes an old childhood memory or something which would then result in an impulse purchase which in turn would hook the consumer to want to buy more down the road. Nowadays that doesn’t happen nearly as much because the figures are only sold in toy stores and toy departments which you have to deliberately walk into specifically for the purpose of buying a toy. So having places that you might not normally think of as someplace that sells figures only increases the chances of growing your consumer base, and the more adult collectors that are out their buying figures, the more weight their voices will carry with the retailers and manufacturers.
I am not saying that if Walgreens started selling more things like Marvel Legends figures that all of a sudden the things that have been plaguing the toy industry and frustrating collectors over the last several years would simply go away ushering in a new Golden Age of action figure collecting, but just think how great it would be if you could walk in to any corner drugstore or even grocery store and find those figures you wanted? When you really think about it, it doesn’t seem so bad or stupid now does it? In the end, it’s all about the numbers and the more places that sell these things, the better off the toy companies will be and the better the chances they will be able to do things that cater to us.
Look for Walgreens to start carrying the exclusive assortment of Amazing Spider-Man 2 Infinite Legends figures which will include Agent Venom, Carnage, Black Cat, Ultimate Beetle, Superior Spider-Man, Movie Electro and Movie Spider-Man on or around August 30, 2014. Hasbro says they will also be offering pre-orders for the figures during San Diego Comic-Con next month so stay tuned for more details on that.